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The German Nuisance

By Cora Ann Metz


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I have never been a history buff, but in my research for an assignment, I discovered an interesting fact:  Canada, Germany and France were at war at the same time during the Battle of the Atlantic.  Well, they weren’t actually on the same side, but after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, France, Canada and a few other countries combined their forces in this fight against Germany.  After battling for several months, Germany finally got the edge and invaded other countries, one of which was France.  Although prevailing temporarily, Germany was eventually defeated in 1945.
  I thought a smaller version of this historic battle would repeat itself right before my eyes when I recently attended an international course in Oberammergau, Germany, a quaint village a few minutes north of the Austrian border and within a bird’s eye view of the Alps. 
       As in that crucial battle, weather played a significant part of an incident, which occurred during my attendance at this course. The temperature in Oberammergau had dipped to single-digit readings, signaling prime weather for skiers and other snow sports lovers.Yes, I love the white stuff too, but I am nobody’s snow bunny. I am from New Orleans, Louisiana, where temperatures in the low fifties amount to an Arctic cold snap. Although I have been living in Germany for a few years, I am still not used to its cold weather, and freezing temperatures tend to kick my butt coming and going. However, clothing wise, I arrived amply prepared to shield my southern-bred torso from the chilly air and to preserve the body heat I desperately needed to remain comfortable.
      Prominent guest speakers from several NATO nations presented lectures for the weeklong course. The class consisted of officers and a few civilians from various foreign countries. Prior to settling in for the lectures, each of us had to introduce ourselves to the rest of the class.  A German captain, who sat in front of me, annoyingly distinguished himself from the eclectic mix of attendees. This officer came from a tiny village in northwestern Germany near the Netherlands’ border, meaning he was used to extremely cold temperatures. For good reason, I dubbed him, "The Nuisance." 
     At the first break, The Nuisance dashed to the nearest window and yanked it wide open, loudly validating his self-imposed authority and this irrational act with, "It’s too stuffy in here with so many people. I need fresh air."  Smiling broadly, he took in several deep breaths of the crisp, frigid air.
Unfortunately for The Nuisance, the window he opened was right next to the seat of a Canadian lieutenant colonel. Luckily for The Nuisance, the Canadian lieutenant colonel was not present to witness this prelude to an act of a possible war.

      The air reeked of an unbearable stench which, truthfully, I could cut with a butter knife. Adding to the misery was the room’s warm temperature which intensified the foul smell. But I crept closer to the opened window to take advantage of the severely cold air. I sucked in several breaths to re-supply my lungs and to keep from passing out. Even though this brought me some relief, I thought that The Nuisance displayed extremely rude behavior by recklessly exposing the class to the unforgiving temperature without regard for anyone else’s comfort. Refreshed, I returned to my seat to await the start of the next class.
     Sufficiently refreshed, The Nuisance headed towards the rear of the class, leaving the window wide open and subjecting all of us to the unmerciful harsh winds blowing bits of snow into the classroom. After I started to shiver, I got up and headed for the break area just outside the classroom where hot coffee and tea were available. Actually, I would have closed the window myself, but as a military retiree, I did not want to risk starting an international incident, which could possibly subject me to my requisite 15 minutes of fame and a barrage of intrusive questions from those polite, playful sharks known as reporters. Besides, I thought it would be more fun to see if an unarmed conflict would erupt between The Nuisance and the Canadian lieutenant colonel.  
      Upon returning, the Canadian lieutenant colonel expressed both surprise and irritation at the open window near his seat. I could tell he was pissed when he spat out, "Zut! Sacrebleu!" (Crap! My goodness!) as he raced to the window and slammed it shut. Trembling from the cold air as he headed to his seat, he folded his arms across his chest, using his hands to vigorously massage his arms trying to generate some heat. Amused, I thought that this event had the potential to get out of hand and could hardly wait for the next break to see if this impromptu battleground would escalate at least to a good fistfight.
    At the next break and as if guided by some internal asinine cue, The Nuisance conducted another sneak attack. Wisely waiting until the Canadian lieutenant colonel had left the room; he headed toward the same window and flung it open, smiling as he repeated his deep-breathing routine. Without closing the window, he strutted back to his seat with his lungs sufficiently refreshed. A few minutes later, the Canadian lieutenant colonel returned to see that ’someone’ had ambushed the window while he was away. Clearly irritated, he sharply turned around to me and with a furrowed brow, erupted with, "Who keeps opening the window, is it you?" I was appalled and beyond dismay that he would dare assume that I was the culprit. But, I did not want to take this issue up with him because I could see he was ready for some action, but not the nice kind. 
    Though he had a slight build and was about my height, I thought I could take him out with one strategic kick, and from there I would proceed to kick his Canadian ass. But The Nuisance needed someone in the military to set him straight, and I did not want to join forces with the Canadian by any means in this brewing dispute. Opting to sit this one out, I responded like a good American foreign observer. Without hesitation, I ratted The Nuisance out, "No, not me; it's that guy up front." 
     The Canadian lieutenant colonel turned around quickly and found his target. He contorted his face like a seasoned general ready for war and produced a threatening look, which could probably peel three coats of paint off an old Sherman tank. Though The Nuisance was within earshot of this short conversation between the Canadian lieutenant colonel and me, he wisely did not turn around. Yet I could tell from The Nuisance’s body language that he knew he had tipped the scales of the Canadian officer’s tolerance and was headed for a possible showdown. I also noticed that the Canadian officer’s supply of military bearing was beginning to slip. I watched him glare at The Nuisance as if drilling an invisible hole in the back of his head. I could hardly concentrate on the next lecture for waiting to see how the next chapter of this battle of wits with the nitwit would unfold.
     At the next pause, I observed The Nuisance boldly head for the same window again. Scratching my head, I wondered if he was a glutton for punishment, a competitive cretin who got high on challenging authority or just plain stupid. However, before The Nuisance could reach the window, the Canadian lieutenant colonel stepped in to block The Nuisance’s path. With his nose mere inches from The Nuisance’s chin, the Canadian lieutenant colonel stared up at him and in a classic US Marine Corps drill sergeant ass chewing, he clearly explained to the Nuisance the severe consequences he would suffer if he opened that window again. 
   The Nuisance turned beet red in the face but kept his trap shut, giving the Canadian lieutenant colonel the proper military respect. I think if The Nuisance possessed the gall to attempt any disrespect, I envisioned the Canadian lieutenant colonel punching him out, tossing his butt out that same window and then slamming it shut. I am sure that the war in ’39 was nowhere near this much fun. Yet I remained more anxious than a new recruit as I waited impatiently in my ringside foxhole for the next maneuver.
   At the following break, The Nuisance smartened up, or so I thought. He actually avoided the window in dispute. I thought that The Nuisance finally accepted defeat as he headed towards the back of the classroom, I assumed, to get some hot coffee or tea. However, that was wishful thinking on my part. From former historical war plans and my experiences in the military, I just knew the Nuisance had a ‘Plan B.’
  Suddenly, I felt a wave of cold air coming from the rear of the classroom.  I turned around to see that the Nuisance had brazenly opened two windows. I waited to see if anyone would intervene and halt The Nuisance’s escalating, irritating battle tactics. Suddenly, a French officer, who also outranked The Nuisance and had observed the initial window-opening conflict up front, sprinted towards The Nuisance. I thought he was going to grab The Nuisance by the neck of his BDU uniform and fling him around, but that was not the case. Getting eye to eye with The Nuisance, the French officer loudly chastised him for opening the windows and exposing everyone again to the frosty air. Although that spit-producing ass chewing sounded lightweight and hilarious with a French accent, I stifled my laugh because these confrontations appeared to be getting serious enough to start a good knock-down, drag-out fight, which I thought surely would ensue. With his ass in another sling, the Nuisance merely remained silent and red-faced as he took yet another verbal beating. Again, he kept his thoughts to himself, a wise move since the opposing forces were stacking up against him.
 Surprisingly, he mustered up enough audacity to respond to the French officer with, "There are just too many people in this room. The room is stuffy.  It stinks!"  But, The Nuisance’s useless excuse fell on deaf ears as the French officer rolled his eyes towards the ceiling, quickly executed a precision military about face, headed towards the windows and slammed them both shut.

Clearly whipped and stripped of his self-imposed window-opening authority, The Nuisance stood chest deep in a field of embarrassment as other officers who had witnessed this awkward scene whispered amongst themselves about him.  Obviously defeated, the Nuisance stomped back to his seat to join the rest of us troops sharing the funky air.
  After those two swift losses, The Nuisance did not attempt to open any more windows that day. But for the remainder of the week, he shifted his strategy by stepping outside at each subsequent break to inhale all the cold air he wanted to and at no one else’s expense. But I craved to see what would have happened had the Canadian and French officer joined forces to kick The German Nuisance’s ass. If I weren’t such a lady, I would have done it myself. As with all bad boys of any war, this jackass truly deserved it.


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