Thursday, August 05, 2010
coin a phrase
recently i went to germany for a laparoscopic course. it was great fun. among other things i saw snow for the first time. this caused me to spend the night at hamburg airport after being snowed in with a few south african colleagues and drinking whisky mixed with freshly fallen snow out of paper cups. then we caught a train to frankfurt to fly back to sunny south africa. it was great!!! but there was another story which i got a chuckle out of. us south africans are truly a unique brand.
after a long day listening to a german professor who was totally devoid of a sense of humour (and we did try to elicit one) we all decided to go out for a bit of enteral feeding (and drinking of course). we found a quaint little place under a building somewhere which was at least warm (did i mention germany was the coldest place i have ever been!!). also they had german beer which they served directly out of a wooden barrel. it was the only time i have seen a german barrel of laughs actually. so we were essentially in what we viewed as heaven and as the barrels came rolling out full and quickly returned empty our already festive mood just got better.
quite some time into the night when we were all feeling pretty good, a lady came around in what i assume was some sort of german traditional dress selling a new brand of shooter that she was promoting. she quickly ascertained that we couldn't speak german when we replied to her overly friendly supplications with blank stares (we were all conversing in afrikaans) but seemed relieved to discover that we were all pretty fluent in english, as was she. she sang her song again.
"i'm promoting this new shooter which blah... blah... blah..."
"how much?" asked my one colleague.
"two euro" she replied with a plastic smile.
"i'll give you five rand." now two euro, when exchanged for south african currency, translates into about twenty rand, so, five rand was clearly not going to be enough. we wondered if this artificial german barmaid would have any idea what a rand was and where it came from. we were surprised.
"no! five rand is not enough." she replied with what we were learning was a standard german sense of humour. "you may all be surprised to hear this but i have actually been to south africa and i know what five rand is worth. so do you want one or not?" she said sternly.
"sure. i'll take one." said my friend. he took a shooter off her tray and threw it back. he then handed her a coin. she seemed to be interested to hear what he thought of it. i think she was actually hoping to sell a few more shooters to a group that clearly at least didn't have a moral objection to the occasional drink. we all watched for a verdict. finally one of us asked (in afrikaans of course) what he thought of it.
"nie te kak nie. maar dink net hoe verbaas gaan sy wees as sy agterkom ek het wel vir haar 'n vyf rand stuk gegee.*" we all fell about laughing uncontrollably. she stood there with a quizzical look, oblivious to our joke, which, with the effects of the social lubricant, in our minds, made it all the more hilarious. were essentially lost to her. she turned and left with she sounds of our mirth no doubt driving her away.
as i discovered later when looking at the two coins, they were similar enough in design that in a dark german bar and if you were feeling particularly annoyed by a bunch of foreign slightly tipsy surgeons it would be quite easy to mistake one for the other.
* not too bad but just imagine how surprised she is going to be when she discovers i did in fact give her a five rand coin.