Last weekend Kevin and I paid a visit to a fun fair that had recently set up on the Würzburg riverfront. It was pretty much just like any American fun fair, with carousels, cotton candy, and games of skill meant to rob you of all your hard-earned money. The only differences I observed were: one, a category of ride that would never pass U.S. safety standards (something called “The Revolution,” a double-pendulum contraption in which riders are tossed into the air on a giant rolling pin); and two, a local delicacy called “fish on a stick,” and by that I don’t mean fishsticks, but an honest to goodness fish – head and all – on a stick.
Anyway, Kevin and I had a blast reliving our youths. We went inside the ghost house, rode the Ferris wheel, and ate ice cream and hot-out-of-the-oven pretzels until we thought we would burst. But then we got a little carried away by our youthful exuberance and made the unfortunate decision of riding something called “The Break Dance,” like the "Teacups" but on crack. At first we congratulated ourselves for being young at heart – we were the oldest people on the ride by about 10 years – but as soon as the ride started up, with its intense, erratic spinning, we realized why we were the only adults onboard: Adult bodies just cannot stand to be thrown around like that. Kevin and I screamed for mercy, but the kids in the car next to us, all smiles, begged the conductor to go faster and faster, which he happily obliged. It was the longest five minutes of my life, and when it was finally over, we staggered off the platform like a pair of drunken sailors, while several of the kids who had ridden it with us hopped back in line to ride it again.
The whole experience was yet another reminder that here in Würzburg, Kevin and I inhabit a strange netherworld between old and young. We're too old to be young and too young to be old. Most of Kevin’s colleagues are in their late 30s or early 40s, with a house, a spouse, and a couple of kids to boot. And though I love playing with the children and participating in the fascinating conversations of their worldly parents, the evening always ends quietly at about 10 p.m.
On the other hand, I don’t quite have the stamina to keep with the undergrads in my German class. I’ve recently made friends with a group of international students at the university, and a couple times a week I’ll go out with them to a club or a party. But their outings don’t begin until 11 p.m. (on account of a large Spanish contingent) and often stretch out until five or six in the mornig, even though we all have to be in class by nine. I just can’t keep hours like that any more. I don’t even want to.
In addition, their ideas about the world strike me as a little naïve sometimes. I hate to sound like a world-weary 25 year old, but I want to laugh when they say things like, “I know I don’t do my homework like I should, but I just don’t feel challenged in this class. If I were really challenged, I would work harder.” I’m sure I said stuff like that when I was twenty, but I hope no one ever reminds me of it.
I'm sure there must be other 25 year olds somewhere in Würzburg, but I don’t know how to meet them. So, unless I stumble upon a sympathetic group of English-speaking young professionals at a bar somewhere, Kevin and I will keep rotating between groups of friends who are either too old or too young. And fortunately, the ride isn't as nauseating as “The Break Dance.”