Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ich verstehe immer noch nicht

After several years now in in the land of my ancestors, and multiple discoveries as to why I tick the way I do, I still encounter situations where this culture doesn’t behave the way it should. Germans are nothing if not organized. They construct their routines in such a way as to never be caught unprepared. They have a shared, cultural readiness for all expected eventualities. They are insured for any possible unforeseen ones. They may even have insurance against overlooked insurance policies.

And yet, there are times when they are curiously oblivious. Air travel, for instance.

Anyone who flies at all in today’s security-sensitive climate understands the hoops that must be jumped through to get into a boarding area. When a frequent flyer approaches a security checkpoint they go into automatic-mode. Transfer everything from one’s pockets to one’s carry-on. Remove belt, watch and anything that could potentially set of a metal detector. Take laptop and fluids (in a see-through, zip-lock bag) out of carry on. Remove jacket (and depending on where you are, shoes.) All of this is done in the ample time one has approaching the checkpoint in the slowly moving line.

That is unless you are German. Germans, almost without exception, casually stand in the line to the checkpoint, talking to each other or on their phones, right up until they greet the screener. Then, they act as though it is their first time to ever fly. They slowly take off their jacket, and have to be prompted to remove things from their pockets and bags. Then, at least in the case of my flight this morning, they set off the alarm anyway. Ten people in a row without fail!

Perhaps the motivation behind German routines is to blame. Germans construct elaborate, convoluted systems for doing life largely in an effort to avoid the unforeseen and the threatening. They don’t like to consider things like disaster and death. Maybe flying in a metal cylinder thousands of feet above the earth is something that short circuits their thinking. They are organized to avoid dangers and flying is—no matter how much you tell yourself it’s the safest way to travel—a bit crazy.

In the back of our minds we all know we can’t avoid what life throws at us. No manner of planning and preparing will enable any of us to save ourselves from death or disaster. But rather than give it some thought and turn to the one possible source of help, most would rather stand in line and act surprised when they finally arrive at the gate.

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