When I was teaching in Germany this summer, there was more than just a simple language barrier.
There was, for lack of a better word, a redneck barrier. The crimson curtain, if you will.
You see, despite the fact that I wear shoes and have a house with indoor plumbing, I am by all accounts, a Southern redneck. And all rednecks like four things: fireworks, fairs, fighting and fire. So when we have a question or problem in the woodshop, I’m always the first to suggest we fire up the propane torch to test the hypothesis.
So it’s the last day of my class at Dick GmbH in Metten, Germany, this summer. The two cabinetmakers who work for the school have been impossibly patient with me and my crazy requests. They have driven all over Bavaria to look for the nails, hinges and tools that I want to use in the class.
But on Friday I came back and asked for a torch. The German cabinetmakers just looked at me blankly. So I mimed the word “fire” (don’t ask how) and then they both reacted with extreme surprise and alarm (in other words, they slightly raised one eyebrow each).
Why did I want a torch? To char the hinges for the project the class was making. The hinges were too new and shiny to be used on this project.
After some negotiation, the German cabinetmakers produced a fine propane stove that they used to heat vats of water for steam-bending. We fired up the stove and began charring the hinges. I held one with pliers (rejecting the safer three-prong pincer offered by the Germans).
One of the students was watching my progress and said: “This isn’t very German.”
“Huh?” I replied. “Why”
“It’s a weird experiment, this.”
So the hinge was cherry hot and turning all sorts of funky colors. I threw it to the ground, stood up and began to unzip my fly.
“Now we quench it.”
There was a commotion behind me. Urinating on hardware was probably not a good idea in the Fatherland. So I picked up the hinge with the pliers and pitched it into a nearby puddle.
International quenching crisis averted.
— Christopher Schwarz