Saturday, September 11, 2010


This will be a little different from most 9/11 posts and articles you'll see today. This one goes a little more towards who we are, as Americans, and how we approach life in general. This is not full of great insight or analysis, it's just one of my little stories.

When I got my orders to Germany, I had to go alone because my family was not allowed to join me until I had secured housing on the German economy. This was standard procedure for almost everyone who went overseas. It wasn't a quick and easy process, both because acceptable housing was limited off base and you had to house hunt while in-processing and getting up to speed on your new job.

And I found a house. The village was named Reuschbach and was about 5 miles from the air base. I moved in to the bottom floor of a two story house (the landlords lived upstairs) and Liz began the process of getting our household goods shipped over and scheduling the trip for herself and our two very young kids.

In the meantime, Reuschbach was having a party. Maybe it was their 750th birthday* or something, I don't remember. But the important thing was that there would be a weeklong party out at the village park, in the woods outside of town. My landlord made sure to invite me and made sure I went.

The first night was fun. I straightened out the beer vendor, who insisted that all Americans drank beer ice cold. German beer sucks when it's ice cold, it's meant to be cool. Like I said, that happened once, and I was even more accepted after that. I ate sausages and saurkraut** and staggered home in the early morning hours.

The next night we did it again. I drank beer and became best friends with several people who spoke as little English as I spoke German. And there was one very pretty young lady there.

I started to talk to her and found she spoke much better English than most of my new friends. She was 20 years old, and it wasn't until we both got up to get more beer that I discovered that she limped badly from a physical deformity.

As the night went on, I found out that she really wanted to be a teacher, but the Government wouldn't let her because "a cripple cannot take proper care of children." I was outraged, and spent much of the next two nights encouraging her to fight back and not accept their stupid rules.

At one point, she told me, "You Americans are always like this. You never give up and you think you can have anything you want, just because you want it." She said this with wonder in her voice, as if she was discovering that all she'd heard about us crazy Americans was true.

I pressed her on it, telling her that if she was willing to work hard for it, there was no reason that she couldn't fulfill her dream of teaching. To hell with the authorities who decided she was better suited to clerical work in an office, just because of her bodily imperfection.

Eventually her Mother got involved, reminding me that I was a guest and shouldn't be putting crazy ideas into her daughter's head. We exchanged a few letters after that, and at one point we were going to meet in a nearby city so that my wife could meet her too, but plans for that fell through and were never followed up.

I often wonder whatever happened to her. I sometimes wonder if a little bit of the crazy American attitude rubbed off on her. Lord knows I tried.

* If that sounds implausible, a good friend of mine lived in Biersborn, not too far away. They celebrated their 1500th birthday while we were there. Biersborn appeared on ancient Roman maps as a trade route waypoint.

** I had saurkraut that night within weeks of arriving in Germany, and never again even saw it on a menu in a restaurant for the rest of my three-year tour.