During my time in South Africa, I once visited a doctor’s office in Capetown.There, the registration necessitated to fill out a rather comprehensive form. A few days later a lady from the doctor’s office called and the following conversation ensued:
- Are you Mr. Christiani?
- You visited our rooms the other day and when you filled out our form you forgot to indicate for which company you are working?
- I am not working for any company, I am the Austrian Ambassador…
- Oh, I understand, so you are the Ambassador of Australia?
- No, of Austria… you know, ours are the lipizzans and not the kangaroos!
- I see, its AUSTRIA then – can can you spell that please!
- Yes, its -A- U -S -T -R- I -A- …
- Oh, I am sorry, Sir, I understand: you are the Ambassador auf AUSTRIA?
- Yes, that’s what I said….
The lady paused a few seconds and exclamed
- “I get it now: so, you are not working at all…?”
Our office in Pretoria was in an ungly ten stories high building with a flat roof. The Austrian Embassy occupied the tenth floor and Israel the ninth and the eight floors. On the roof two antennas – one a towering twenty feet high and another one very small, more like a whip. For an outsider, the impression must have been very clear: “Of course, the big one must belong to Israel and the tiny one to Austria…” I was actually the other way round.
At that time Austria, in potential crises areas like South Africa, installed a special wireless system with the need for big technical devices, like huge antennas. In the year 1989, when I was the dean (speaker) of the Diplomatic corps, I bade farewell to the departing Israeli Ambassador, which was customary for the dean. At that occasion, I mentioned the two antennas on our building’s roof and that everyone must have been of the impression that – taking into account the importance of our two countries – the big one must have been his and the small one ours.
The Israeli Ambassador replied “Dear colleague, since as I am retiring now, I can let you share a little secret: Of course, yours was the big one and ours the small one – but ours have been hooked to yours all the time!”