Friday, 7 September 2012

Punctuality - For Better and Worse

Is there any trait we associate with the Germany more than punctuality?

Maybe that's one of the reasons I find living here relatively easy. I'm someone who likes things to happen on time. It makes things easier to plan. It removes a certain amount of stress from my day to day situations. It's kind of how I was raised and it's become a part of who I am. Did I mention how much I appreciate the trains and buses here running exactly to schedule day in and day out?

If I may digress for a bit, it was pointed out to me that I haven't posted since my birthday. Over a month has passed and nada from me! How could that be? The short answer is that I was getting a bit burnt out on the blogging. I was also somewhat intimidated by a friend of the family whose travel blog was so incredibly well written it made me feel illiterate by comparison. But, as with many things, time is the great healer and I've decided to make a comeback. For better or worse. So I'm apologizing to my regular followers. All five of you.

Back to punctuality. I've been alone in the office a lot of this week. It's a fairly regular occurence in a small branch office, especially in the middle of vacation season. One morning I was charged with making sure a FedEx package got picked up. Unlike in North America the courier companies here don't have drop boxes on every other corner. Office pick-ups seem to be the norm and I was told this one would occur between 9 and 11am. No problem.

I rode a Share Bike to work that morning as has been my custom since June. I was running just a bit late but by pushing on the pedals really hard I could see I was going to make it to the office with several minutes to spare. So imagine my horror when I came 'round the corner at 8:56 only to see the FedEx truck waiting at the curb outside our building. Already carrying a bit of a sweat I went into full-blown triathlon mode and proceeded to do a fast transition (Triathletes - Be thankful that T2 doesn't generally require you to swipe a card and wait for your return to be registered by the system). I ran to the door, met the FedEx man, went well beyond the depth of my Tourist German language skills and the package was on its way. Taking a step back, what could possibly be more punctual than a FedEx pick-up in Germany.

Remember grocery shopping? I've adopted a more European style of frequent stops for fewer items so as not to overload my tiny refrigerator. Bread, fruit, cheese, yogourt, cereal are among the staples. And of course there's milk. Due to the vagaries of EU agricultural subsidies milk and dairy products are incredibly cheap here. Turnover is high and the best before dates are so laughably far in the future I got out of the habit of checking them. So imagine my dismay while making my morning latte earlier this week and several solid chunks toppled into my cup. Being a guy I of course had to taste test it (we're kind of stupid that way, WHY!).

Impossible! I was outraged. I had just bought that litre three days prior. But before I marched off to the grocery store for an argument (over a 60 eurocent litre of milk) I checked the best before date. Expired the day before. Curses!

Now admit it. In Canada we've been known to take a slightly "relaxed" attitude to "Best Before". Like the man says: "When yogourt goes bad, how can you tell?". Bread? Peanut butter? Quick look, sniff test, Good to Go! But in Germany, much like the trains and the package deliveries, THE MILK RUNS ON TIME. You have been warned. And sometimes, it seems, punctuality may not be a virtue after all.

Welcome back and thanks for reading,