I have been maintaining a positive relationship with my co-workers, lately…. by which, what I mean is, keeping my mouth shut. Damn, that’s tough! And–since apparently, I have a very expressive face–going through all kinds of social gymnastics to keep from looking at them when certain topics come up.
And under no circumstances whatsoever am I asking any questions. Questions are pretty much first cousins to fist fighting, don’t you know?
So, the thing about small towns in the United States is that they tend to have ethnicity (Settled by Germans, French, Polish, etc.) And they also tend to have a specific time. You know… the point in history that most of the people immigrated. So, the collective memory of the old country will be focused around one time period. You wind up with entire towns that identify as descendants of countries and towns that no longer exist, and idealize times that passed long ago.
So, I have a co-worker… and she’s the same general ethnicity as most of the town (German) but she’s the wrong time period. (1945? Who the hell immigrates in 1945? Okay… in fairness, there are quite a few 1945’s here. I’ve been told they choose the place based on the number of German names in the phone book.)
I happen to be the wrong ethnicity and the wrong time period, and at one point, she asked me about that. (I can trace my family’s history in the United States all the way back to a Boeing five whole years before I was born.)
Well, you know small talk. It’s not all that long before I’m asking her the same questions.
And between the fact that the answer included the word Ar.gen.tin.a and the general level of defensiveness (I hadn’t uttered a word before she informed me that lots of Germans went to Argentina after the war. Woulda had to start over, anyway. Perfectly normal. Lots and lots and lots and lots…) I’m going to guess that her story (if I ever manage to pry it out of her) is all kinds of interesting.
Right now, and for various reasons, the Weimar Republic keeps coming up in the political commentary, and the creative imagination. And… well, my co-worker always seems to pop up right as I’m reading the news on my morning break.
I’m getting very good at taking a sip of coffee and saying “How ’bout them Huskers?” instead of “So, where were your family during—?”