Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ordung muss sein!

The World Cup soccer tournament had many positive influences on Germany. For example, the entire country seemed really optimistic last month. Also, any dour mood was completely wiped away. But there are some things in Germany that will never change. One of them is the idea that “Ordnung muss sein” (there must be order).

Yesterday morning I was walking from my apartment to the bus station. I approached a cross walk just as the lights changed, so I stopped to wait for the little green man who gives me permission to walk. I was quickly surrounded by about 3 other walkers and two people on a bike. The light was really long, and there were no cars coming in either direction. All I could think was, “Any day now.” Suddenly, one of the bikers had had enough of waiting and crossed the street even though there was still a little red man!

I must tell you that you never cross a street in Germany when there is a red light. NEVER. Seriously, crossing a red light here is worse than wearing the wrong shoes when driving, and perhaps killing small animals. I have been yelled at by complete strangers for crossing at a red light. You can imagine the surprise of the people at the cross walk yesterday. We looked at each other in complete wonder and shock at the audacity of the woman. Then we sort of smirked at each other as if to say, “Yeah, she is going straight to hell.”

Last night I went out with some women from my English course. After a few drinks, I was very happy and did not care two diphthongs about the fact that I have to teach tomorrow (today!). However, I was about to miss my bus, so I ran across the street in the face of a red light. My friends called after me, “But it is red, Claire.” “I don’t care! See you tomorrow!”

As I sat on the bus, I felt a little bad. It was kind of dangerous. I did not even look both ways before crossing. This is why Germans adhere to the rule. As I walked home from the bus stop, I came to the same cross walk of the woman on the bike. The light turned red. I waited. It was almost midnight. There was no one on the streets. The light was really long. A man rushed by me and crossed the street. He looked at me over his shoulder as if to say, “Dude! What are you waiting for?” I just laughed. And waited.


Dixie said...

When my sister was visiting she wanted to cross on a red when there were no cars coming - at least no cars visible. I told her no. By golly there was a two year old standing there with her papa! What sort of example were we going to set?

My sister said "Well what's going to happen to me if I cross?" and I thought to myself "God only knows but I don't want to tempt fate!" but instead I said "Well go on ahead, Maverick!".

My sister is older than me and for my whole life I've given in to what she wants. Followed her lead. This time I stood my ground and waited for the little green man.

She wanted to lip back at me but just then the light turned green and she clammed up.

Jan in Reading said...

Nice entry, very well observed! A small addition: I think things are changing in bigger cities: whereas people really wait for the green little man in my hometown Marburg, of city of 70.000 (hello to Haddock!), in Cologne more and more people just go. Only if a child is watching, everybody waits.
Here in Reading/England, I am still every day intrigued that nobody waits!
Claire: I look forward to reading your "Zebrastreifen" experiences! :0)

Haddock said...

I try not to cross on red (I really do) but some old habits die hard, and I get a real hard time from Mrs H and the Juniorette. ButI am getting better! :)
Hi to Jan in Reading! :)

Expat Traveler said...

We hate our cross walks here because if you are one nano second too late, you must wait for the entire thing to go even if there are 25 seconds to cross the street on a green light. IT's messed up and nobody here pays attention... But I guess when it is actually orderly it's a bit different.

sounds like fun though.

Anonymous said...

While you are in HH you must visit the crossing in Gansemarkt with the countdown timer which allows the waiting pedestrians to be fully prepared for the green ampelmann.

I split my time 50:50 beteen the UK and Hamburg and enjoy the relaxation from the wait in Germany but I get very strange looks in the UK when I wait for a green light!mnwrle