We were going to be signing our lease in the new apartment the next day and needed a tape measure to be able to purchase a washer/dryer. We owned a tape measure in the U.S., but since it’s only in inches, we didn’t bring it. We knew we’d have to measure everything here in the metric system.
It was impossible for Chris to meet me, so I had to go myself. I mapped it out, got off the tram, and it was right there: the Bauhaus. I speculate that this store is a smaller, city branch of a nation-wide chain. Once I walked it, I thought, no problem- this is just like a mini-Home Depot. I frequented our HD quite a bit in Cambridge the last few years when we were renovating our condo.
The first floor was standard tools, so I went up and down the aisles looking for it. For the life of me, I couldn’t find it. I was so nervous about asking someone, because I had a panic that perhaps my Google translator hadn’t translated the word correctly. I had it written down as “Maßband,” pronounced, or so I think, “mahss-bahnd.” If a worker came by me, (embarrassingly, I admit) I would pretend like I was trying to decide between two hand saws just so they wouldn’t approach me. Ridiculous, I know. I think I was just afraid that they would ask me a question, and I wouldn’t know what to say.
Finally, after an embarrassingly long time, I realized I had to ask someone. I went up to a red-vested older gentleman and said, “Enschuldigen, ein Maßband?” (Excuse me, a measuring tape?)
He pointed to a wall, but then went on to give a 1-minute monologue, pointed around the store and gave inflections in his voice that seemed like advice. Finally, he stopped, and I said (with doe eyes), “Um, enschuldigen, kein Deutsch.” (Um, excuse me, no German.)
“Oh, kein Deutsch,” he said dramatically with his head and eyes rolling backwards. So, he walked me over to another aisle, the whole time talking a mile a minute in German, and when we got there, he pointed at some boxes above my head. “Cheaper,” he said and walked away.
I was relieved for 2 reasons. First, it wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t find the tape measures- they were above my head. I can still be a handy person. Second, I had dealt with my fear again with trying to speak German. I mean, it’s pretty hard to do with such a limited vocabulary. But, I was able to ask for something, explain (horribly) that I do not speak German, and get what I came to the store for.
Then, seconds after my victory, I was overcome by fear and embarrassment again. What size do I get? How long is 5 meters versus 10 meters? I tried to think back to elementary school. I think there were still some remnants of trying to push the metric system on students. We had yard sticks, but also had meter sticks. I thought they were pretty much the same size, so I converted 1 meter~3 ft. (Not bad I found out after I got home: 1 meter = 3.28 ft.)
I made my decision, paid, and we were able to measure for the washing machine the next day.
My next dilema, where do I buy a washing machine?