Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Good Old Fashioned German Tongue Lashing

A few posts ago, Bryan alluded to my run-in back in Borken with the grouchy, old German couple who insisted that Oscar was destroying their bushes (Oscar wasn't, by the way, until after they yelled at me at which point I made sure to always walk him by their house to do his "business").  I handled that situation by rolling my eyes and telling them to get a life (spoken in English - altercations fluster me to the point where my bi-lingual skills disappear almost completely).  But the larger question here is not necessarily why do the Germans dislike dogs and their owners, but why do they dislike just about everyone and are not ashamed to say it?

What is up with all the stranger-on-stranger yelling in this country?

Two typical German strangers on a street corner.

Bryan and I have a few terms for it; we're not sure which is better. Vote?

  1. PDS - Instead of PDA - Public Displays of Affection - the German version is PDS - Public Displays of Shaming
  2. GTL - Jersey Shore fans know this as the cast members' daily routine of Gym-Tan-Laundry, but here in Germany is is a "German Tongue Lashing"

I witness the PDS's on a weekly basis and am sometimes on the receiving end.  Most often, people get really riled up when others don't follow the rules when using the cross-walks and bike lanes.  This is a big issue with Germans, although I'm not sure why. Why does a complete stranger care if I started crossing the street towards the end of the green light and instead of being marooned in the median for 5 minutes I walk a little faster before the cars get their green light?  This happened to me recently and a man behind me (who chose to wait in the median for the next green light) shouted at me "Ah ah ah - I see what you are doing." How do you respond to this? I wanted to shout, "Mind your own F-ing business!" but instead just rolled my eyes and moved on. He was, after all, stuck in the median (sucker!) and I was on the other side free to go about my day.

If I am crossing the street and am close to the border of the bike lane (but not over it), is it really necessary to ding your bell at me incessantly and angrily shout at me to get out of your way as you zoom past? Some friends of ours recently got into an altercation about this and the angry bikers actually circled back for a second round of bickering after their initial pass-by.

Here's another example of PDS - someone stole the flower arrangement out of the planter in front of a restaurant by our house and for weeks afterwards there was a sign posted in the empty dirt that said "The flower arrangement was STOLEN!!!" When they finally replaced the flowers they updated the sign to this:

It says "A second try! The complete first flower arrangement was stolen!"  They even put it in a plastic sleeve to protect it from the rain.  Seeing this sign every day for about 6 weeks really bothered me.  Why couldn't they just get over it?  So I did what felt right - I stole the sign. I was secretly hoping they would put a new sign up that said "Our sign about our stolen flowers was stolen!"

I have actually had a few worse individual encounters with people than the Borken Dog-Pee Police, one of which still gets my blood boiling. Here's the story:

I was bringing Dylan to kindergarten one day and had Oscar with us for his morning walk.  Near the kindergarten is a vacant, overgrown lot (a rarity here in Germany where nearly every swatch of land is immaculately gardened) and therefore has become the de-facto pooping ground for the local dogs. It looks kind of like this:

Would you let your dog poop here?  Probably.  Would you let your kid play here? Probably never.
On this particular day we stopped for a minute and Oscar stretched his leash the entire 6-meters (about 20-feet) into the center of this untamed, overgrown area and he had is "morning constitutional" and we went about our way.  It seemed like a luxury to me to have him poop somewhere where I didn't have to pick it up.  Unbeknownst to us, another kindergarten mom was hiding behind a tree watching this whole scandalous act and pounced on us when we departed sans poop-in-bag.

She got right up in my face wagging her finger at me and screeching reprimands for what a horrible person I am for letting my dog poop in an area where - get this - all of the children play.  (I've never seen a single child in this area because a parent would be crazy to let them run freely in there.  I have, however, seen about two dozen various dogs taking a dump in there.) She noticed the poop bags that we have tied on to Oscar's leash and was actually commanding me to go back into this wooded area and pick up his poop.  She wanted to stand there with her hands on her hips while I did a walk-of-shame into the waist-high bushes to scoop Oscar's poop.

My German comprehension is good enough to understand everything that she was saying ("You should be ashamed of yourself.  Go back there right now and pick it up. I see you have bags.  It's disgusting that you let your dog poop where all of our kids play and run, etc."); however, I don't have a good enough command of the language to really reply and stand up for myself.  So Dylan, Oscar and I stood there shocked while she shouted and shoved her finger in my face and told me what a bad person I am.  I finally cut her off and said in German "I'm taking my son to kindergarten now, goodbye." It was the only thing I could come up with in German, when all that was running through my head was "Hey Lady - Go F#$% Yourself!" And we walked away leaving her simmering on the sidewalk. It was a rare instance where I did the right thing (walked away), but I soooooo wish I had done the wrong thing (cuss her out).

Dylan asked me what her problem was and I told him that she was just having a bad day and to forget about it.  He still talks about the mad lady who yelled at me about Oscar.

Here's the deal, German people - have you ever thought about a different confrontation style?  Had this woman approached me calmly after witnessing our dump-and-dash and mentioned that kids coming home from school might take a shortcut through these woods (as improbable as that is) and maybe I could have my dog defecate somewhere else, I would have received the remark probably with a bit of embarrassment at being confronted and would have told her I'd keep Oscar out of there from now on.  No hard feelings, we move on.  But instead, I'd basically do anything to know where she lives so I can save up a week's worth of his poop bags and dump them on her yard.

This is the thing I don't get about all of these GTL's and PDS's - a gentler approach would do everyone a world of good.  Maybe the general German public wouldn't walk around with sour looks on their faces and foreigners wouldn't feel "The Coldness" if people were just a little nicer to each other in their daily interactions.  Maybe if everyone didn't play Dog Police, or Cross-Walk Police, or Bike Police, or Kinderwagen Police, or Sidewalk Police and minded their own business, then people wouldn't immediately be on the defensive whenever someone tries to talk to them.

All of these GTL's have left me a bit jaded and frustrated (can you tell?), and I'm with Bryan - the next person to wag their finger in my face about basically anything is probably going to get 3 years of pent-up profanities. Let's just hope Dylan's not around to witness it.


Mom said...

Yeah, you go girl! I've witnessed these German confrontations one too many of my own while visiting you. They are just not a happy group!

Anonymous said...

Well there is a silver lining to all of this. I can't see you choosing to live in grumpy Germany once Bryan's schooling is over so hopefully you will move back to the states where we all love your family including Oscar!