When one thinks of Germany, one would think of a few things right off the bat: chocolate, efficiency, punctuality, beer, and the autobahns. Much of Germany’s successes are related to their infrastructure, modernisation, collective traffic, as well as general tidiness. But when I refer to German construction, I’m not talking about its roads and buildings and history of Protestantism, I’m referring to German construction workers. Let me explain.
I’m a teacher, and as a result on a daily basis I rarely come into contact with the trades or jobs that would be considered blue collar. Perhaps parents of kids I teacher, or the odd handyman here or there I see, but I rarely interact with people in this world in a social way. Most of the people I know are teachers, academics, doctors, or lawyers or somehow connected to those professions.
Odd as it may be that I have a semblance of a social life, I was invited to attend a cultural night in nearby city of a friend of mine. A bunch of people would be gathering at his house in the afternoon, and they were bringing their spouses and such, and then we would continue on to the downtown core. Knowing that I would have to work the following day, I figured and assumed that I would be heading home early and this was a great way of getting the chaos of work out of my head.
I arrived, and immediately was enthusiastically encouraged to contribute to the artistic collaboration of all the guests on the table. Cut out some pictures and glue them, draw what you like, or be controversial; no rules. I elected to draw a small portion to represent the harmony of nature; the joining of the four main elements: earth, air, fire, and water. A simple yet beautiful oil pastel spot on the canvas was juxtaposed by the contrasting political messages and generally offensive diagrams of sexual freedom, random penises, and general anarchy. This describes aptly the crowd I was in, and how much my rainbows and unicorns didn’t fit in.
People get to talking and getting to know each other as I have only two common connections, and a friend of a friend of a friend was attending from Germany. Drink in hand I was approached, of course while I was fixing some delicious cheesy garlic bread. Chitchat ensued and it was rather nice to talk to someone that was outside of the pedagogy world: a construction worker.
Everyone gathers on the balcony patio to play a game of Waterfall. A drinking game, so lightweight as I am, I only pepper my afternoon with a single cider, drunk indiscriminately slow. The people getting drunk around me were unable to discern my ninja ways to protect my feeble body from drunkenness.
Rule masters create rules: firstly, when you have to drink you must gently rub the leg of the person to your right. Okay, no big deal right? We are all strangers and what’s wrong with a simple rub on the leg to warm up each other? I guess that’s until the construction worker, who ironically was sitting to my left, started having to drink (in the drinking game), and I found my leg being rubbed quite a bit. The rubs seemed to linger, but I thought nothing of it. Oblivious.
Secondly, the next rule requires all people to compliment the person their right after they drink, thus compounding the rub with a compliment. No harm, no foul. Pleasantries were exchanged, and the game developer to my right was peppered with some nice compliments of their nice haircut, stylish shirt, and well proportioned ears, of course complimented with a gentle touch on their leg. I elected to touch rather than rub, as to not appear creepy.
Finally, the third rule happened but truth be told I don’t remember it. It was hard enough to keep track of all the other rules and events that were going on. Chip chop, game ends and we start migrating towards the door to head into the city centre for the festival.
I’m casually putting my shoes on when I find myself cracking a joke about something and suddenly a construction worker laughs, and then gently grazes my beard with a hand. It was so quick and subtle, I barely noticed it nor did anyone else. And yet I was confused enough to pause and think about it, laugh, and chalk it up to friendly banter and descend the stairs.
Standing outside, putting on my coat, I get a wink out of the blue. It was at this moment that I realised that maybe I was being completely oblivious to the attention I was receiving. Being approached by a stranger, the lingering leg pats, the compliments (which were attributed to the game rather than interest), the face touching, and the wink. So rare as it is, and, truth be told, coming from a drunk German didn’t make me think it was anything serious of if there was some hidden intention. However, I was confused. Was the construction worker flirting with me?
I guess I’ll never know for sure. As it turned out the group fell apart and we never found each other by the time I called it a night. Was it a fleeting connection? Was there something there I didn’t notice? I suspect it’s too late, and the dear construction worker is on the way back to Eastern Germany, bound to needs of German infrastructure and greater improvements.
A missed connection, if I’d ever seen one.