October 28, 2009

On goats and cascade failures

I recently joined a gym and have been taking great classes like Nike Fighting Fit, where you punch and kick the air to music for an hour.
Isn't that brilliant??
But sometimes there's no good class on (I'm boycotting Heidrun's class because she walks around barking out orders and doesn't even do the excercises) so I fall back on my old friend the Stairmaster.
The other day I was alone with about 30 Stairmasters, climbing away and looking at various magazines. Only highbrow ones, of course, like Der Spiegel, because I like to improve my mind while excercising.
No, people, not really.
Anyway, this older German woman with way too much perfume and make up came in and took the Stairmaster next to me, turning up her music so loud I could hear it through her headphones.
I finished one of my magazines and let it drop gently to the floor. Unfortunately it landed in just such a way to make an enormous racket, like a gunshot.
I smiled charmingly and apologetically at my neighbor, who glared back.
'Muss das sein?' she asked. Translation: 'Is that really necessary?'
Although I know it is unwise to piss off German women of certain age who were brought up in harsh circumstances after the war and think the younger generation is good for nothing, flippant remarks just fall out of my mouth in situations like this.
Me: 'Ja, leider muss es manchmal sein.' Translation: 'Yes, it is unfortunately sometimes necessary.'
OK, not my best, I can be much more scathing three days later, but that's what I had.
'Ziege!' she hissed at me.
Now, this means 'goat.' No one has ever called me a goat before because I'm such a friendly person so I was a little confused. But I went back to my magazines and ignored her for the next half hour while I finished my workout, including when she cut the cheese rather loudly.
I think that was pretty nice of me, given that I could have said, 'Muss das sein?' right back at her. Mwa ha ha ha ha!!
As I walked out of the room, her voice followed me: 'Ziege. Ziege! ZIEEEEGE!!!!!!!'
I flipped her off, still wondering what the heck Ziege means. BTW, I haven't flipped anyone off since, like, college but instinct took over.
I called Ralf. 'What does Ziege mean? I mean, I know it means goat, but what does it mean?'
After a slight pause, Ralf asked, 'Did someone actually call you that?'
Me: 'YES!'
Another pause.
Me: 'Don't you want to know who?'
Ralf: 'Um. . . a German person?'
Me: 'Ha ha, Mr. Funny German Guy. What does it mean?'
Ralf: 'I'm not... sure. No one we know ever says that. Why did they call you that?'
Me: 'Because I dropped my magazine at the gym and it was really loud. But she farted and that was way worse. And...'
Ralf: 'Sweetie, can we not get into that just now, I'm kind of in the middle of a small cascade failure here. It sounds like Ziege means bitch in this context.
A pause.
Ralf: Or maybe annoying bitch.'
A pregnant pause.
Me (accusingly): 'I can not believe this. Someone calls me a you-know-what for no reason and all you can think about is your silly cascade failure???'
I won't share Ralf's totally unfair response to this perfectly reasonable question.


  1. What a witch.
    When I report stuff like that to my husband he tells me to let it go. But I never forget.

  2. Yes, she will pay for this.... Next time I see her I will call her a llama! Mwa ha ha ha ha!!!

  3. That is hilarious! It confirms my understanding that there are clueless people everywhere! You know why she got on the Stairmaster next to you? That was HER Stairmaster and you just happened to be on the one next door. Sheesh!

    The loud music is bad enough but that fart was too much.

    It's funny how men just tell women to "let it go". They don't follow their own advice.

  4. I don't get why she got so bent out of shape over you dropping a magazine. Talk about overreacting.

    The "I'm rubber, you're glue" defense probably doesn't translate well into German.

  5. Everything sounds so scary in German!

  6. Wow. Can you say "OverReAcT" much on her part? I'd have whomped her for sure (at least in my mind)

  7. I would have moved the moment she showed up. How awful to have to smell her sweaty perfume!! Then her fart?? Yuck

  8. She was obviously jealous of your beauty and youth.


  9. The key is that she's OLDER -- and older Germans do seems to feel free to judge people. I hate that! It irks me, and I wish I could apologize for them...
    It really does seem to me that Americans are friendlier in public -- in a perhaps naive way I wonder if that's because they're used to more space & resources -- are Germans nasty because they feel crowded?...
    I still remember an older German woman pushing my then Kindergarten-aged daughter aside so she could get into the train before her -- I could have screamed! Ziege! Goat-like behavior, obviously...

  10. There is no excuse for her behavior. I wholeheartedly agree she needed your universal sign for #*&! you. Sometimes, although it's not your most glowing moment, you just have to go to the lowest common denominator to make a point that certain individuals understand. Kuddos!

  11. RG - I think you're right about it being 'her' stairmaster.
    Kristina - It is a little scary sometimes. Naturelady - Michael Mittermeier did a hilarious skit of a German man feeling 'crowded' by a mob of gorgeous women who were pressing up against him. 'Es ist mir hier zu eng!'
    Stacy - you are my new best friend.

  12. Oh and Sara I wouldn't dare 'whomp' a German woman, they're all 7 feet tall!

  13. Hilarious! If nothing else, the whole situation makes me smile... I can't believe that! Maybe it's good that the Danes just ignore me... True though, I'd NEVER take on a German woman, I'd rather attempt to beat up a Dane anyday!

  14. Yikes! I never knew the translation of that phrase, so good to know. Hope I never run into any grumpy older ladies like that!


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