International Intervention

Columns | Simon Ballam | October 2013

It’s a sunny Saturday morning in the 1st District and an editor is on his way to the bullpen. There’s an Aida coffee shop just round the corner, where perfectly coiffed elderly Wienerinnen meet for a Melange-Klatsch.

Just as he is about to leave with emergency nutrition, a visibly irritated man asks if they have another white wine: "Der hat nicht geschmeckt" (more precisely, "tastes lousy").  No, the girl says.  Then I’ll pay, he growls.

"That’ll be two eighty."  At which point the editor cuts in, whether in an act of noble intervention or stupid busy-bodying is up to the reader.

"Pay? Even it tastes lousy?" Now the Aida girl is visibly irritated. A moment of tense stand-off.  The editor clearly doesn’t like the rough way she’s stuffing his goodies into the bag; perhaps the fight for justice is not worth the price of crumbled Nusshörnchen after all. She shrugs expressively, a Balkan variation on the cruder single finger gesture:

"Then I’ll pay it myself," she snarls, and the disappointed drinker turns on his heels, with not so much as a word, or even a look, of thanks.  The editor is left defenceless to face the unbridled wrath of a young woman whose brother possibly works as a bouncer on the Gürtel Saturday nights (mental note: that’s tonight, stay well away).  No thanks from the victim, no mercy from a woman angered.  No wonder Obama is hesitating.


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