Spies and Imposters

Nov 23, 2009

RAY: This just came across my desk, it's from May of 2001. This was from my spies and imposters series and it was sent in by John Filiburt. He writes:

"I had just arrived in Germany for my tour of duty with the Army and I was interested in immersing myself in the local culture. I didn't want to stick out as the typical American GI, so I set out to try to blend in with the locals as much as I could. My first weekend there I bought European label clothes. I went to a European barber to get a European haircut that would still comply with the military standards and I bought European style shoes. And I, in every way possible, toned down my behavior so as to appear non-American.

"Now I already knew French and within a few weeks I had learned about as much German as I could. I even shopped at the German marketplace and ate German food. And to make matters even more in my favor, I had blonde hair and blue eyes from my Irish/Scottish heritage and I figured that would really help me blend in.

"But it was at the marketplace that my failure to blend in became apparent. I stood at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change. I had a pair of grocery sacks in hand when a German gentleman walked up and stood beside me, also to wait for the light. I glanced over and gave him a friendly nod. No more. No words were exchanged. His reply was, 'Hi, soldier.''

The question is, how did he know?
RAY: Here's the answer. What gave our GI away was that he was carrying two grocery bags in one hand. Now it doesn't take a soldier very long to figure out that if he's carrying anything like grocery bags for example, he'd do well to carry them in one hand, the left hand. Why?

TOM: So he could salute.

RAY: Exactly right. If you're in uniform and you're outdoors you just might have to render to a salute to an officer coming your way.
So that right hand had better be free from any encumbrances like a bag full of groceries. So who's our winner this week?

TOM: The winner this week is Edward B. Kennedy from Helsinki, Finland.

RAY: Really.

TOM: And for having his answer selected at random from among all the correct answers we got, Edward is going to get a $26 gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com, where he can get a lovely ash gray Dewey, Cheatham and Howe T-shirt featuring an exact replica of our window in Harvard Square.

RAY: Congratulations, Edward!

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