Monday, April 27, 2009

Mungowitz in Deutschland--Day 1

So....we DID, in fact, take off.

And fly to Frankfurt. Now, I am a bulky man, 120 kilos of twisted steel and sex appeal. (Well, the kilos part is true. I'm batting .333). And the only seat I could get is in the middle. It's a 767-400, so there are 7 seats across, in a 2-3-2 pattern with the dashes being aisles.

I'm in 24D, in the middled of the middle. I have to wait until the last
group. As I walk down the aisle carrying my enormous carry-ons, I see with terrified looks, real animal fear, from the people in the aisle seats. This is a 9 hour flight. And they are all mentally invoking the names of their private deities: "Please, God. Not the fat guy. NOT the fat guy! NOT...THE...FAT....GUY!"

I hear audible, breath-whistling sighs as I pass each row. Then I get to my row. And see....a very scared little guy, an empty seat (mine), and a reall, REALLY fat guy. Fat man and lock eyes, and nod. This is going to be a battle of wills. Who gets the armrest as they try to sleep? Les jeux sont fait, les jeux sont fait. No more bets, please.

Not one minute did I sleep. Couldn't get the armrest at all, and the little guy on my left was very talkative. Arrive in Frankfurt. German customs is a breeze. The "nothing to declare" lane is just a walk through a doorway to the exit. Trundle downstairs, and have a little trouble because I have a (wait for it, Angus) steamer trunk. (I famously put an older steamer trunk on Robert Barro's foot as he tried to get on the elevator at the 1985 AEA meetings. Barro yelped and hopped back off the elevator, and the doors closed before he could get back on. Angus, who was on the elevator, immediately announced to the elevator that this proved that Barro was correct, and that crowding out is a real effect. I claimed that all it proved is that steamer trunks can stimulate both voice and exit. But Angus won the argument, as he always does.)

Anyway, I had a steamer trunk. (A 35" x 22" x 17" steel beauty. It looked like the Millenium Falcon, if the MF were shaped like a steamer trunk.) I have another suitcase, full of books, and a big backpack, and this ridiculous steamer trunk (it weighed 68 pounds, just under the megadeath charge on overseas flights.) (Try curling 68 pounds with one hand, for several hours. It's tiring). I schlep it all to the Fernbahnhof ticket office, to take a fast ICE train to Erlangen. I need to connect through Nuremberg. I buy the ticket, splurging for first class so I can get some help with the steamer trunk. I ask the ticket guy if I can check baggage. His eyes get wide: "No! You must take own baggage on ze tren!"

And, by golly, he was right. I asked two DB employees where first class was to board on the platform (can't run fast, or at all, with the steamer trunk). The first one looked ready to slap me, and said, "It says, right on the platform." The second one said the same thing, and I pointed that whatever it said, it said it IN GERMAN, she just turned her back on me.

They finally announced that first class should board at "E" spot, and I trundled over there, sweaty and out of breath. The train arrived PRECISELY on time. The conductor got off. The other people get on. I grunt and try to roll the steamer trunk up the steps, end over end. The conductor actually said, "Man, that looks heavy!" in perfect English. He was actually pretty sympathetic, in a "No way I'm actually going to help" way.

I have to admit the train ride was good. The ICEs go fast enough it's actually disconcerting to look out the window. They are BUSTIN' through some German territory. I consider suggesting they rename the ICE trains "Pattons," but my grouchiness dissipated as I watch the rolling rurual countryside fly by. We arrive at Nuremberg 15 seconds after the scheduled time, I get off, and the track for my Erlangen train is adjacent. Don't have to move the steamer trunk.

The Erlangen train leaves 5 seconds early (assuming my watch is that accurate), and we arrive in Erlangen precisely on time. I am picked up by Eva and her husband Sebastian. And they are....the nicest people in the world.

I should point out that Angus and I don't always do that well with truly nice, sincere people. We admire them, we honestly do, but they don't know what to make of us. Eva is....well, if you are a guy, and you are twenty five, and you have these fantasies about the perfect German girl, blonde, 5 foot 10, extremely fit, shockingly beautiful? That is PRECISELY how Eva looks. (I should note that I am NOT 25, and that my own fantasies are exclusively about the lovely Ms. Mungowitz).

Eva is not sure what to make of me. She gives me her card, which has her office number (she is the department assistant, and so does lots of chores for the admins who employ me). She has already (carefully, caligraphically) hand-written her cell phone number, so I can call her and Sebastian if I need a ride or some advice on stores. I point to the bright blue writing, and say, "Wow! That's impressive. My printer doesn't have that font."

Eva stares at me, and says, "But Dr. Munger, dot ist handwritten. It is not a font." I just nod, and try to remind myself that Angus is the only one who thinks I'm funny, and he is not here.

They take me to my hotel (Hotel Antik), where I will stay for a week until my apartment is ready. I crash for three hours, and then Eva and Sebastian come to take me on a walking tour of Erlangen. Eva's mother, Sylvia, is the tour guide, and they really do a good job on the whole Hugenot thing, and the "Berch" thing. Well, we looked at the Huguenot church, and the plan of the city, and the Markgraf's castle, and etc. And we went up the hill to the Berch biergarten, and had ....bratwurst mit kraut, und bier. (I speak THAT kind of German). I was feeling tired, and jet-lagged, so I had two liters of extremely fine lager. (Eva is disgusted, I should note, though Sylvia approves and joins me in a third round). There is some singing, which may have involved me, with Sebastian loyally following along.

They drop me off at the hotel. I fall asleep, and wake up the next morning. But I take pride in the fact that I feel bad because I am hung over, NOT because I am jet-lagged. Ich must have das priorities, ja?


Angus said...

Mungo: you are an interweb blogging god. thanks for the best KPC post ever.

Re the Barro incident. (1) you didn't "put" the trunk on his foot, you dropped it from a pretty decent height. (2) The sound he gave was more of a scream than a yelp. (3) The elevator doors didn't just close when he jumped out, I pushed the "close door" button immediately and repeatedly to preclude his re-entry. And (4) I believe what I said was "Hey, I thought he didn't believe in crowding out".

Give my best to Eva,

Chris said...

Agreed! I think the movie billboard would read: "Storytelling at its best!" (or some other variety of vague cliche).

Give my best to Sylvia?

El General said...

Bravo... bravo.

And since i am a twenty-something young male who finds 5'10" German blondes particularly interesting, this ranks #2 in KPC history (only falling behind Kevin slamming jello-shots, which was truly hilarious).

Not to mention that i find the fact that you can still drink over two liters of beer oddly reassuring...

FifthBeatle said...

I have spent a few months in Germany in the past 2-3 years (three separate trips), and I love the place.

Very nice post (some typos aside) and I can't wait for more stuff to come!