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Dirty Gig Is Cultural Affair, Mixing Hermans & Germans

May 12th, 2011 · Tags:Cities · Satire

So about this new Dirty Gig … As mentioned previously, this is the second assignment in New Zealand in the aftermath of yet another earthquake. My colleagues and I are working in a secure storage facility that pretty much had its salad tossed.

It is a pretty good gig … getting paid for a hard aerobics workout moving boxes with minimal danger, in a foreign land, albeit English speaking. Speaking of English, all of my workers on this job speak English, although it is not everyone’s first language. No … my team on this Dirty Gig is like the United Nations … or maybe the Euro contingent of the UN. On my team there are 3 or 4 Germans all of which I refer to as Deiter after the old Saturday Night Live skit “Sprockets.” … “Uhnd nau we donce!” (if you recall…)

Also on the team, perhaps the captain … the common thread who keeps all these guys in line over at the youth hostel and on the job is a guy I have nicknamed the “blanking Canadian.” There is a good reason. He is from Canada. That’s reason enough, right? Nicknames are important on a team, especially if you are the supervisor who gets to name everyone. Silly as it sounds, it also forms some chemistry. One of the three Deiters also is called “Stretch,” because I am 6-3 and I feel short standing next to him …
There are also some hardworking New Zealanders on my crew. One gentleman we refer to as “The Machine” because he is a computer guy working on a production line. He always figures out techniques to scientifically use the force, inertia and mass of a moving box on our production line … to get more work done with as little effort as possible. If he and I were on “Survivor” I would certainly try to bond with “The Machine” to stay alive.

Mixed in among all of these imports there is also one guy of native New Zealand Maori descent. He seems like a gentle giant — boyish in nature, good natured, and built like some linebacker or defensive end in American football. I am a bit apprehensive about giving him a nickname. I assume there are some cultural differences, and by all means I don’t want to offend. But, I have to confess, “The Warrior” crossed my mind. He is also my minister of native affairs. He has taught me a few Maori words referring to ancestors, tattoos, and that cool thing Maori do before battle, rugby games or a dance … their “haka.”

And while on the subject of language … let’s go back to the Three Deiters. They taught me a derogatory little slang word whose English counterpart rhymes with witch. Bad mistake boys, now if I am not calling them Deiter, I am calling them this fun little word — “schlomper.” (The literal translation is slob … but that is not how they use it. And therefore, nor do I.) This is the interesting cultural takeaway of the day. Now that I can say “biotch” in German, of course I was curious to learn the phrase in Maori to avoid any favoritism. My polite, quiet new Maori colleague informed me there is no equivalent in his family’s native tongue. In fact, he told me, their language is pretty much void of curse words. Isn’t that cool? Wouldn’t it be a better global village if more of us could express ourselves without those little vocab bombs in everyday speech?

So each day at the gig is filled with hard work and all of these new friends having a good time to make the task go by faster. Ha … I told the gang about another new friend from a recent Seattle job who called me “The Easy Rider” (because of my retro sideburns.) So, of course, that is my new name among the Eastern European block here in Kiwiland. Probably should be “cheesy rider” … I digress …

And i mustn’t forget another young man whom I call The Angry Frenchman. He actually is of Russian descent but raised and schooled in France. And I don’t think he is angry. He seemed half amused, half sad that I said called him angry. His English is almost as good as mine, but it’s not his primary language. He has a strong French accent. And the dude is big. I don’t call him other names or shout “NO, NO!” to this guy. It is more like “Oui, oui! Bon, bon!” He is a 6-5, 220 pound, scrappy, baby faced, growing boy. He is fluent in several languages, probably a sensitive poet, yet attacks a pallet full of boxes like a stormtrooper.

But this is the neatest thing about all these guys. On the average they are all 18-21 years of age … and out traveling the world. Apparently they travel, work a little, learn the culture, sample the brew, work a little more and then move to the next great adventure. How cool is that?

On one hand, these guys seem like they may be party animals. They are certainly adventurers. At times their sense of humor can be coarse, but I also saw another side to the entire lot. The other day someone noticed a tiny, tiny black kitten wondering around the job site. Quickly, one of the young men scooped up the lost pet and gave up the milk for his tea to feed it. Someone else grabbed a box. Later at lunch they were taking turns holding this tiny kitten. When they put it down, it meowed loudly for attention. Pretty heartwarming, even for an old Easy Rider. Ha! … The Angry Frenchman didn’t look near as angry with the tiny black kitten crawling across his shoulders as he ate lunch.

As a team, we realized the kitten was not only cute, it could serve a purpose. We have all heard tales of animals behaving strangely when there is an impending earthquake. Well … after not one, but two aftershocks in the night, we all had earthquakes on our minds. We decided the kitten in the storage box would be like our “canary in a coal mine.” (You know, like the birds coal miners used to alert them to poisonous gas in the mine.) If the kitty freaked, we would get the schnell out of there … or in their case go smoke a cig. Okay … I guess you had to have been there …
Oh … I should have explained to you the reader, as I did to the three Deiters that I am convinced it is okay for me to poke fun at Germans because I too am of almost pure German decent. As I told them, I am so German, my dad’s middle name was Herman … true story. I didn’t mention my grandfather’s middle name was Ludwig (… didn’t want them to think I was perhaps even more German than them).

Hey, have you ever seen a concert at the German cultural center in Dallas, The Sons of Herman Hall? … very cool … I digress …

So I muster up my best TV German from my extensive language study of “The Great Escape” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “Saving Private Ryan” and dozens of other WWII films for their amusement.

Whether the guys are working fast or slow, I yell in my most harsh and cruel stereotypical, military voice, “SCHNELL! SCHNELL!” … which I am pretty sure conveys “Hurry up or I am going to boot you like a soccer ball.” On those few occasions when the guys drop a box, I overreact for comic effect and scream “NEIN! NEIN!” … Well at least I think it is really funny. They smile, if only to humor me, but I can tell it makes their day of labor a little more lighthearted.

Ha … today, I took the cultural exchange a little further. I have been telling the Deiters more and more about the “Sprockets” character that comic actor Mike Meyers created for SNL … but today we learned about Seinfeld. Jerry S., as you probably recall, invented a legendary New York character called the “Soup Nazi.” Ha … today I shared the legend of the Soup Nazi with the 3Ds … So, after I explained how it works and we reviewed a few times …. I would yell “No soup for you!” if they broke a box, or rammed a pallet jack into a pole or whatever. Great fun … All in the name of cultural exchange.

But alas, yesterday was a sad day. Actually, one of the Deiters is gone. Stretch got a call informing him that he has a required physics exam to get into university. So, he headed back to The Fatherland. But, not before having our photo made together … Stretch and Easy Rider — two Germans from a different Herman. OH … I should point out that everyone, including Stretch thinks that he and I are long-lost relatives, and or at least bear a strong resemblance. He even referred to me as “his future self.” LOL … poor kid! Come to think of it, when I was his age I was pretty tall and skinny too …. hmmmm … I vunder???

I knew I was going to get along great with Stretch when i first met him. We started talking about music and he told me he liked The Clash … so it was a done deal immediately. (He is now among the readers who have dug up and read The Clash interview on this site …) Upon further investigation, I asked him about my most favorite German band — the electronic pioneers Kraftwerk. Ya! Yes Stretch told me he wrote a 20-page paper on Kraftwerk just a year earlier in high school, analyzing the band’s music which sounded like today’s electronic music 30 years ahead of its time … Yes, Germans from a different Herman … I am sure of it.

So, best of luck in the world of physics my new German friend. Please keep reading the blog and wear your PingWi-Fi t-shirt all over Europe … “Uhnd nau ve represent!’ Oh … and for you “blanking Canadian,” i brought a PingWi-Fi t-shirt and you didn’t show up for work. “Blanking Canadian” … No soup for you!

Know what I saying?