Today DS decided to take advantage of the late-season snowstorm and make himself a nice, large snowman. He worked on it for over an hour. I tossed him a couple of carrots and a couple of kumquats for the face, and then when he was ready to work on hair, I went down to help. All in all, I think it was a really excellent effort! A little Easter Island, a little Ghostbusters, a lot of personality!
Just as he was finishing up, over toddled a frail, petite older woman, straight out of central casting. She was trim and well groomed and carried a neatly folded laced pocket hanky with which she would occasionally dab her frozen face. She hailed us and began speaking slowly and clearly, but with a thick Swäbish accent that made her conversation nearly incomprehensible. Even DS was having trouble. She seemed to indicate that she had been watching DS work for some time and that there was something she wanted to show him. She beckoned us across the street to the neat yellow house on the corner. We followed as she slowly made her way carefully across the icy streets- sticking to any patch that had been cleared. When we got to her porch she motioned that she wanted us to wait, so we did. But, as she searched in her purse it became clear that she was missing her keys.
I looked and noticed keys hanging on a lanyard decorated with a small Igel (hedgehog) charm. They had become tangled in the door and slammed between the door and the jam. She looked a bit confused. So, DS reached down and tugged on the lanyard. It wouldn’t come free, but it had an easily detachable clip that he released. He handed the main key bunch to the lady. She thanked him and set about opening the door. Only, it still wouldn’t open. DS politely offered to help again and yanking firmly on the handle eventually managed to unstick the blocked door, wriggle the uncooperative mechanism into compliance and swing the door open.
The woman thanked him and then invited us in. We followed, unsure what she wanted. Cookies? Help reaching something? I really hadn’t a clue. She babbled blandly and pleasantly at us, and seemed only a little concerned when we admitted our German was “nicht so gut”. Eventually she slumped down into her kitchen chair and dug through her wallet. She pulled out 3 five EU notes, and counted to 15. I smiled non-noncommittally and nodded- yes, that is 15 EU. She handed us the money. We tried to refuse, but she insisted. I tried to introduce us, but she clearly didn’t understand our accents either! She asked what languages we speak and we told her. When I tried French she pooched out her mouth and rolled her eyes- French was completely out of the question.
Once again we tried to return the money, but she wouldn’t hear of it. We thanked her politely and took our leave, still unsure if she was paying us for making the snowman or helping with her door- or simply because she is an old German woman and that is apparently what they do from time to time.
We talked it over with some of our German friends and they insisted that this was not a particularly odd situation. Old women give you money. It is one of the things they do! Why would this be a problem for me?
Well, it isn’t a problem, of course. But, it was awkward and weird. And, yes, my Inner Shy is kicking in hard core, now! I feel like we ought to have been more helpful to the lady- or at least gotten her name so we could greet her on the street. But, all in all, a pleasant way to pass a few minutes and a new cultural experience for DS and me!