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My Brush with Greatness

It’s 1989. I arrive at Flughafen Frankfurt carrying 5x as much luggage as I could possibly ever need.

It is much hotter than it should be in February and I am sweating profusely. Filled with trepidation
upon my first trip to Europe, I am there to open operations for an American computer company;
there is no plan, I am totally unprepared, and I am horrified to find that signs at a German airport
are in some foreign language.

The airport is huge and the rental car garages are seemingly kilometers (not miles) away from the
baggage carousels. I am repeating over and over and over in my head my mantra for the day:
"In englische, bitte... in englische, bitte... in englische, bitte..." as I know they all speak English a
nd I am most definitely not up to practicing my rudimentary German, or Greek, or Farsi, or indeed
any language other than English as I haul my overwhelming load of luggage, sweat, and fear through
the endless corridors of what appears to be the world's largest airport. (One which, I kid you not,
even had a porn theatre in the arcade for businessmen bored with the Financial Times.)

So I finally locate the Avis garage, and as I'm getting out of the elevator I bump into the distinguished
Irish actor Edward Mulhare.

You know him from TV Land re-runs-- he was The Ghost in “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” and later
the host of “Totally Unexplained Mysteries Which Are Probably Shabby Hoaxes,” and I’m thinking
he may have been a Bond villain at some point? Or was that Patrick McGoohan?

Anyhow, he asks me as I am exiting the elevator into the Avis lot, "do you know where the Avis
counter is?" which is of course an eminently reasonable query to pose to a man carrying luggage
into an Avis lot. And ready to spring into action I quite reasonably reply as I have been rehearsing
the past hour or so, "In englische, bitte..." Upon which the non-plussed actor responds incredulously
"but I AM speaking English!" (I’d like to think that at this moment he was wondering,
“Wait… am I actually speaking English?” but I‘d likely be mistaken.) Nimbly, I gather my wits and
point into the elevator, "oh yes, of course... that way" and let the door close behind me. As the
elevator pulls away Mulhare is peering at me as if I'm a retarded hunchback, shaking his head in disbelief.

I'll bet he tells this story at parties. (Or did until he died, anyhow.)
“Countess, have I ever regaled you with the tale of my encounter with the monumentally stupid
Yank at the Frankfurt airport?” “Why no, Sir Edward, I don’t believe you have, pray tell please do,
we so enjoy your zany escapades…” “Well then, pour us another glass of sherry and I shall declaim..”



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