this is one of those everyday life expat stories. except this story has three endings. two are made up, and one is what actually happened.
i was cruising down the aisles at our local LIDL, it was my usual weekly late afternoon grocery shopping trip with alex. we don’t have a car, so we have to figure out a time that works for us and meet in the town square and walk across the bridge, south to the store, and then schlep it all home in our fabric tote bags until our shoulders fall off. we like LIDL the best because it’s uncomplicated, it’s got bargain prices, the cashiers are friendly(enough), and it’s quick. when there’s only one kind of spaghetti, you don’t waste much time deciding which kind to buy.
so we get to the check-out line (or queue, as i was just tempted to write), and wait for our stressed-looking cashier until she says the token, “dobry den”, acknowledging our presence which means we can stand at the end of the cashier.
one of the first items she rung up were those ever delightful dr. oetker frozen pizzas that remind me of my student days in berlin. normally i get by with just “good day, yes, no, cash, card, okay, thank you, good bye”. this particular day, she wanted to say something to me about the pizzas. something really fast in czech came out of her mouth. really wanting to pass (also known as, not have to explain that i’m a foreigner), i did my concerned look, nodding, and blinking routine, hoping that would be good enough. it works sometimes.
today it didn’t. but i didn’t know what to do. normally i would explain i don’t speak czech (something i am perfectly capable of doing– the telling, not the czech speaking) but today the whole explaining thing felt boring or tired. or i was trapped in a nodding loop. i think i just nodded and blinked for what felt like five whole seconds.
i kept nodding until, like a cyclone, i sucked alex in a nodding loop, and then we both stupidly kept nodding until our brains exploded in a haze of smoke and fire, and the LIDL facilities staff had to remove us using a couple dollies and loading cart.
i kept nodding until i sucked alex into my nodding loop, and finally there was nothing else to do but wave our arms above our heads, scream, and run out of the store, leaving our heaping pile of foodstuffs inconveniently on the counter.
alex, overseeing this whole interaction, swoops in to save me from my nodding loop. “ummmm, i don’t speak czech. german?” he offered. "jooooooo,“ she exclaimed, ”sie sprechen deutsch!“
i just stared blankly. "errrrr….. ja!”
“these pizzas are buy two get one free and you only have two,” she told me.
“ALEX GET ANOTHER FOUR CHEESE!”
sometimes i forget that knowing another language helps us in this area of the world. feeling smug, i later realized that alex is actually the one who helped us, saving me from the nodding loop.
have you ever had a nodding loop moment?