Monday, June 14, 2010

She's Standing in her Underwear

Today I went out with two goals:

1. See what harmonicas are sold at Musikhaus Plickert.
2. Blend in.

Within about fourteen seconds of entering the store, I had almost ruined one of them, and completely annihilated the other. Here's about how it went:

(all dialogue in German)

Store owner: Hello.
Me: Hello, how are you?

BIG MISTAKE. No matter how many times I'm taught, I don't think I'll ever learn that it's not a good idea to ask someone in this country how they're doing. You see, in the good ol' USA, we're very well-versed in the art of "small-talk" (or in German, and I'm not kidding, "small talken"). However, here in Germany, it's all business, all the time. So even though we'd been over this very topic in class the entire week before, my automatic reaction to someone saying hi is to ask how they're doing. The instant this happened, I knew I had pretty much ruined any chance of blending in for today. So naturally, his reaction was to look at me like I was the most insane, unstable criminal on Earth.

Store owner: ...Uh.... I'm... doing alright. You doing okay?
Me: Er, yeah. Um, I'm looking for harmonicas.
Store owner: Oh, I have a Hohner at home.
Me: Oh, do you like it? (Note: I said "gefällt er Ihnen" which literally means "do you like him." This is because pronouns in German take the gender of whatever they're describing. I assumed "Hohner" was a masculine noun, because it ends it "er.")
Store owner: looks at me like I'm insane again What?
Me: Do you like it? (I used the neutral pronoun "es" this time.)
Store owner: The Hohner?

It continued like this for a few seconds, before I finally gave up and asked him stupidly if he liked harmonicas.

Me: So, I'm trying to do some research before I buy one. Have you got any?
Store owner: Yeah...?
Me: Could you show me some?
Store owner: ...Yes.
I walk over to the showcase with harmonicas in it. He stays completely where he is. Keep in mind that the showcase door is closed and the harmonicas are all in individual cases, where I can't see them.
Me: So... could I just, like, take one out?
Store owner: No. That's not a self-service case. That's for me to open.
Me: Okay.
We stand silent in the store for a second or two, then he slowly begins to walk over to the case. He opens it.

At this point, I basically felt embarrassed as I looked at the types of harmonicas inside their cases and wrote down their names and prices while he watched over me like a hawk.'

Me: Okay, thanks very much.
Store owner: Yeah. Is there anything else?
Me: Would be possible to test out some of those guitars? I'm semi-interested in buying one while I'm here.

Note: This is true. The acoustic guitars in the store are ridiculously cheap.

Store owner: Test one? No. You can buy one. You can't test one.
Me: O...kay.
I waited for a little bit just to see if he was kidding or something.
Me: Bye then. 

I really don't know if I'm just an awful person or something. I'd love to know how I can not feel like a piece of scum when shopping for musical instruments. Oh well.

So today was the trip to Kahla GmbH. They make porcelain things. The process is crazy long. One of the machines that really impressed me was this robotic arm that handled and cleaned fragile porcelain cups. I feel that any attempt by me to do the same task would probably end up with an ocean of shattered porcelain flooding the factory in all directions. Just one cup. Conservation of matter doesn't apply to my breed of clumsiness.

I had a bunch more to say. It's too late now. I have a test tomorrow. More later.


  1. What kind of idiotic world is it when you can't test out an instrument before buying it? I could understand harmonicas, but not guitars...

  2. Yeesh, Rob, that guy was just a jerk. I can't believe he didn't let you try out a guitar. Good thing you didn't buy one, bcz you'd have to schlep it all over Europe with your other stuff. I'm sure you'll find another store this month or next that sells harmonicas, without such a creepy store clerk.

  3. Never. Ever. Ask. A. Man. To. Test. A. Guitar.