About five years ago, we were living in a flat (an apartment) on the second floor. You had to go up a few stairs, landing (first floor), more stairs, landing, and more stairs to reach the second floor. My husband was at work.
It was morning when my niece called, which was her evening. I can’t recall what we were talking about, but it was at a convenient time for both of us…Then the doorbell rang from the main door downstairs. I was always buzzing people in, not knowing whether it was for us or a neighbor. Anyways, I buzzed in whoever it was and continued talking. The next thing I know, there’s a knock at the door. Shakespeare starts barking up a storm, while my niece is still on the phone. I pick him up, tell my niece to hold, balance the phone on my shoulder, and open the door.
There stood a sweet old lady. She began talking to me…of course, in German, and I leaned in trying to figure out what she was saying. All I got was blumen—flowers. When she took a moment to breathe, I said, “Entschuldigung. Wie bitte? Mein Deutsch ist nicht die Beste. (Excuse me. I beg your pardon. My German is not the best).” More German spewed from her mouth as my niece was saying, “I can let you go.” I told her no, I wanted to talk to her. Shakespeare was still in my arms, trying to wiggle free, the phone still perched on my shoulder.
*pause in time*
I thought to myself, one, I’ll never understand what this woman is saying, and two, I want to talk to my niece.
So I responded with a simple ja—yes. She said ja as a question and I shook my head ja. She finally left. I was able to put Shakespeare down, and continue my conversation with my niece.
Later that afternoon, my husband and I walked out of our flat to take Shakespeare for a walk. When I closed and door, I noticed the Hydrangea bush planted by the door was dug up and gone.
To no one in particular, I said, “What happened to the Hydrangea bush?”
At that point, it dawned on me. The word blumen echoed in my head. I told my husband about the old lady and the only word I understood was blumen.
He started laughing so hard. “So you said yes without knowing what she wanted. Well, honey, you told her she can have the Hydrangea bush.”
With my eyes and mouth wide open, I responded, “Who goes up to a second floor of an apartment to ask for the flowers? A bush? Who does that? I’m not the owner?”
And with that, my husband said, “No you’re not. That’ll teach you to say ja when you don’t know what someone is saying.” He continued to laugh as I shook my head, still trying to argue that the woman was wrong.
“But I told her my German wasn’t good? She’s a scam artist that’s what she is…taking advantage of a confused immigrant.”
In the end, I joined him in laughter and realized that one of these days, saying ja without understanding what the person is saying could get me into trouble.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Not all old ladies are sweet.
OKAY, OKAY! MORAL OF THE STORY: Don’t say yes to something you don’t understand.
Foreign Language and Impatience,