I went to a new physiotherapist today for my injured hand, and experienced all the Germanness. Me and the therapist, who is 23, have to call each other Mrs So and So, Mrs So. Her first name is not vouchsafed on her nametag and the surname was very German and unfamiliar to me. I thought of the writer friend whose multilingual office reverts from “Tom,” “Iris,” “Nancy” etc in English to “Herr Geltrausch, Frau Petersilie, Fräulein Kartoffelpuder” when they switch to German again.
I am learning, with reluctance, the kinds of boring German words which mean “cancellation fee” and “referral” and “health insurance.” She measured the ring finger whose persistent swelling since it was ‘ausgekugelt’, that is, the marble popped out – dislocated – in Brisbane in July, makes it difficult to bend and refrained from making the insensitive joke other hand therapists have made, which is that if I want to marry I will have to wear the ring on my thumb.
She asked what do I do, and I told her, I used to play guitar, and we both looked down at the swollen sore knuckle and I started to cry. Germans are often so compassionate. But they’re formal. In the waiting room a special chair for children was piled with comical stuffed animals, each in its own way an expressive beast. The sun shone through the window like the first day of Spring. It is cold but the ice cream shops have opened and as I walked home I passed junk shops which have laid out their junk for the first time since September. In the waiting room of the physiotherapist practice numerous framed notices began, formally, “Very Honoured Patients and Patientesses…” then invited us to help ourselves to coffee and tea, therapeutic toys and basins of lentils to sift through, heat pads and cold pads, filtered water, and biscuits.