“My Story… ” Monday: Herman

(I love telling stories. It might be my favorite “style” of writing. It is, without a doubt, the stuff that most of my readers best respond to. This year, I want to tell you some stories about my past– about people who’ve made me who I am today. Some will be happy, some will be sad. Some you will find encouraging, some you will find maddening. But they all have one thing in common. They are all: People Who’ve Made Me Who I Am Today.)


Back before I had babies, right around the time I got married, actually, I worked in banking. I worked at several different banking centers during my career but, for this story, I was based out of a small center in Boca Raton, FL that had a very elderly clientale.


My manager was a man named Herman. He was of average height and slim build and he hailed from South Africa. This threw my customers off because Herman was white and, somehow, these super old people were having a hard time wrapping their brains around that. People also mis-pegged his accent as British all the time. Nonetheless, this is who he was– a very nice father of four married to a lovely brunette with sparkly eyes and dimples.


Anyway, Herman and I got along just fine and often had fun talks about culture. We was particularly enthralled with our TV programming and became a regular “Judge Joe Brown” addict during his lunch hour. We had different experiences, certainly, but we spoke the same language.


One day, however, Herman approached me in the front of the bank and asked, “What in the world is that man doing? He won’t stop blowing his hooter!”


“Pardon?” I asked back, “Who?? WHAT is he doing?”


“That man!” he exclaimed, “He won’t stop blowing his hooter! Don’t you hear it?”


I looked out the window and burst out laughing. “Oh, Herman! He’s ‘honking his horn.’ That’s what we call it. His horn. Hooters? Are entirely different.”


We got a good chuckle out of it and moved on.


A week or so later, the banking center was packed. I was working a teller window to try to deal with the massive line that had developed upon the senior center bus’s arrival. Herman was walking frantically through the lobby, clearly looking for something.


Suddenly, his voice raised above the crowd, he called out, “Pardon me! Does anyone here have a stiffy?”


I paused in the middle of counting twenties and looked up, eyes wide.


The room got silent.


Herman took that as his cue to repeat the question, “Please, do any of you happen to have a stiffy on you?”


A low murmur spread through the room. I hurriedly finished my transaction and excused myself from the window. I rushed to Herman’s side and pulled him to a hall.


“What, in heaven’s name, are you looking for, Herman?” I asked.


“A stiffy!” he answered, “That’s what I said!”


“Yes,” I closed my eyes, “I heard you. We all heard you. But, what, pray-tell, are you referring to as a ‘stiffy’?” 


“Why, those little hard disks, of course. You know, the, what is it, 3 1/2″? There are the bigger floppies and then the smaller ones– the stiffies.”


I bent at the waist with laughter.


“Oh, Herman. I know they’re more rigid, but we still call them floppies.”


He looked confused.


“So, then, what’s a stiffy?”


I linked arms with him.


“I’ll tell you all about it during the next ‘Judge Joe Brown’…”


Herman? Taught me all about words having different meanings in different countries. And, man, was it a fun time. :)


Other people who’ve made me who I am:

Mrs. JohnsonMoneThe Guy in StarbucksKeithMr. Dorfman, Jay, Hannah, Reno, Dr. Y., Jessica G., The Reading Sub, Peach, Asif, Mr. McG., Kim

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5 comments to “My Story… ” Monday: Herman

  • My mom was born in England and raised in Australia and there are still times where she’ll say something and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what she’s talking about. There were a lot of words I grew up with that my friends didn’t understand :). It’s amazing how different the same language can be from one country to the next!

  • Jennie

    Heck, my grandfather and mother said things that I didn’t understand and they were from Missouri! (ha ha ha ha ha) I have family in texas, they also speak a different language:)

    Seriously, it can be generational as well as different countries.

  • mlearley

    This is too funny! My boss is from Sweden and there are times where he’s talking about something during a department meeting that we have no idea what he’s referring to. We all just sit there looking at each other and then he does the Herman description of the thing/idea and we all get it. So funny! My mom says things too that I don’t always understand. She grew up with Pennsylvania Dutch spoken all around her…they have some creative words/phrases for things. Instead of “turn off the lights” she says “outten the lights.” This one really gets my husband.

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