I'm no man of letters. German, spelling, grammar and all that stuff were spoilt in my very childhood by impatient German teachers, by cruelly fast dictations and rigorous assessments of my compositions. You missed the topic, Münchhausen is dead,Thomas, sit down - unsatisfactory.

Sit down, Thomas. Thomas, -unsatisfactory. How often have I heard this? two, tree, four hundred times? This even caused a real pre-puberty crisis of identity in me, because for some time I thought my surname was "Unsatisfactory". Well, I was young at that time and credulous.If somebody had told me at that time that worthless, coloured wrappings of chewing gums would soon be made a new currency, I problably would not have believed him. And if I had foreseen that some years later German teachers would decorate their visiting cards with words like "handy-number", my hair loss would have been more moderate. But this is past, it doesn't matter any more.

Once my German teacher said to the pupils: "Lassen wir Fünf gerade sein" (in English: Let me look the other way") and I thought he was calling my name, because "Fünf" (unsatisfactory) was the mark I always got. I was just meditating upon all the chewing gum paper I have used up and simply answered: "Yes". "Yes what, Thomas?" (Damn it all, did the guy want to confuse me or has he lost track of things? "Yes what" failed last year because of a bad mark in reciting poems as quickly as possible. What the hell was all about?)"Yes, you want to have something from me" I frankly told him. Stop, did his right eye twinkle? I knew this look. But where from? "No..." "Where from? Let me think about it. Perhaps from Winnetou? No, Winnetou had black eye brows. Our teacher was fair, however, and had bright eye brows. “...Thomas.” Just a moment. Certainly it came from some western film. What kind of western types are there? Festus? No, he had to be fair. Why didn't I get it right away? The hardened muscle in the face, the corners of his mouth, which look like steel. And soon he would fight against all kinds of rascals and would not give a damn whether he would be injured or not. “Thomas?” Our German teacher with his flower shirt from Hawaii was standing in front of me and thought he was Steve McQueen in "The Glorious Seven"(?). He might be mistaken. I don't know that Steve McQueen had ever been standing in front of a class, red as a lobster, wearing a Hawaii shirt. Only their voice were similar in a way. “Thhhoooommas!!!” No, it wasn't either. Never would Steve McQueen have shouted out without any control, except if he had to make a cowherd go through a river. Ah, now the voice was more adequate. A coarse, choking whisper, containing some hissing sounds, similar to the spontaneaous consumption of a hot cup of coffee. "Are you listening to me now? I didn't want to bother you! You can sit down again." Sit down again? O.K. "I have only explained to the class, that we don't have to be so precise here, i.e. that we can take an odd number for an even number. So I took whatever number you like. " Finally I can sit down again. Standing so long is so tiring. "....very poor, Thomas!"

Was he speaking about me? It might be better to stand up and answer something. "Yes?" "No, that's enough for me. Sit down at once, Thomas, unsatisfactory!" So my trauma of always getting the mark "poor" was finally cured ... and more confusion was to come.

But let's leave it like that! It happened long ago, and the reform of our spelling has made all of us half legasthenics. When I wrote "Schallloch" in previous times they thought I was stupid. Today we know that this spelling is definitely right, this meant I was only ahead of my times, and my German marks must be calculated anew.

 

... but it would not be necessary, because the contents of the preface is pure fiction. You will certainly have noticed that. If not, I can only bid you sit down and give you a poor mark.

(One more word about chewing gum paper.I wasn't right at all, because suddenly the EURO was introduced. There's only one consolation: the EURO is almost as coloured as chewing gum paper - and as worthless. Perhaps a currency in transition?

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