So, there’s a German word, fremdschämen, which refers to the sensation of sympathetic embarrassment. I have a bad case of it, and it makes watching movies or TV in which I’m supposed to laugh at someone else’s discomfort really uncomfortable to me.
I don’t know if there’s a German word for the feeling when you see someone else trying really hard but being completely unprepared for the task at hand, but I think I’ve got that too.
I was in the grocery store the other day, and I happened to be in the produce section when a husband and wife couple walked past.
The wife, looking at her shopping list: “Oh, we need potatoes. Go and get four good ones.”
I heard this, and, as she wheeled the cart away, I watched the husband walk over to the crates of potatoes. I saw him look at the display, which had red potatoes, yellow potatoes, sweet potatoes and russet potatoes, and I watched him as he looked from crate to crate, clearly uncertain as to what, precisely, qualified as a “good” potato.
And then I saw him give up and leave the produce section empty-handed, in a rush to catch up with his wife.
I did not follow. I did not need to hear the conversation that followed.
I have been there with you, potato-confused man. I, too, have been perplexed by their tuberous mysteries.