De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


Driving In Germany

Having had more than enough occasion to observe American driving habits in Germany, it occurs to me that the average American simply does not understand the German concept of driving. An explanation is in order.

German driving is based on a very simple law of physics: no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. However, as soon as any object ceases to occupy a given space, any other object is free to occupy it. This is why there are disk brakes on even the smallest of cars, thus allowing us to drive as far as possible as fast as possible into any open space.

Unfortunately, at intersections this can cause what is referred to as the Teutonic Four-Way Deadlock, which happens when all cars have moved as far as possible into the intersection, followed by more cars, none of which would even imagine backing up (it is against our nature, you see).

The most severe of these occurred during August of 1973 in Augsburg and lasted three days, seven hours and 42 minutes. There were three marriages, one divorce, and two children were born.

It ended only when the Bundeswehr brought in helicopters and lifted out the cars in the middle, thus freeing up the intersection.

Driving in Germany is still not for those with weak hearts, but I hope that this explains the why of it all and helps to reduce some of the criticism from "Amis" (Americans).

(Originally published as a Letter to the Editor from me in the Stars And Stripes on 24 September 1989.)


The Fork

The earliest proto-fork was used by the ancient Egyptians, who worshipped it as a deity. Of course, the Egyptians worshipped darn near everything, so it was no big deal. It was really nothing more than a spoon with a spike on one end and was used for removing snails from their shells. This was far more efficient than those itty-bitty little eviction notices used by the Greeks. It was also used for removing ear wax until that practice was outlawed by the Egyptian Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The fork makes its next appearance in ancient Rome, where it was not worshipped as a deity, having lost out to the knife. By this time, it had two tines, and was used mostly for removing that last olive from the jar. It was also put to good use in roads, making travel far easier, as up to this time all roads went to only one destination. This prompted the famous orator Yogius Berrius to declare "When you get to a fork in the road, take it."

By the Middle Ages, the fork had spread to Central Europe. Except Spain, where it was denounced as a heretic and burned at the stake. Early European forks are hard to find, as they were all stolen by the Goths and Vandals when they came to dinner and stayed for a few decades. When they discovered Europe was out of forks, they burned the place and left. The only forks left behind were the extra-large ones, which were used for digging tar at the tar pits and were known as "pitch forks".

Returning eastward, the Goths and Vandals took their summer vacation in what is now Russia, where the government declared that the fork had been known to the Russian peoples for millenia, as they had originally invented it, only to have it stolen by Western imperialists.

One of the forks was also left in Poland as a gift to King Wraklav the Stupid, who declared it to be utterly useless. Of course, he was using the wrong end, so it took a while for the fork to catch on there.

The earliest settlers to the Western Hemisphere brought the fork with them to the New World, where the Pilgrims amazed the Indians with their prowess at reaching across the table and spearing that last potato on the plate. This was pronounced to be a huge "no no" by Miss Manners, punishable by three days in the stocks. Unfortunately, as adept as they were at spearing food with it, the settlers were equally inept at actually using it to eat with, nervous as they were at the prospect of being raided at any moment by bands of jealous Indians. This led to numerous embarassing dining accidents, giving rise to the Indians' observation that "White Man speak with fork in tongue". It also led to the Indians laughing their butts off after dining with White settlers. Some scholars believe that the entire Thanksgiving thing was nothing more than a ploy by the Indians to have a good laugh at the expense of the settlers.

In modern times, the fork is still put to good use, having even been taken aboard the Space Shuttle, where it was used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope by pinning the hannenframmis to the franistan. As humans venture farther out into space, the fork will no doubt be along for the ride. Perhaps it will even be left with primitive civilizations along with a cheery "May the fork be with you!".

[This was written in March '97, subsequent to having lunch with some people I worked with at Travis AFB. Someone wondered aloud where the fork originated, with got my creative juices going. With predictable results.]

All I Need To Know About Life

....I learned from cats.

Life is hard, then you nap.

Curiosity never killed anything except maybe a few hours.

When in doubt, cop an attitude.

Variety is the spice of life. One day ignore people, the next day annoy them.

Climb your way to the top. That's why the drapes are there.

Find your place in the sun. Especially if it happens to be on that pile of warm, clean laundry.

Make your mark in the world. Or at least spray in each corner.

When dining out, think nothing of sending your meal back 20 or 30 times.

If you're not getting enough attention, try knocking over several expensive antique lamps.

Always give generously -- a small bird or rodent left on the bed tells them "I care".

When you go out into the world, remember: being placed on a pedestal is a right, not a privilege.