You would think that I’d be writing about being in Argentina, given that I’ve had almost three months of wacky adventures here in this country, but the people in my head say, “Nope!” I’m guessing that all the Argentina stuff is still rendering in the clunky desktop computer from the 90s that is my brain, and it’s possible that we’re just in a whimsical mood this morning. If you want to hear more about Argentina, no worries. It’ll come up soon.
But for now here’s a story about how Keine Ente, the boy who was not a duck, got his name.
It began about four years ago when my best friend was going to college in a nearby city. She was living on campus and I had gone to visit her one weekend. On our way up to her room we passed the elevator, which reminded her of something important that she had to show me. Once we were in her apartment, she showed me a picture she had taken a few days before.
There was a duck in the elevator.
This raised a lot of questions in my head. Why would a duck need to use the elevator? They can fly. Did this duck not know how to fly? There was duck pond right outside. Why did he feel the need to come inside a building for humans? Did this duck live in campus housing, too? Did my best friend have a DUCK for a neighbor? Was he getting an education because he couldn’t fly, which meant that he couldn’t make it in the duck world?
She told me about how she found him and we discussed this for a while, because we are mature adults and we like to have serious discussions about the world around us. My bestie had decided to name him, but for the life of me I can’t remember what the name was. In the end we agreed that, whatever the reason, a duck in the elevator is just ridiculously cute (this was before we learned that ducks are actually terrible people).
(If you click on that link you get to learn about the labyrinth duck vagina, but it will change the way you see ducks forever)
What I took from this experience is that my best friend once met a duck in an elevator, and she gave him a name.
(If that sounds condescending, it’s not. The above sentence was written by the girl who would pretend to have an imaginary friend in middle school so that the other kids wouldn’t sit next to her. At age 12 I found out that screaming, “Don’t sit on Gary or he’ll teleport you and your entire family into the middle of a volcano where you’ll all be roasted alive!” at the other kids is a GREAT way to get them to avoid you. My take on life is: the weirder the better. I’m not here to judge)
Fast forward to three years later.
I had transferred universities and my best friend and I were now roommates, still living on campus. We had gone out to get food and were coming back to the apartment, which required us to walk by the duck pond just outside our building. I remember that we stopped to feed the ducks some of our leftovers (apparently ducks like french fries), so we spent a good fifteen minutes at the duck pond, mostly talking about ducks. As we left the duck pond my bestie looked toward the apartment building, sighed, and said, “I miss Vincent.”
Vincent. Who the hell was Vincent? The name sort of rang a bell, but I had no idea who she was talking about.
Me, taking my best guess: “You mean the duck you met in the elevator?”
My bestie: “What are you talking about? Vincent is my friend from last semester.”
Me: “Isn’t Vincent the duck you met in the elevator that one time?”
My bestie, after a moment of thought: “You mean Charlie, the duck I saw in the elevator like three years ago? Why would I say that I miss him?” (At least, I think she said Charlie. I’m still not sure)
Me: “I dunno. Maybe seeing all these ducks reminded you of how much you miss your friend, Vincent the Duck.”
My bestie: “His name wasn’t Vincent! Vincent is a friend from class. A human friend!”
Me: “Are you sure? Vincent sounds like a duck name to me. Maybe you’ve got your facts wrong.”
My bestie, (understandably) throwing her hands up in the air: “Vincent is not a duck, [my name]. Do I have to introduce you to him to make you believe me?”
Me, turning back to look at the duck pond: “Do you think we’d be able to find him? There are a lot of ducks out here and it’s dark now.”
My bestie, putting her hand to her forehead: “I told you about Vincent like two days ago. I found out that he lives in our building and I was really excited because I thought he moved away, remember?”
It did sound familiar, but at this point I was fixated on ducks.
Me: “That doesn’t prove anything. The only way to be absolutely sure is to find out the names of all the ducks that have been on campus in the last three years and check if any of them are named Vincent. I’m sorry, but Vincent is a duck until proven otherwise.”
A few days later my bestie told me that she had gotten in touch with Vincent and wanted to introduce me to him. We went over to his apartment, but no one answered the door. I don’t know if this happens in all universities, but on our campus the people in charge of housing put signs with the student’s name on the door. I guess this is so it’ll be easier to track down the students or in case the students forget where they live, but I’ve always taken my sign off the door because I am a paranoid nutcase. Vincent had left his up, though.
My bestie, pointing to the sign on the door: “See? This is a human home. That sign means that a human named Vincent lives here.”
Me, still not convinced: “But the door’s locked. How do I know there’s not a duck in there?”
I actually did get to meet Vincent the Human a few days later. I came home after class and my bestie had invited him over to the apartment. Almost as soon as I walked through the door she said, “See? This is Vincent!” Vincent was a human, as far as I could tell. He was tall and thin with dark skin, glasses, and long black hair.
I introduced myself and then said to my bestie, “Alright, you win. He’s probably human.”
My bestie: “What do you mean, probably? He is very clearly not a duck!”
Naturally, Vincent had no idea what we were talking about. My bestie was kind enough to explain it to him, which probably raised more questions than it did answers. When he said goodbye, I said, “Bye, Mr. Duck!” That earned me a very strange look followed by an awkward laugh. I went on, “I know your name is Vincent and I know you’re human, but I’ve been associating you with ducks for so long that it’s hard for me to separate the two ideas. Can I just call you Mr. Duck?”
I only saw him about two more times that semester, but by the end it was firmly planted in my mind: Tall Thin Boy with Long Hair= Mr. Duck.
Fast forward to five or six months later, at the beginning of the fall semester.
My bestie had decided to take beginning German, something that I was really excited about. This was after I had gone to the German Summer School and studied abroad in Berlin, so I usually helped out in the beginning German classes at my school. The German professor would hold Stammtisch every Friday, which is basically where anyone who speaks or wants to speak German can meet with other people to practice speaking.
On one of these days my bestie arrived before I did. When I got there, I found her talking to a tall, thin boy with glasses and long dark hair. She greeted me and motioned for me to sit with them.
My bestie, gesturing to the boy: “Hallo! I don’t know if you–”
Me: “Hi, Mr. Duck!”
The boy just stared at me. I started to get the feeling that I had been mistaken.
Me, to my bestie: “Is he not Mr. Duck?”
My bestie, doubled over from laughing: “No, this isn’t Vincent. I can’t believe you already forgot what he looks like! I was going to say, ‘I don’t know if you’ve already met [the boy’s name],’ but you interrupted me.”
Me, turning back to her friend: “I owe you an apology, sir. You are very clearly not a duck. My mistake.”
At this point I realized that all the other students here were speaking German, because this was Stammtisch and we were supposed be speaking German. Our German professor was giving us a very pointed look.
Me, translating what I had just said into German for the poor boy: “Tut mir leid, mein Herr. Du bist keine Ente.” (I’m sorry, sir. You are not a duck)
The name stuck. For the rest of the semester Keine Ente was this boy’s nickname. Fortunately this guy had a fantastic sense of humor, so he took it all in stride and we all got along really well. He would even write his name as Keine Ente on his assignments for this class.
See? This is what happens when you show me a picture of a duck in an elevator.
…Wow, this turned out to be much longer than I anticipated. If you’ve stuck around this long, my heart goes out to you.