Hannibal V Constantine (hannibalv) wrote,
Hannibal V Constantine
hannibalv

First, I want to thank everyone for all their help and support over this past week. It’s meant a lot.

Now, there’s a story I always said I’d tell at my dad’s funeral. Things being what they were, however, I didn’t get the chance to speak to the assemblage, and, well, in thinking about it, I’m no longer quite as sure that it would have gone over. HOWEVER: I offer it to you here and now. In my opinion, no story I have of my father expresses just who he was as well as this one does (and the fact that it’s somewhat apocryphal only adds to it).

My dad was working in Israel as a subcontractor for the Department of Defense helping to build the Negev Desert air bases guaranteed the Israelis by the Camp David Accords. During his time there, he added both Hebrew and Arabic to the roster of languages that he spoke.

My mom threw her back out, severely, and ended up needing some serious surgery to repair it, so my dad was allowed to come home to be with her (and his then-four-year-old son). So he flew from Tel Aviv to Paris, there to connect to New York and then home to Albany. Or so he thought…

He gets off of his flight from Tel Aviv, wanders over to the Air France counter and asks, in English, "Which gate is the flight to New York?"

He is met with "Je ne parle pas anglais. Parlez-vous français?"

He responds, "No, I don’t speak French, can you get someone who speaks English?"

He is met with "Je ne parle pas anglais. Parlez-vous français?"

He tries a different tack, and asks them for help in Swedish, with some minor annoyance.

"Parlez-vous français?"

He tries Hebrew, angrier still.

"Parlez-vous français?"

Exasperated Arabic is met with…"Parlez-vous français?"

He even tries the bit of Russian he knows without success…but he also knows he has secret weapon in his back pocket.

After all of these attempts are unsuccessful—in a towering fury (and he was capable of towering fury, believe me)—he starts shouting at the desk clerk, in German:

"HITLER SHOULD HAVE FINISHED THIS CITY WHEN HE HAD THE CHANCE!"

That got results. Less than ten minutes later, he’s on his plane to New York.

That’s my dad.
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