Once again, timing is everything. . .
Those of you who have been to the Alte Pinakothek, the old arts museum–not old building, old art–in Munich, might remember that you walk in right in the middle and the paintings are mostly upstairs to both sides. Right at the entrance is the gift shop, which I figured I’d leave until the end, so I went up the stairs on the left side. It took me about two hours to go through all those paintings, and I was getting tired, so when I came down to get to the other side, I decided I’d take a break by going to the gift shop now. Immediately I saw this huge Hieronymus Bosch book that I must have spent half an hour looking through. The very last thing I saw was the price: 80 Deutchmarks. Even today I would never buy a book for that price, but back then I sure couldn’t afford it anyway.
So I put the book down with a sigh of despair and looked around at all the other stuff in the shop. I noticed a cute tall blonde kept looking at me with a slight smile; I thought she was watching in case I tried to steal it. I actually went back and looked at the book a few more times, and every time I looked up, there she was, smiling at me. So I went on to the other half of the museum, figuring I’d never see that book again, but when I looked through the rest of the paintings and came back down, I had to look at the book again, even if I was killing myself doing that. But when I got to the gift shop, the book was gone.
I must’ve looked devastated, because the blonde came out of the back room and stopped in her tracks when she saw the look on my face. Then she smiled and came to where I was standing, reached down under the counter, and took out the book. She put it down on the counter, but with the back side up, which I thought was strange. She was still smiling, so I thought something was up. I looked down at the book again and finally saw that there was a new price tag: it now said 10 Deutchmarks.
Turned out it was her last day on the job; I’m sure she wouldn’t have done it had she been going back to work the next day. She didn’t tell me at the time, of course: when I came out of the Neue Pinakothek across the square, she was waiting for me. She said that, since she’d saved me about fifty bucks, I could afford to buy her lunch. I didn’t think it was a particularly logical argument, but I took her food anyway.
Unfortunately I never saw her again after that. I would have liked to ask her if she did that for anyone else, maybe gotten a free dinner too. . . but on the other hand, why ruin it?