I Love Germans, really.
Before anyone without a sense of humour accuses me of anything daft like racism, I hereby declare that the person I love more than any other was born in Germany, the first foreign country I chose to visit, all by myself at the age of 13 was Germany, the person who just helped me get a new job is German, one of my dearest friends is German, I read or look at the pictures on German blogs and the Germans make one of the most delicious food items you could ever hope to sink your teeth into. Deutschland? How could I possibly not liebe dich?
But despite all of this, I have to confess I have noticed that some Germans do have a reputation for trying to jostle their way to the front of the queue. They like to be first in line. Carling Black Label wouldn't have made an expensive TV commercial based on this old stereotype, if there wasn't at least some truth in it.
It has been said of the English they queue thus:
"Queueing is the national passion of an otherwise dispassionate race. The English are rather shy about it, and deny that they adore it.
At week-ends an Englishman queues up at the bus-stop, travels out to Richmond, queues up for a boat, then queues up for tea, then queues up for ice-cream, the joins a few more odd queues just for the sake of the fun of it, then queues up at the bus-stop and has the time of his life."
- George Mikes, How to be an Alien
And I would have to confess, I fit the stereotype. I see myself as an obedient queuer befitting of my reputation as an Englishwoman. If I happen to have a Frenchman at my side encouraging me to make creative queue moves which don't sit easily within my own code of etiquette, I quickly become a little embarassed. As Alexander Walker once said "The reason we British have the word queue is that the French had no further need of it." But we are not here to talk about the French today, we are here to discuss the Germans as they relate to the English when they are queueing next each other in an American Food Mall.
So busy is a Saturday Morning at The San Francisco Ferry Building's Market Place, that even a winding waiting-lane, marked out by twisted ropes, doesn't stop customers hoping for a fresh loaf of Acme Bread from lining up, politely, beyond its limits, further down the hallway. It's a well-ordered line, everyone knows the drill. American's seem to follow the British queueing model. I know my place and I am content to patiently wait with my patient, anonymous friends.
The other day, after surviving Cowgirl Creamery's record-breaking longest line ever, I calmly made way to the next line along, to purchase some carbs on which to perch my cheese. As I positioned myself behind the couple at the end of Acme's line, I amused myself by noting the same two lovebirds had also been directly ahead of me in the cheese shop.
A split-second behind me Herr Deutsch, trying his hardest to control a badly-behaved, tempestuous, screaming little Ms Deutsch turned up with the befuddled Gran-&-Grampy-on-vacation Deutsch tagging along behind him. I could see that Mr Deutsch was miffed that I had pipped him to the post. He quickly swung around, baring his brutal weapon, a folded-up buggy perched precariously on his shoulder, trying to knock me out in one fell swoop, but I dodged my head just in time, narrowly missing an undeserved clip around the ear by a whisper.
I quietly stood my ground and tried to mind my own business, with an inkling, or sixth sense, that the whole Deutsch-family was fidgeting behind me, losing the form of the otherwise neat, ordered, Anglo-American line.
A minute or two later I noticed the uncontrollable little Ms Deutsch dart in front of me on the pretext of chasing her imaginary friend, if indeed a little person displaying such hideous, uncontrolled behaviour could actually find such a pal. I politely stepped back to allow Granny Deutsch, who was trying to chase after her, access so that she could retrieve the little brat. Granny Deutsch's attempts to retrieve her wayward grandaughter were not an instant success, at which point her wimpy son, Herr Deutsch, who had been weeviling on the sidelines, edged his way towards his misplaced family to inexplicably sneak a position one ahead of me in the queue. And he stood there as if nothing untoward had happened and that it was his given right for his whole family to move up one place without even giving a damn.
I am used to being looked over when trying to get the attention of a bartender at a busy watering hole, but if I am in a well-defined line, damn-it, hell hath no fury like a woman queue-jumped. "Excuse me", I tried to pipe up above the incessant, childish din of his ill-behaved daughter, "I was actually in front of you in this line. You were behind me and now you've moved infront of me."
He turned to me and bellowed. "I was not behind you, we are in front of you". Why an earth would a shy, English girl who doesn't like to make a fuss make this stuff up? I may be a little coy, but when human rights are in question, I'll venture to open my mouth. Nervously, because I don't much care for confrontation, I tried to explain that his daughter had run in front of me and that they had used that move to adjust their position in the queue. And then it got a bit heated. I don't recall how. He said something condescending like "Have your place in front of me in the queue, if it is that important to you. And just relax." Well, that really pushed me over the edge. I hate it when someone without a uniform tells me what to do. A slimy German father does not help me to relax. A glass of Champagne might help me to relax. Especially if I could throw it in his ugly face. Phew, anyway, I calmed down and was about to turn forward and ignore the whole bunch of them when I heard Granny Deutsch asking, in German of course, what was going on. The son flippantly replied, in German too, "oh, you know, the woman has a problem". I am sure he thought I wasn't translating a word of it. And I don't know what came over me, because I wasn't aware I could understand German any more, but as if by magic I calmly turned around and replied "The woman does not have a problem, you have a problem."
That shut them up sharp, I can tell you. They didn't utter a word, any of them, in either English or German, until they arrived at the counter to order their brot.