Thursday, April 30, 2009

One of Us

It is occasionally, and painfully, made apparent that no matter how much I fake it, I will never make it to true "German" status. No matter how much cool slang I learn, I will always have an accent. No matter how good my grammar gets, my vocabulary will always lack. And no matter how long I've lived here, I will never get used to the German ways.

I was feeling particularly glum yesterday, so I decided that instead of my normal outdoor excersise (cheap), I would shell out the €4.20 and go for a swim.

I rode my bike to the pool, paid for a two hour pass, ran my ticket through the electronic thingamajig, and passed through the turnstile. I get a kick out of German pools. Like a normal German household, they feel very sterile. And like the normal, European non-chalance towards gender seperation, there aren't seperate rooms for the girls and the boys. Instead, there are individual booths that one enters, changes, then a locker area where everyone puts there clothes. The showers and toilets, however, are gender-specific.

One would think that for all the regulations and order that one sees on the Autobahn (the famous, no-speed-limit, German highway), Germans could apply some of that organization to the pool; to circle swimming, for instance. When I walked onto the deck, I scanned for a lane with the least number of people. The first two lanes had lanelines and there appeared to be some sort of a team practice going on there. The other three or four lanes had no lanelines and a plethera of patrons making a free-for-all up and down the length of the pool.

I tried my best to assert myself in my chosen spot. I made my way down the pool with the black line of tiles on my left side, and back to the other end with the black line remaining on my left side. Despite my efforts to subtly demonstrate the efficiency of the circle swim, nobody else appeared to follow. There were people who stuck to their own invented line, others swam old-lady-style, in pairs, side-by-side. I gave up after only about 40 minutes and maybe 800 meters of swimming. It felt like €4.20 gone to waste.

But that's not all! When I was exiting the pool area, I had to insert my ticket into the electronic thingamajig. The disorganized person that I am, I couldn't find the bloody thing. After some fretting and looking through pockets where I doubted it was, I noticed that there was nobody manning the counter, so I decided to slip under the turnstile. Just then, someone came around and spoted my misdemenour. Frustrated by the circle swim, I said, "Look, you remember me. I'm the foreigner who came through an hour ago. I can't find my stupid ticket and I'm leaving now." Although she said, "I see so many faces in a day, how can I remember them all?", I adjusted the pack on my back and walked out the door.

pictured: grilled eggplant with oregano and thyme; one of my current kicks.


Regina said...

I can imagine you going back to the pool: "Look! It's that American, and her strange ways of swimming!" Bring a whistle next time. And a stopwatch.

pavotrouge said...

come on... you've only been here for 2 years. I have friends from the UK/US/Ireland and after 5-10 years, you couldn't tell they weren't native to Germany. after all, how long did it take you to learn your native tongue properly?

Mandie P said...

oh this gave me that all too familiar feeling that I had so often while there! As much as I hate to admit it- I get it just as often in the states too now!

oh and my first one was good but it f-ed up it was "brains"!!! now it's phtio (like the dog!)