Brief Encounters: Mar., 2012

Tales of Everday Life

Behaving at the Ballet

After an enriching evening of ballet at Vienna’s Volksoper, my companion Benjamin and I went to collect our coats. Wrapping up against the bitter chill outside with woollens and fur, he drifted off, recognising a face in the crowd.

I caught up with them and politely added to the performance analysis every now and then, being a ballerina myself. Topics changed and lights around us were turned off – a subtle hint from the Garderobe to leave the building. Yet the conversation continued to flow and next thing we knew we were discussing our professional lives and the moral purpose of modern dance. Very profound.

Leaving the establishment feeling enlightened and hoping I had behaved, I asked Benjamin who the charming old man was. He replied: “Oh, I have absolutely no idea!” So much for etiquette.

Emma-Victoria Farr 

The Art of Gemütlichkeit

Last Sunday, after a walk through the windswept gardens of the Belvedere, I stopped at a coffee house for some much needed Melange and cake. Besides the quality brew, Viennese coffee houses have very little to do with their famed Italian counterparts. Italians typically stand at the bar for a quick espresso, but in Vienna, people take their time – to sit, have their coffee and peruse the papers.

Not that you have a choice. Viennese waiters cultivate the art of Gemütlichkeit. Considering it to be part of the city’s charm I never dared complain – the evil looks that a waiter in Café Central gave me for meekly enquiring after the whereabouts of my Melange were enough to shut me up.

Even the Viennese get fed up. On that Sunday, an old-school gentleman, elegantly dressed with hat and walking stick, sat down at the table next to me for lunch. Even before his steaming Knödel had arrived, he asked the waiter for an Esterhazytorte to take home. Evidently, he had had plenty of practice in handling slow service. Noted. Danke Schön.

Thorsten Platz 

Once Bitten Twice Shy

On a dark and grey morning in the middle of winter, on my usual early morning run up the Liesing riverside paths to Rodaun, a brown skinny little mutt ran towards me. The dog hunched his back, barking, growling and baring his teeth. I was scared. The owner, talking to a friend, did nothing. If I moved, the dog moved. I screamed; no response. My German failed me. Seconds later, the dog pounced and sunk its teeth through three layers, into my thigh.

I was stunned, and frustrated beyond words, having none in a language anyone nearby could understand. The woman finally called off her dog, and I limped home, bruised on several levels. There wasn’t much I could tell the police.

Two weeks later we saw the dog owner. My husband was able to convey my finer feelings and suggested the creature wear a leash. She denied everything. Her “sweet dog” would never do anything like that. We had to let it go.

I decided to alter my route to avoid a repeat encounter, and headed off through the vineyards. I was confronted by an old man walking his dog – without a leash. I guess that I had fear written all over my face and actions, as the owner said something in German that had the words “Angst” and “Hund” in it.

I began, “Ich habe Angst. Letzte Woche, habe ich ein Hund gebissen!” He looked at me in surprise. I gulped, realizing my error: Instead of saying I had been bitten by a dog, I had said, “I am afraid. Last week I bit a dog!”  I jogged by, chuckling at my mistake and ran home to tell my husband, who roared with laughter. Now it was the dog owner’s turn to be afraid.

Michelle Epstein 

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