I decided to be friendly. After handing my ID and going through the retinal scan, fingerprinting, and DNA analysis that is required to get on base, I struck up a little conversation.
Me - "So, are you like, always here?" Joking tone of voice with a smile.
German Guard as the smile leaves his face - "No, I'm not always here..."
Me with a bigger smile and more joking in voice - "No, I mean it just always seems like you are here when I drive through so I kinda thought you might live in the guard shack."
German Guard with no smile now and with much uncertainty in his voice - "No, they don't make me live in the guard shack. I have a home."
This is the look he was giving me (just substitute the suit with a guard uniform).
I should have just stopped there. I should have taken my ID and driven through the check point and scuttled my little way back to my home. Did I do this? No. I was intent on making sure this German guard knew I was being friendly and was doing this by being jokey.
Me - "No!" as I laugh. "I know you don't live in the guard shack. It just seems you work a lot. Maybe I only drive through on days you work. Maybe we're on the same 'schedule' or something." I'm trying really hard to smile and steer this train wreck into something resembling a friendly connection.
German Guard - "Um... same schedule? Well, I work three days on then two days off so if you drive through on those days, yes, I will be here. But I don't think residents have schedules that they have to follow about when they can come on base..."
This is going nowhere fast and I now have a line of cars waiting behind me so I say "Thanks," and drive off. Much to the relief of this German guard. So what went wrong? I will tell you what I forgot:
I read an article once that said Germans were voted worldwide the least funny people. Anywhere. Of course, Americans were voted the funniest. And no, it's not an European thing. With all the traveling we have done, we have come across some funny people. There was the waitress in Paris that didn't speak any English and to tell us what was beef on the menu she would moo and laugh hysterically along with us. There was the old Austrian lady who could only say 'hello' until we taught her 'good morning' and she said it every time of day while she laughed because she knew it wasn't morning. There were the Swedes in the Volvo dealership who joked right along with our American group of car buyers. So what is it with these Germans?
(And do I even have to point out that I didn't go through that guard post for the next two days I was so embarrassed. I saw the guard stare at the back of my car in total confusion while I drove away. Oh great. I am now the "crazy American lady who thinks he lives in the guard station." What a great way to be friendly.)
It's true that Germans are a hard working people. But does hard work equal no sense on humor? Doesn't the guard know that upon me saying "It seems like you are always here," that he should have said "It sure feels like I am always here. Maybe I should move into the shack and cut down on my commute time." And then I would say, "Hey! There's an idea! You could spruce it up with some throw pillows!" And then we would both chuckle and say "Have a nice day," and be content that we were funny and should share that funniness with another human.
Maybe there just aren't any funny Germans out there.
I looked up laughing Germans and funny Germans and this is what I found. Mostly pictures of people in traditional Bavarian dress drinking beer while laughing. So if I was to go with what I found on the internet, to make a German laugh I have to get them drunk. Alright. Maybe I will drive through again and try the same exchange with the guard but offer him a beer first to loosen him up.
But I doubt it would work. I'd probably get a look like this. So serious it's written on his face.
(This is an actual German. Do you see what I'm dealing with?)
I just want to say thank you to all the people who jumped to the defense of the German people by telling me that they know a funny German. I do know that there are funny Germans out there. I've actually met some. When I wrote this post I was just highlighting a difficult moment I had with one person. I decided to use this one moment to write about something that is talked about, how the German people have a different sense of humor. I hope everyone knows that I wrote this post in good fun (I'm an American after all, isn't everything supposed to be fun?) and meant no harm. Thanks!
5 May 2014 - Second addition - I just want to reiterate that I know there are funny German people out there. The reason I wrote about this was I was just trying to highlight how embarrassed I actually was (and still am when I see this guard). I know not everyone gets sarcasm and irony and such. Luckily, we have a wide assortment of German guards that I can joke with! I hope any German people who read this realize this was all written in jest. After all, some of my very favorite people are German. And quite funny!