Like all modern Germans, my car can't quite bring itself to utter the H-word.
This really happened. Sometimes, you get caught at exactly the wrong moment.
“Bitte, lassen Sie mich das Gerät leiser machen, so dass wir zusammenscprechen kann," I explain to the young police officer who pulled me over. That means please let me turn down the stereo so we can talk, and I was rather proud of myself for managing the sentence.
I needn't have felt so smug. The guy picked my accent, and replied in English, “Routine license check, sir. Your licence, please."
I handed him my New York license, he noted the number and expiry date, and reminded me that I only had six months grace to change to a German Führerschein.
I thought I would be on my way. But he had one more question.
"That music you were playing…what is it?"
"It’s the soundtrack to a Broadway Show…The Producers. " One of the few gay stereotypes I uphold is a fondness for musical theatre.
"And that song…How does it sound again?" I turned up the volume. Sure enough, we had just reached the chorus of the famous Springtime for Hitler.
"Springtime?" he asked?
"Fruhjahr," I replied.
"So this is a happy song about Hitler?" he noted, testily.
"Um, kinda. Yeah. It’s supposed to sound like it. But it’s not serious."
"I don’t understand."
“It’s ironic.” I searched my brain for the German word for irony. I’m sure there is one. (No, I just checked Leo, there isn't one. They borrow from the French.)
I recall that one of my cultural acclimatization books scorned the notion that Germans have no sense of humour. Germans have a great sense of humour, they claimed. It’s just that they don’t believe a sense of humour is necessary for communication.
“You see the show is about a broadway producer who needs to put on the worst show in the world as part of a scam that…” as the words came out of my mouth, I thought better of it.
I remember trying to explain the plot of The Producers to Master Right as we sat in the theatre waiting for the curtain. It’s hard enough to understand for a native speaker, let alone for the English-challenged. I never managed, so he just had to laugh at the gay bits and the pretzels.
(By the way, if you don’t know the plot of The Producers, please surrender your Gay Card to the authorities at once.)
“…um, it’s the same guy who made Blazing Saddles.” Change of tack. The Germans are suckers for the wild west. “Only this time the bad guys are Nazis instead of, um, bad guys.”
“Oh,” he said blankly. “Just be careful when you play it loud with the windows down. There’s a law against broadcasting neo-Nazi propaganda."
"It's OK, I guess you don't look like a Nazi." he added.