Friday, May 4, 2018

Germans and the Grumblies

It's 16:00, and I just got back from the supermarket where I shop regularly. It's Friday afternoon, so I knew it might be busier than at other times - but not as bad as Saturday mornings!

Since supermarkets in Deutschland are not open overnight for shelf stockers to do their jobs, that is done during the regular work day. Employees with big pallets on rollers drag the goods through the aisles, park them in the center, and get to work. This is inconvenient for the customers at times, but hardly a big deal.

It wasn't so bad today, although I had to navigate around a few slow folks, around a pallet in the cheese aisle, and reach over a box of boxes to get to my favorite Grauburgunder.

Then it was time for the Kasse.

Not infrequently there are long lines here, and by "long" I mean 2 or 3 customers in front of me. Again, this is not a big deal - at least not when I've got no ice cream in my cart. Today there were 5 lanes open, and there just happened to be a ton of people with pretty full carts who needed to shop at that time, and I could see the wait would be longer than a commercial break. I picked a lane, settled in, kicked myself for not having a book in my purse (then looked for it anyway, just in case), and starting reading the messages on the pacifying TV screen above the Kasse.

The elderly German man in front of me was dancing around looking from lane to lane, twisting himself in knots, and looking for someone to be as exasperated as he was. He caught my eye and muttered, "Das ist eine reine Unverschämtheit!" ("This is an intolerable effrontery!") I just flashed him my vacuous American smile to show him he'd get no sympathy from me, and he moved on, dismissing me as clearly useless.

This is not an infrequent experience at this supermarket, that an elderly German gets his knickers in a knot because he has to wait 5 minutes at the busy Kasse. Never mind that he stood in the coffee aisle chatting with his neighbor about the other neighbor's stupid cat, or that I overtook him 7 times in my frenzied odyssey through the store as he ambled along blocking shelves with his cart while staring intently at the goods perhaps wondering what it was his wife told him to pick up in the dairy aisle while I waited patiently for him to make his selection. Waiting at the Kasse? That is intolerable!

I've decided I'm going to be ready next time and respond with, "Na ja, wenn das Schlimmste, was mir heute passiert, ist dass ich ein Paar Minuten an der Kasse warten muss, ist der Tag nicht ganz im Eimer."  ("Ach, if the worst thing that happens to me today is that I have to wait a few minutes at the check-out, the day isn't totally in the bucket [shot to hell].")

We all have our pet peeves, and I am far from the most patient person in the world. But I find myself often wishing I could sprinkle a bucket of happy dust over the folks waiting to check out. Relax! It was just dumb timing, that's all. I assume the schedulers put the number of Kassierer at the registers they think is needed for each shift based on trends. They didn't conspire to rob you of 4-6 minutes just so they could throw your day into the bucket. And it's not the Kassierer's fault - so, Sir, do not grumble at her. She's doing her best, and the world doesn't revolve around you, sorry to say.

That is not to say that I am happier in a long lane in the U.S., where strangers take the opportunity to chat up those around them with a sense of comradery and mutual despair. I came here to shop and leave, not chat.

I also want to say that my point is not that Germans are unfriendly. He wasn't unfriendly toward me - he was just annoyed at a petty inconvenience. It happens to all of us.

To avoid sounding too judgemental and high-and-mighty (as if I have no pet peeves), I'll share some of the things that make my eyes roll:

  • drivers who don't keep their eye on the stoplight while waiting for green
  • drivers who use their cell phones
  • people who park at our little bank branch and block the driveway to the Feuerwehr (fire station) because they apparently can't walk a few extra steps
  • airplane passengers in front of me who put their seat back when they are not sleeping
  • people being loud on trains and buses 
  • not being able to bag my own groceries in the U.S.
  • wasting food
  • finding typos in one of my published blog posts

Things that don't annoy me (but which draw eye rolls, guffaws, and angry snorts from others around):
  • a shopper forgetting to weigh her bananas (it's happened to me, too)
  • a late bus (please tell me how on earth a driver can stick precisely to that schedule)
  • a late train (that's the trade-off - either risk my life and take the car, or risk being delayed because of unforeseen problems with public transportation)
  • slow people walking through the supermarket (just because I can walk fast doesn't mean they can)
  • rain (rain means we don't have to spend €€ watering the garden!)
  • German winters (Try Wisconsin. Just try it.)
  • a driver driving 85 km/h when the speed limit is 100 (maybe she's as terrified as I am)


It's human nature to get easily annoyed when life in general is pretty good. Sometimes I think we look for things to grumble about. 


What gives you the grumblies?



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