This weekend we had a blowout garage sale in an attempt to shed some of our junk before making the big move across the Atlantic. Having a garage sale is always an interesting experience, once you get past the sheer work involved and the pitiful payoff, because of the variety of people you meet. Neighbors we'd waved to but never spoken to showed up and told us stories about people who owned our house 30 and 50 years ago; students new to Rochester came for cheap lamps and such; one father bought swords (real swords!) for his two sons; a really nice guy stopped in and chatted for a bit and was stoked to buy my Operating Systems textbook (and take my Mac OS 9: The Missing Manual from the "Free Books" bin). Lots of people asked about where we were moving, and we were happy to tell them, "the Netherlands." Most people seemed to think that sounded pretty cool, told us a random Amsterdam visit story, or mentioned a friend or relative that lives or had lived in Holland at some point.
One guy pulled up in a big, rusty pickup truck. He was pure cowboy, which is a somewhat rare sight up here in Yankee country, with beat-up jeans, a plaid shirt, and a dusty black cowboy hat. I think he had a mustache, but I don't really remember. With a nice cowboy drawl, he too asked where we were moving, and upon hearing my reply, he said, "Goedenavond." Double-taking, I said, "You speak Dutch?" He proceeded to say a bunch more in Dutch, which I didn't understand a word of, and seeing my blank stare (and surprised look), he scowled and said, "What are you doing moving to Holland if you don't even speak Dutch?" Embarrassed, I admitted that I was going there drastically unprepared, but that I hoped to start Dutch classes as soon as possible. He seemed to find this all quite amusing, and went on to explain that his ex-wife was Dutch, and that she never taught him Dutch, but expected him to understand when she spoke Dutch to him. With time, he did... So then he proceeded to teach me some Dutch swear words and insults appropriate for an ex-wife, all of which I have already forgotten. Oh well.
So the Dutch cowboy made quite an impression on me. But so did the dad who bought his sons swords. What dad buys his 8 year old a medieval broadsword?? And his 6 year old a Spanish épée??? Yikes! People never fail to surprise me... what a wonderful, wacky world!