“Stupid Mother F%#k! Denk an die Kinder! Stupid! Die F#$ker!”
It was a sunny, hot day in Vienna. After three coffee conference days filled with cappuccino quaffing followed with beer drinking, we headed across the Danube to the Old Danube, an oxbow of the river where Viennese gather to swim, row and sun bathe.
“So you think I can change here?” I asked as people milled around on the crowded beach, no changing rooms in sight.
My friend Anna (a Finn living in Vienna) replied in the affirmative. “Yeah, I don’t see why not. We do it all the time.”
And so I quickly yanked off my pants and in the blink of an eye pulled up my swimming trunks – literally, blink -of-an-eye, no extra jiggles, nothing – and sat back down in the grass between my friends. We began talking about the hotel where my friend stayed on the weekend and the prostitutes that gathered down the road.
All the while, in the background I could hear someone muttering.
“Mother F*#ker! F&#*ing sh*t!”
I thought they were referring to me, but it was hard to tell. Anna assured me that it was fine what I had done. There were women wandering around topless. Naked kids all over the place, and men in Speedos that left less to the imagination than if they wore nothing at all.
But the cursing got clearer and closer.
“Where in f*%k you from?!?!” a voice said not three feet away.
I struggled to not acknowledge them, but they edged closer. Two swarthy men breathing down my neck. My mind was whirling and I struggled to decide if I should respond in German, Spanish, English?
If I say I’m from the US it might affirm some strange, stereotype about ignorant dick-waving Americans (which would be a hilarious stereotype to start (‘Geez, all of these Americans and their dick-waving!’)); if I say I’m German, I might get an impromptu test of my rudimentary German; if I respond in Spanish, well I guess that would have been okay.
And somehow in the heat of the moment I also couldn’t help but snigger and think of this old Simpson’s clip
I eventually muttered, “Entschuldigung,” or ‘excuse me’ a couple times. They continued shouting at me, peppering their language with exasperated f-bombs and ‘think of the children’ before eventually flicking some of their cigarette ash at me and wandering off. We all sat in disbelief.
As they always say, experience is the finest teacher and so it seems today’s lesson was, ‘Don’t accept tips on public decorum on beaches in Vienna from Finnish friends.’
The other lesson was, ‘There is no way to feel more exposed than to be sitting on the grass at a crowded beach in a Speed-o in a foreign country while two men with cigarettes hunch over you shouting vile epithets.’