Here’s something you might not know about me: German tourists love me. They love me. They love me more than bratwurst and wearing sandals with socks. They love me more than they love staring at strangers from two inches away. They follow me wherever I go.
It’s an amazing phenomenon with no explanation. Here is a recent example:
I am in New York about half the time these days, sleeping on couches (“Thanks, Smyres!”) and interviewing for various jobs. It’s a lot of fun. Actually, sometimes it is. But it does make a girl weary, and that’s exactly the sort of state you have to be in to properly call hoards and hoards of German tourists. They wait, you see, until you have not one more ounce of patience left, and then they descend.
On a recent trip to New York, my train got in late and I found myself having to negotiate the ever-shifting late-night A-C train schedule at Penn Station. If you haven’t been there recently, let me sum this up for you: Whichever platform you’re on is the wrong one. Now, go change platforms. Nope! Still wrong. Go back to the one you were on to start with! Whoops! Just changed. And so on.
Anyway, this poor soul was in front of me at the turnstile, and he was having a helluva time. I knew right away that he was a German tourist, because he was trying to go the wrong way round the revolving door-type stile, and because he had a bizarre haircut that looked like it had been dropped onto his head from a great height, after recently adorning a bowling ball-shaped wig-form in the costume lab at Sesame Street.
I watched him lose his fare twice, and then I thought, You know, I can help this poor bastard. Everyone thinks we’re rude — Americans, Northeasterners, just about any group I’m a part of — but I can prove those anonymous haters wrong. I’m gonna help this guy.
“Excuse me, sir? You’re going the wrong way.”
He looked at me and smiled. “Yes!” (BTW, this is exactly how I’m going to be in Paris in about a week, so remember that I know that, while I’m making fun of this dude.)
“The wrong way, sir!” I said, pointing in the other direction. “Go this way!” I walked in a little semicircle for him, to show which way he should go.
“Yes!” He said, smiling bigger.
Oh Christ, I thought. He’s not actually German. He’s just weird.
But then, he seemed to get it. He swiped his metrocard, and started to go the right way. I picked up my bag and followed.
And then what do you think happened? That’s right, Franz backed right up and tried to go the other way again … losing, this time, both my fare and his own.
“GODDAMMIT.” I said. “WRONG WAY. WRONG WAY. WRONG WAY.”
He smiled at me. “Yes!”
“Yes! WRONG WAY. Go THIS WAY. OH MY GOD.”
It was about midnight at this point and I thought to myself, this is how people get hurt. He’s all alone in New York, doesn’t speak English, can’t negotiate the turnstiles and even people who don’t live here yet are ready to throw him on the third rail. This is a very bad sign for our pal.
Eventually, he figured it out, and he was fine. But you can bet I waited a good ten seconds to make sure he wasn’t going to pop back through that turnstile in the wrong direction.