Be an example!!!

October 21, 2010

I’m standing on the corner at the intersection. I am surrounded by Germans. There’s not a car in sight. My foot begins to move forward to step into the street with the fear, trepidation and faith of Moses when he held his foot above the Red Sea before it parted. Why do I feel fear? Why do I feel trepidation? Because the pedestrian light hasn’t turned green yet!!!!! And the Germans will scowl and point and talk bad at me and scream, “Be an example for the children!!!” (if a child happens to be around).

See, Germany is not like New York…well, no where really is, but most of my pedestrian experience has been in New York and Germany, so that is my only frame of reference for this post. In New York, if the Don’t Walk signal is illuminated but there are no cars, you go anyway. Heck, if there are cars but you think you can make it and don’t mind the gamble that you’ll get honked at, screamed at, or possibly nicked by the bumper, you’re golden! Not so here. Germans will wait from anywhere between 30 seconds to 4 minutes for the Walk sign to appear. It can be 3 am, not a car in sight, and you will find a German, standing, waiting patiently for the Walk signal.

As an American, I find this rather ludicrous. I mean, we have our rules, but come on, we kind of bend them, well, all the time, especially when it comes to crossing the street. And I must say, my New York experience has made me a street crossing expert. But when I am standing there at the corner surrounded by Germans at a Don’t Walk signal and not a car in sight, it takes the courage of Joan of Arc for me to step out onto that street and cross with confidence.

And just in case you don’t have that person yelling at you to be an example for the kids, you will find a lovely sign in bright red that says, “Kinder Vorbild Sein!” (be and example to the children) at some of the cross walks. When discussed with my German friends, they do find it funny and ridiculous and somewhat a robotic, groupthink that they do this, but in the next instant they say emphatically,

“But when there are children around…”.

Ah, my wonderful German friends. How I have missed thee and am so glad to be amongst you once again!

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