Monday, March 12, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Germany

I have been remiss in getting back on line with my fabulous insights into all the things that matter due to getting crushed by a cold after returning from Germany Tour 2007. It’s shocking that your health could be compromised after 12 consecutive days of screaming in smoky beer halls and then relaxing on short sleep in often dodgy accommodations. Ah, but no matter. Life is for adventure.

As I consider Germany, I hope some of you might find it useful to learn the following reasons why Germany is, and is not, better than the United States. This comes first hand, and isn't some wimpy Rick Steves drivel. I'm going to give it to you straight on a few minor points. I could go on, but you'll get the idea.

Why is Germany Better than the United States?

1) As far as I can tell, all of their public toilets are clean. Example: I’m at a run down Shell station in an inner city somewhere in Northern Germany. I enter the bathroom (with entrance on the side of the building, so patrons are not monitored all that well by the business owners) and I expect the worst. I am pleasantly shocked to find that bathroom was so clean, you could have sat down on the toilet and eaten a spaghetti dinner and not have been grossed out. If you dropped a cupcake on the floor, you would have picked it back up and eaten it (assuming no one else was watching of course). If your girlfriend walked in that bathroom barefoot, you would have gladly given her a foot massage afterwards.

I’ve been in Shell stations in the States to take a leak, and felt like I needed to chop my legs off just to try to get clean afterwards. I don’t know what Americans are doing in public restrooms. Maybe it’s just a question of people not understanding the equipment in there, or basic techniques. I can say confidently that the Germans understand how to run a nation’s restrooms.

2) Bread is made fresh each day with natural ingredients. Even at the most lowly gas station, you can buy a delicious sandwich with crusty baguette, fresh hard roll, or maybe specialty black bread. Here we line up at Subway to chew on one of six styles of “bread” that are all exactly the same save for different food color options. In Germany corner family owned bakeries, and even national chains do a brisk business of people spending two cents more on something that enhances your life substantially. Here we go get a loaf of Wonder that’s been sitting on the shelf so long it still has a “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby” promo sticker on it.

3) People are on time. If someone says to you in Germany they’ll be there at six o’clock, there is no way in hell they will be any later than 6:00. If some horrific turn of events happens (like they are struck by a car, rushed to the hospital, and have their crushed femur reconstructed) and that causes them to get there at 6:03, they will apologize profusely for the inconvenience. Here? I’m still waiting for the Direct TV guy I called in October.

Why is the United States better than Germany?

1) We never close. Try buying anything over there on a Sunday. Everything is closed. They even have regulations on what time stores are allowed to be open on weekdays. Let’s say you’re an enterprising young man that wants to have his shop open past 6:00pm (when everything closes every weekday) to take advantage of the flow of pedestrians congregating in the town square until 9pm. You can do it, but will be forced to pay for a permit that is priced in such a way that you can’t hope to make a profit by staying open the extra 3 hours. These guys have to get in the game! I can’t even tell you the number of times I was unable to buy clean tube socks because it was after 6:00 pm. Where did I wind up spending my hard earned tube sock dollars? That’s right, right here in the U.S.A.!

2) Our showers kick the crap out of any European plumbing. This is a huge issue, and why 72% of all immigrants come here. No matter where you go on the European continent, when you take a shower you will be confounded by the most confusing apparatus stored in what looks like an all glass phone booth. No need to panic, that’s the shower. Why does it not have one simple control for hot/cold water? I dunno. Each shower you will encounter will be more confusing than the last. The temperature of the water generally falls on either scalding or freezing with no in between. By the time you do manage to figure out the array of levers, pumps, and control arms, your chance of enjoying a carefully balanced weak spray of “not too hot” water will have eluded you as the ½ gallon hot water tank will be empty. This explains why Americans bath more frequently than Euros, as it is just too goddamn complicated to mess around with more than once or twice a week.

3) The United States has a much larger array of choices in the beverage category. In Germany they drink beer, coffee, beer, Coca Cola Zero, beer, plonky white wine, and Mezzo Mix. That’s about it. Oh, they drink beer. No matter what the circumstance, you can count on being offered a beer. Beverage of choice on the Autobahn oasis exits? That’s right! Have a cold one, and then go drive on a road with no speed limits! They'll even open it for you at the register. Don’t want a beer? Have a Mezzo Mix…It’s a 50/50 split of cola and orange soda that appears to outsell other sodas 3-1. Some of the folks are a little more adventurous, and enjoy Mr. Brown Iced Coffee, but that’s rare. But after you finish your Mr. Brown, wash it down with a beer! Hey, I like beer as much as the next guy. (Truthfully, probably much, much more than the next guy.) However, it would be nice to have an honest to goodness iced tea or water without carbonation once in awhile.

Random Notes: Man, did Akron blow it this weekend! Those guys were 6.5 seconds away from realizing their dream of playing in the NCAA basketball tournament. Then they miss a free throw, give up a three, and lose while 10,000 of their fans were in sprinter’s stances to storm the court. The next day, they don’t even get an invite to the NIT Tournament much less the NCAA. If I’m not mistaken, the winner of the Cleveland Athletic Club’s Thursday Night “B” League picked up a road game against Coppin State in the NIT. What a crushing defeat…


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