I was at a birthday party for a friend of mine, who in fact has impressed me a lot in the past couple of months both with his ability (intellectual and insightful) and his character. Suffice it to say that he's a great friend, and also surrounds himself with great people. I don't intend to self-righteously include myself in that bunch, but I actually do feel honored that I made "the list" for his birthday party, which I found to be a collection of the most honestly well-meaning people I have met. I can't really say that any one person stood out, but the fact that such a group of twenty or so exist, and were all in one place, is reassuring. There must be more! We have to find them!
And then today, I went for a run with the two guys I usually run with, and one of them brought along a young German guy who he happens to coach. The German guy is pretty damn fast, top ten in one or two European junior championships, and he said two things that made me feel good. The first, the more petty and self-indulging (for me) of the two, was that he noticed my calves as he was running behind me. No one has commented on my calves for a couple of years now. They are the pride of my running physique, and probably the only muscles on me that would warrant a compliment. Anyway, bragging aside, the German also said that I speak [German] with a half-Austrian accent. Okay, so that's bragging, too, and I should have expected that coming from a German, but it still feels good, and makes me want to compliment other people more because I know it feels good. And other people on Friday were complimenting my language speaking abilities. They were being really nice. I don't like talking all the time about languages and travel to the U.S., but it happens, and I have to deal with it, and sometimes I get compliments!
Then, the more interesting occurance today was that I had to wait at home between 10am and 12am for the utility guy (gas man) to come out and "check my pipes", if you know what I mean. Nah, of course you do. So he came to check my pipes, and he was being all brusk and to-the-point until he started talking to me about energy use in Vienna. Now, for each compliment I get for speaking German, there are ten sentences that I don't understand. So, keep this in mind while I am telling you what the gas man said to me. I'll write what I heard him say, and omit my own "uh huh"s and short questions. This is paraphrasing.
"People all over Vienna and Austria are using lots of energy and resources. We should try to keep the waste to a minimum... From your accent I guess you're English or American... Ok, if you're American and you guys have big cars like... like Chevrolet or whatever... that are not like cars in Austria, or Europe... but if you go outside of Vienna to smaller towns... big triple-M cars that use more gas... You're from Ohio? That's the place that voted for Hillary Clinton... actually none of the candidates are that bad... Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan... we have some of the same enemies... if you flew over the Atlantic twenty years ago, you would have been on a Boeing, but now some major contracts are now at EADS. Boeing's main competitor is EADS, but only in the last few years... EADS is huge, and is partly controlled by the military... Euro-fighters... huge transport planes, like if you needed to carry a 500-ton tank over the ocean and didn't have time for a boat... there are some really big planes... you can see some big planes, and also air shows, at a few places in the U.S. You should go if you get the chance. There's also a show in Austria... You're a student at the natural science university? You can take courses like water management, forest management, and natural resources..."
So, it was a little bit heavier than small talk, and I wish he would have slowed down and enunciated a little more. I think I could have contributed a lot more to the conversation. But, I was able to throw in some valid (if not dumb) questions when I could follow him, so he had the impression that I was with him the entire time. I sincerely apologize to him that I couldn't, but I also couldn't ask him to repeat himself much more than I did. That would have probably hurt the conversation a lot. I think he enjoyed himself, and actually looked a bit reluctant to leave after the half hour or so we had together. Very nice guy. I award him Hero of the Day for being a thousand times better than most of the service guys that I have dealt with. And, he is very well-informed.
Bravo to all these guys!