My male partner in crime–my cousin Jeff–took his daughter Leah to an out-of-state midwestern college (that shall remain nameless) for a tour this morning. Aaaand…she won’t be going there. Today could’ve been fodder for an SNL skit. I know this because Jeff called me tonight while they were driving back. The hills of western Wisconsin are filled with cell phone dead zones, which made his retelling of the story even funnier, because he’d almost reach the punch line, and the comedy gods would disconnect the phone. We called each other back 15 times to finish the story.
Jeff and his daughter were led through the campus by two Asian tour guides–Seiko and Gunther. It’s not every day you meet an Asian guy named Gunther, so this was fast becoming a FARGO episode. Seiko, the girl tour guide, was a math major. I mention this factoid because it erupts later in the story. Lest you assume I am making an Asians-are-good-at-math crack, that might make you the racist! Gunther, on the other hand, was a fishing and agriculture major.
To Jeff’s great comedic fortune, this was Gunther’s virgin voyage at playing tour guide. Seiko did her level best to remain positive while trying to engage Gunther into the conversation. Every one of Gunther’s answers only served to further erode his credibility.
As Seiko was showing Jeff’s small tour group the dorms, she asked Gunther which dorm he lived in.
“Oh,” he looked down. “I commute from home.” From there, his reactions were barely on life support.
“So…Gunther,” Seiko asked with as much feigned chipper cheerleader chatter as she could muster, “What made you choose this Midwestern University?!?”
“I didn’t get into the Naval College I applied for, so I just ended up here,” he shrugged, his monotone voice devoid of any joy. Jeff started searching for hidden cameras. Surely this was some sort of a YouTube prank. Or Gunther was setting foot on campus for his first time, part of some witness protection program.
Like two warring, passive-aggressive newscasters, Seiko would try throwing the tour guide lead to Gunther, and he’d just toss it right back at her, with a “No, that’s okay, Seiko…I think you’ve got this…”
Seiko finally got Gunther to talk about one of the buildings. The math building, where Seiko spends most of her time. “Gunther, why don’t you tell our guests about this building?”
Gunther looked down, sullen. “You mostly only go into that building for math classes,” he mumbled. “Except for one class…that’s where I took my public speaking class.” At this point, Jeff and Leah couldn’t even look at each other, choking back their chortles.
Gunther had yet to master the walking-backwards-while-talking part of this gig. He had no self awareness of his personal space, narrowly missing many landmarks and human collisions. Other tour groups were glaring at my cousin Jeff, as if Jeff was somehow responsible for reining in Gunther! These are the ridiculous situations Jeff always finds himself in, getting blamed for stuff that is never his fault, which always make me double over laughing. Jeff can keep a poker face…until he catches a side glimpse of my shoulders quivering in silent giggles. Jeff, Leah and I were all in agreement. It was a very good thing I didn’t join them.
The best moment occurred at the very end, when Jeff overheard Seiko tactfully taking Gunther out of earshot and querying him, “Umm, Gunther…didn’t anyone show you the tour guide script?”
“What? There’s a script?!?” In that singular moment, Gunther demonstrated that he did, indeed, have a pulse.
Jeff spoke up, trying to make Gunther feel better about things. “Gunther, care to join us for lunch?” Leah glared at her father.
“Thanks, man. I can’t–my ride’s here,” he declined politely, his tilted head gesturing toward the nearby parking lot.
Jeff and Leah are pretty sure the middle-aged woman behind the wheel was Gunther’s mom.