Those of you who have been reading for a while will remember the au pair chronicles—a serial about how it is that I ended up in Germany and what it was like spending 10 months au pairing for a insanely rich family in Frankfurt am Main. Well, I’ve been busy writing new installments to share with you during operation whirlwind baby. But since a hell of a lot of new readers have become regulars since I first began the series a year ago, I thought I would start by re-publishing the series thus far—both to buy me baby time and to get everyone caught up before continuing the saga. You can find an index of the entire series here. This segment was originally published on January 15, 2010.
“We’d like to see you in the office, Nikki.”
Jens had called from the stairs and turned back as abruptly as he had come, startling me out of the book I had been reading in my room. Flashback to high school, middle school, elementary school: getting called to the office was never a good thing. I scanned my memories of the last two weeks. Had I fucked up? Not that I could remember. The twins hadn’t even behaved particularly badly.
I put down my book and hurried down to the office where Janet was waiting behind her desk, her husband seated on the couch across from the door.
“You guys wanted to see me?”
“Yes we did. We thought it was time for you to start driving.” Up to that point Janet had always driven to the kindergarten. I came along and brought the twins inside while she idled on the curb outside. Once I took over the driving she could get back to doing more of whatever it was that she was always doing behind her computer, and I would have another few centimeters of independence.
Driving sounds good, I thought. Images of the family’s cars flashed through my head—Porsche, Fiat, Ferrari, Mercedes, Mini-Cooper, BMW—followed by images of myself, wrapped in a blanket and bleeding from a head wound as police and EMS workers bustled around me in slow motion and I contemplated the 100,000 car I’d just totaled. My forehead wrinkled. “Wait. What am I going to be driving?”
“The Porsche of course,” Jens cried, springing up and putting on his cap. “There isn’t anything else.” He tossed me a key ring with one black key attached. “Let’s go for a test drive.”
A typical stereotype of German people is that they are auto-philes, and Jens was the embodiment of the stereotype. He collected cars, had Mr. Walters meticulously wash and wax the collection regularly, dabbled in amateur car racing, and had adorned the walls of his sitting room—a niche of leather couches and untouched coffee table books outside of my bedroom—with framed photographs of famous car racers. All in all, I think it would be safe to say that he spent more time with his cars than he did with his children.
Now, sitting in the passenger seat of the Porsche and obviously excited, Jens was telling me to pull out of the garage and asking me about the cars I had driven in America. We drove around the block a few times, and I parallel parked in a narrow space near the twin’s school, thanking the gods of fortune that I had learned to drive on a stick shift. “So far so good,” Jens said as I slid into the spot. “Let’s go on the autobahn.”
The autobahn, contrary to popular belief, does occasionally have a speed limit, though these limits are much, much higher than those generally found beside American highways. We drove a few exits out of the city, and Jens urged me to go faster and faster.
“Come on! You’ve got to see what this baby can do!” This, the man who was supposed to be testing whether I could safely transport his children to kindergarten and back. When our exit came, I slowed. A little blue Peugot was coming up behind us, and I was going to let it pass before merging into the exit lane.
“What the hell are you doing!??!” Jens shouted, slamming a hand down onto the black dashboard. “This is a Porsche. The Porsche always goes first. Hit the gas, cut them off!” This, the man who was supposed to be testing whether I could safely transport his children to kindergarten and back.
Was he serious? Was this a test? I glanced at his face, and his eyes said “serious,” “obsessed,” and “possibly insane.” I sped up and left the little blue car behind us.