A "Multi-Shock" Weekend

By Bernard Siehling

The year was 1952--Labor-day weekend. My boat, the S.S. Homeland coming from Genoa, Italy
moored in N.Y. harbor and disgorged 100s of Greenhorns, including me. I found my luggage
and hailed a cab to take me to Penn Station.

In my best English "a la Shakespeare" I instructed the Jamaican cabbie where I wanted to go.  I had
NO idea what he was telling me, but he took my remaining funds of $ 12.50 for the fare and I am sure
he did not understand a word I was saying. "Shock #1" for that weekend ! (Why did I study 9
years of English for NO good purpose??)

At Penn Station I was informed, that my ticket was for Grand Central (Shock #2) but they would honor it;
my train was to leave in 8 hours at 6 PM. I diligently searched for train tracks in the station. There were none, they were three flights down by escalator (Shock #3).  I boarded at 6 PM and the train rolled , and rolled, and rolled (Shock #4) from state to state to state arriving in Detroit MI at 8 AM the next day.
I was told I had missed my once-a-day connection to Grand Rapids, because the train from N.Y. was 2 hours late coming in. (Shock #5). In the country of ultimate perfection, how could I miss my connection by 2 hours? In Germany a train being 3 minutes late was unthinkable. My next train meant a 9 hour wait until 6 PM, (Shock #6) no other train service the rest of the day.

I was getting hungry and found what looked like a restaurant in the vicinity of the station offering something named a "Hamburger"; sounded very "German" and I risked one dollar - Question : What would you like on your burger? Never heard a question like that before, (Shock #7), and I had NO answer.

Now a pleasant shock: at 5:45 just before departure, Uncle August Bockheim found me in the waiting room. He had come to pick me up fully anticipating my possible problems; the 3.5 hour drive to Grand Rapids provided Shock #8!

Arrival in G.R. at 10:30 PM and a quick call to the Brechting family; they wanted to welcome me back; their former next-door neighbor. I attempted to shake hands, with the ladies first as my mother had always taught me. The ladies kept their hands at their sides, as if paralyzed? What did I do wrong? I just met a new culture !!??!!?? (Shock #9)