Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Quest for World Domination Flounders

I have been spending a little bit of time with my sixth visiting German colleague. This guy is quite a character. He is obviously very intelligent with an educational background in jurisprudence, Latin, Ancient Greek, philosophy, etc... However his English is piss poor and baffling at times and he has very little knowldege of American culture. He is known to be extremely verbose in his mother tongue, and just because he is barely intelligable in English, that does not stop him from running off at the mouth in this language too. Sometimes I have to say to him, "Stop talking! G6, look at me. Stop talking!" But other than that, we get along fine.

On days when I'm feeling patient, I invite him out at lunch. I asked him the other day when his birthday was. "July 18th," he said, "same as Mandela."

"Who?" I asked, because he pronounced "Mandela" funny.

"Niels Mandela."

"Oh, right, Nelson Mandela," I say, pronouncing every syllable clearly. Then G6 asked me when my bithday is. (Picture an English I Textbook Role Playing Dialogue). "My birthday is January 29th," I said. "The same day as Oprah."

"Who?" he said.

"Oprah," I said, exagerating the "o" sound. He looked blank. "Oprah Winfrey."

"I do not know who this person is."

Now, I have had some pretty distressing exchanges with G6 before. One day he came up to my desk and said, "Nancy, can you tell me please, what is a bagel?" I was a little surprised that he didn't know what a bagel is, but then I figured, well, yeah, I guess that makes sense. [Doesn't Seinfeld air on German TV?] So I patiently explained what a bagel is, doing a very good job, I thought, "Well, they take bread dough and form it into a ring. Then they drop it into boiling water then bake it in the oven. The season it with salt, or seeds or garlic. And usually you eat it with a soft cheese. But you can eat it with anything. Butter, marmalade." All the while I was going through this explanation, G6 was wrinkling his nose and making a face.

"So, it is bread?" he asked, thouroughly unimpressed.

"Well, it is a special kind of bread," I said through gritted teeth. "Really, it is a New York specialty. You must try one."

But the bagel fiasco did not prepare me for the slap in the face I felt when he told me he had never heard of Oprah. "Oprah!," I said. "Oprah Winfrey! The talk show host. The first African-American woman billionare?? She started as a talk show host and built a financial empire. If she reccomends a book, the next day it sells a million copies. Many political candidates now feel the need to appear on her show and many Americans, when asked, say they would vote for her for President!" G6 shrugged and took another drag on his cigarette as if to say, 'your Oprah and your bagels can all go to hell!"

"Oprah!," I said again. I could not let this go. We passed by a newstand. "You know who Oprah is. Look, I bet she's on the cover of at least two of these magazines!" But G6 kept on walking.

Oprah, they know you in France (Hermes will never make that mistake again.) They know you in South Africa. And, thanks to Wiki, I even learned that you hosted the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Awards (WTF??). I don't know who your man on the ground is in Germany, but that PR team hast toally dropped the freaking ball. You will never be crowned Supreme Being of the planet at this rate.


Beta said...

Ah, perfectly timed with my late-afternoon slacking before the clock chimes 5. Very enjoyable read. Very disturbing German. Maybe I'll do a short email survey asking friends over there to reply with just a yes or a no if they know who Oprah is...

Joshua said...

The bagel thing always seems funny to me as while it's a Jewish food, it's of Eastern European origin. And yet the only way you'll find one in Eastern Europe is if some Americans opened a bagel place. As amusingly revealed by G6.

What a kook.

Cupcake said...

That's what I was thinking, Josh. A Bagel is not really an American food, you should be able to find in anywhere in the Jewish diaspora. And there are so many bagel-type foods in Europe.

But then, after the Oprah conversation, G6 told me he tried a bagel.

"How did you like it?" I asked.

He told me it was filled with meat. "What?? No. That's not a bagel. What are you talking about? A knish? Did you have a knish?"

When pressed, he said he didn't remember the name but it sounded like "sassysally." This guy is hopeless.

lebrookski said...

i can kinda understand the oprah thing, because it's not like oprah is syndicated over there (that i know of). i consider my german friends to be pretty well-versed in american culture, and i think they had some kind of vague notion of oprah, but i still found myself explaining to them who she was after we watched that one episdode of chappelle's show where oprah thinks she's pregnant with dave's baby.

i was trying to think of a comparable beloved german tv figure, but none of the talk show hosts really compare (personality-wise or financially). maybe like thomas gottschalk or something...

now...on to bagels...what kind of a rock is he living under? there are bagel places in most major german cities i've been to, even though the usually in conjunction with coffee places...such as the omnipresent starbucks, balzac, allcafe...just to name a few. granted, they're not your normal b├Ąckerei fare, but seems like G6 doesn't get out all that much.

maybe he was eating a kolache? even though it doesn't sound like -- *giggle* -- "sassysally" either

a girl like me said...

That is crazy - Oprah is, like, Queen of the World...

timmy said...

(I'd vote for Oprah)

Cupcake said...

(I'd vote for Oprah too)

What is a kolache?

Joshua said...

Sassysally? Oh man is that funny

I have no idea, wait! Maybe is was a sambussak, which is really funny because it also happens to be a Jewish food.

What a funny German.

And I know I had bagels in Berlin, but maybe he wasn't looking very hard back home.

Cupcake said...

It probably was a sambussak because he went to Cafe Ess-a-Bagel. Mystery solved, JoshedPotatoes.

Yeah, this guy is funny. He's a riot.

lebrookski said...

kolaches are actually czech...

it's basically like a roll-type pastry filled with meat...or eggs or sausage or fruit...

but yeah, that other thing sounds more like what he was trying to say