Friday, September 17, 2010

It's a love story....

PR is cool. In fact, sometimes it's downright FUN-even the small-scale-non-high-rise-office-type (sometimes). One of my client's is a large automall and they are getting ready to launch a new Volkswagen store. As part of the Grand Opening, our firm developed a contest called I Loved That Volkswagen for people to submit their favorite old car and VW stories and photos. (Yes, I helped develop the concept for that Website. Yes, I know it's cool groovy).We give away prizes weekly for "best submission" and there are three new Apple iPads up for grabs for the grand prize.

So for the past month and a half, I've been reading entry-after-entry about people's memories of their VW vans, buses, campers, rabbitts and "beetles." I've seen pictures of people decked out in psychedelic colors and bell bottoms, hair combed out in 'fros sitting on spray-painted "peace-mobiles," pictures of kid's stuffed in the impossibly small backseat of the original beetle version and photos of marines touring the German countryside in their newly-acquired-engine-in-the-trunk German methods of transportation.

I've learned a lot too during this contest....mainly that people don't know the difference between a comma, a period and a semicolon and that, when they say the average American's spelling level is that of a third grader.....they aren't lying!

But, there have been some funny stories for sure....But it was this story that crossed my desk this morning that I absolutely gave me chills! So I had to share it! Enjoy!




My very first day at the reception center proved very interesting for this 21 year old.

A new country, a new language. Where were all the large-finned, chrome-plated and brightly painted cars of the 50’s? Only funny little bug looking cars with squeaky horns running in all directions …this will be interesting!!

1700 hours and we received a two hour off-post pass. Off to sample our first bratwurst and maybe a beer…Into the first food place we saw…oops it was a coffee shop…no beer no wurst but there we all were. Eight guys wearing little army hats sitting and flirting with six cuties across the room enjoying their after work social get-together. As if it were planned, “she” caught me staring at her…she returned a small shy smile that said so much. The frauleins got up to leave and we followed close behind. What a blast…they spoke no English, we spoke no German but there were smiles and laughter all around. We were only there a few hours and already we felt welcomed. With sign language and strange sounding make-believe words I managed to get her name and work address.

The next day it was off to my assignment in Zweibrucken, about a 3 hour train ride from Frankfurt. After settling into my new home I found Inge’s scribbled address. I bought an army phrase book, spent three days finding phrases to write in my first letter and sent it off. Some weeks later I received her letter. Finally finding somebody who could translate it, I read that my phrases were so backwards that she couldn’t stop laughing trying to figure out how much I enjoyed our minutes together and hoped one day to meet her again. Her words back were similar and I had a fraulein pen-pal. A month or so later I got a two day pass and immediately planned my train ride to meet her after work in front of Woolworth’s on Frankfurt main shopping street. We walked and laughed trying to find some common language. We found it… there on the corner of the Frankfurterhof Hotel was a VW dealer showroom. In we went and there was this “cool” shiny black Beetle. I could imagine my name on a SOLD sign…but who had the 3000 D-Marks.

Inge and I sat in the car and made believe and then salesman took us for a ride. What a wonderful moment in time.

After raiding the balance of my education funds back home, the money arrived and that little bug was mine FOR $800 USD. Together with my cousin also stationed in Germany I put on 26,00Km in 9 months from Trondheim, Norway to Naples, Italy. After completion of my tour I brought my beetle home and sold it with 150,000Km. That was a sad day.

Inge and I met a few more times but my military work and travel made it difficult to continue as much as we wanted. Of course we wrote for the remainder of my tour and I clearly remember our last meeting just before I set sail back to the states. For no real reason it was a sad auf wiedersein. But it was right out of the film Casablanca.

Time passed and memories faded. Forty-five years later I received an email asking if I was the guy she met and who she helped buy the VW beetle. Sure it was me I excitedly replied. My professional work was taking me to Frankfurt two months later and our single personal status permitted a blind date. That was something to look forward to. We met again in Frankfurt, each 45 years older. We exchanged life stories as if there were no years between. Of course we both changed from 18 and 21 year old kids. The result of that chance email was the start of some years of long-distance phone calls and an occasional meeting when my travels took me through Europe.

I found a picture of me and my beetle with the military license plate number 1909. Inge’s birthday is September 9, 1909 and she is now my number one wife.

There is a word shared both in German and Yiddish…Bershert…loosely meaning fate.

It doesn’t get better!!! Thanks VW…you started it all.
Sherwin and Inge T.