Sense Enough to Come in out of the Rain

Austrians apparently have sense enough to come in out of the rain.  I should learn from them.

When I boarded the subway this evening on my way back to my dorm, it was positively beautiful outside.  The weather here has been amazing, so amazing in fact, that I commented on it to a colleague today as we walked back to campus after lunch.

Let me back track for a moment.

On my way to the subway this morning, I wore a light sweater over my top and felt very comfortable.  That has been my uniform since I arrived.  For those of you who know how cold natured I am, you will understand how gorgeous the weather must be for me to don only a light sweater over a top.  For those of you who don’t know, imagine, if you will, me dressed in at least three layers of clothes, a scarf, a hat, two pairs of gloves, a puffy down coat that extends to my ankles, with a fur-lined hood, and only my eyes showing from underneath all of the layers.  Then imagine everyone else around me in spring jackets.  That’s my life; that’s how cold I usually am.

So of course I’ve noticed the past few days that I’ve been wearing my light sweater while many people have been dressed in winter coats.  I’ve been confused.

One of those people was the colleague with whom I lunched today.  By lunch time, I had ditched my sweater, because it was fantastic outside, and I had no qualms about my decision until my colleague put on a winter coat nearly identical to the one I described, only hers lacked the fur lining on the hood.  I questioned our outerwear decisions, but she assured me that she didn’t really need the heavy coat, but since she had it she would wear it.  Well, she didn’t need it when we left for the restaurant, and she really didn’t need it when we left to return to campus.  She indicated how hot she was, and I mentioned how unexpectedly pleased with the weather I had been.

That is until I got off of the subway on my way back to my dorm.  When I emerged from the tunnel to see the sky, it was as dark as the tunnel with torrents of rain falling.  Undaunted, I put on my rain coat (just because I wasn’t wearing it doesn’t mean I didn’t have it – I like to be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions; I am from St. Louis, after all) and was about to pull out my umbrella when I noticed a cafe inside of the station.  Wunderbar, I thought.  I will stop in the cafe, eat dinner, and wait out the rain.

Bar tender: Bitte?
Me: Danke. Ich spreche kein Deutsch.  Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Bar tender: Little.
Me: Great!  May I see a menu, please?
Bar tender: Menu?
Me: Yes, please?
Bar tender: *wild gesticulating to help me understand where to find a menu*

Because my colleague taught me a lot of food words while we were at lunch, I was feeling overconfident as I sauntered over to the menu.  Um, I can’t read German.  I’m not sure why I thought this would go well.  The only word I recognized was the word for fried or crispy.  Hmm.  No problem, I thought.  I’ll just pull out my handy-dandy phrase book with a whole section on food words.  That would have been a fantastic idea if I hadn’t left it in my dorm room.  While I was loading my backpack for the day, I picked it up, but then I put it back down.  I figured that I hadn’t used it yet while I had been here, and I didn’t want to further weigh down my backpack.  Note to self – when you are illiterate in the language spoken where you are, keep your phrase book with you at all times.  You just might need it.

So I leave the cafe, put on my rain coat, pull out my umbrella, and step outside.  People looked at me like I was crazy.  Most everyone was either indoors or huddled under awnings.  The more I walked, I realized two things.  The first was that in the past 10 minutes, I hadn’t seen anyone with an umbrella.  The second was that in the past 10 minutes I really hadn’t seen anyone.  The normally bustling Heinestrasse 15 was a ghost town.

As I made my way back to the dorm, wondering if umbrellas even exist in Austria, I saw three people with umbrellas, so my ill-conceived daydream of introducing umbrellas to Austria was dashed.

And then I realized as I finally walked inside the building, waterlogged, that unlike me, Austrians simply know how to come in out of the rain.



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