Today I was going to write a grammar blog. However, an occurrence which I experienced on my way home from work changed my plans. This is what happened.


A car pulled up right at the sidewalk where I was going, the passenger’s window slid down and a man asked me if they (he and the driver) were OK on the way to Boryspil. I always take public transport to go about the city and, quite naturally, I had no idea how to advise both of them about the right way through the maze of the city streets (the Boryspil road began at the other end of the city). The man spoke quite ungrammatical Russian and his accent was very strong. He explained that he had come from Germany and had been here just for a few days. I was not sure whether he would be able to understand my Ukrainian, so I decided to give him advice in German. Though I don’t have much practice in German, but “asking and explaining the way” is a topic covered on the elementary level, so it was no problem. I told them to go to the nearest crossroads – quite a busy place where either a traffic policeman or just any driver could tell them what was the most rational way. The guy was looking at me in silence. Then he nodded his head, pulled a thin booklet from somewhere inside the car and said in the same awful Russian that he had come to Ukraine to make a presentation of some German goods. The goods on the cover of the booklet were sets of shining kitchen utensils: pans, saucepans, skillets, knives, etc. Before I knew, the foreigner got out of the car, dashed to the boot in the back, raised the lid and asked me to have a look. The boot was packed with boxes of brand-new kitchenware – just as the utensils pictured on the front page of the catalogue. After another portion of badly connected Russian phrases I understood that one set cost 500 Euros but I would get it for free if I advertised the goods to someone I knew. All of a sudden I scented something wrong. Well, I knew quite a number of Germans who spoke Russian but they spoke Russian with a German accent. The Russian of this lad contained no guttural German phonetics. It was rather soft and mellow – more like my Ukrainian. However, I wasn’t yet sure if my guess was right. I didn’t want to offend a FOREIGNER with my blunt “no.” So I spoke German again. “Ich bitte um Verzeihung… aber jetzt bin ich in Eile… Wie, bitte, koennte ich mich mit Ihnen etwas spaeter in Verbindung setzen?”


The “foreigner” stood mum. Everything was clear. In no uncertain terms I advised the guy to find someone else to do the job. I spoke Ukrainian. He understood.


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