|Scene from Rothenburg, not far from my university in Würzburg.|
Early on, when I was learning German, I got a part time job.
It was at the university kitchen in Bochum, Germany.
I figured it would be a good way to practice my German.
They had tens of thousands of students.
I worked the lunch shift, 12–3:00.
My job was "Trays".
Placing lunch trays on a conveyor belt.
Over and over.
I must have done a good job.
After a few days, I was promoted to "Sauce".
I poured sauce over the meat, with a ladle.
This ladle had a VERY long handle.
The sauce cart was on wheels.
It was about a meter deep.
I had a pretty good rhythm going.
Suddenly - I DROPPED the ladle into the sauce.
I wasn't going to reach down in there.
And: I didn’t know how to say “ladle” in German.
(The German word for ladle, by the way, is Schöpflöffel.
-Even if I KNEW it, I couldn't pronounce it.)
So I did nothing.
I hoped no one would notice.
Pretty soon, the students began to complain.
The whole system—conveyor belt, trays, meat, sauce, veggies— stopped.
They traced the problem back to me.
I stood there, feeling pretty stupid.
So they gave me a clean ladle, and a few dirty looks.
A LOT of grumbling. In German.
Soon - everything started up again.
But the next day, I was back to "Trays".
- Not exactly a stellar career move. Even if I did learn the word for ladle.
(From the book - Meanwhile, Back in Los Ranchos -)