Screens anyone?

October 30, 2011

The Germans are a very logical bunch. Logic just run in their blood. However, the story below might make you question this assumption.

Story 1:
It was summer in Germany at my dear friend house. It was particularly warm and the apartment was getting rather warm. Now, the Germans and most Europeans do not have A/C because it’s not really needed. Not only are the temperatures not super hot (for the most part) in the summer, but the buildings are built pretty efficiently to maintain a constant temperature. So the way they keep their homes cool is by opening the windows in the morning to let in the cool air, closing them in the hot part of the day, and then reopening them at night. Makes sense, right? Completely. Until you experience what I experienced this one evening. My friend and I were in her living room talking and watching TV when she said, “We need to cool off the apartment. The air is getting bad (remember, Germans and their pickiness with the state of the air?) and it’s warm.” So she got up and…turned off the lights. Um. What? Of course, that’s what you do, right? You turn off the lights. Huh? So I asked the obvious question. “Um, why are we turning off the lights?” And in the “oh you dumb American” air she told me that if we opened the windows with the lights on then the mosquitos and bugs would fly into the apartment. Duh! So what’s the logical thing to do? Turn off all the lights, open all the windows and…sit in the dark. Yes, folks. We literally sat in the dark for 10 minutes in the 21st Century so we could cool off the apartment without bugs coming in. While logical, I think I have a better idea.


Story 2:
Fast forward to this past summer. Again, I was my friend’s house. As evening approached and the temperatures cooled, she announced it was time to cool down the house. Immediately, she and her husband began walking around turning off the lights. I just stood there. It was happening again. At first I didn’t say anything, just chuckled to myself. But I began to lose my composure when I came into the living room and saw the hubby in the dark on his computer and walked into the kitchen and saw her emptying the dishwasher and putting away dishes in the dark. I mean, life was carrying as though there were nothing odd about doing everything in the dark!!! The final straw broke my composure when the suggestion was made that we drink some wine, and I was asked to get the wine glasses. Stumbling through the dark to the far side of the living room, I finally lost it. Again, here I was, in the 21st Century, stumbling in the dark like a caveperson, searching for crystal wine glasses in a cupboard, behind the couch with only a bit of blue light emanating from a MacBook. I could see nothing. The fact that I live in an age where electricity exists, and I am fumbling around in the dark in order to keep the bugs out? I just couldn’t take it anymore. My loud guffaws filled the room and both German friends looked at me with X’s for eyes. At least I think they did, but wouldn’t know because I couldn’t see!!! They asked what was so funny. Which made me laugh more. I mean, really? How could they not see the irony of this situation? I actually had to explain this to them. And my dear friend, looking up from the dishwasher asked, in complete seriousness, “You mean it’s not normal for you to turn off all the lights when you open the windows and work in the dark? This is completely normal to me. I grew up doing lots of things in the dark.” I responded, “Of course this isn’t normal!!! In the US we have these things called screens!!! And here’s the irony. We use A/C and never open our windows, yet we have screens to keep out the bugs that won’t ever get in since the darn windows are never open! And yet here I am in Germany, the land of logic, where you people don’t use A/C, therefore, you must open your windows and yet you don’t have screens!!! This makes no sense!” After a moment of pondering, they found the irony and situation and also began to chuckle.

I asked if you could even buy screens in the country. I was told, that yes, it was possible, but it was rather expensive. Wha?!


Shut the window! There's a draft!

I didn’t realized yesterday while posting that I would have a part 2 to the Lufthansa story. But after a lovely Skype session with the hubby, I realized that this story had to be shared.

So, I’ve shared before on this blog the obsession Germans have with the state of the air in an enclosed space. If you are completely clueless as to what I am referring, please read here. The rest of this blog will really only make sense if you do.

I boarded the flight near the end of the cattle call. Look, I’m about to be on a plane for 8 hours. I’m delaying the inevitable for as long as a can. Plus, there was football on at the gate! Hello!? Who wants to leave that? Anyway, so I got on the flight, got my stuff all situated, settled in for my cozy flight, when to my right I hear those words. The famous words heard ’round Germany. The words that will forever bring laughter to my countenance.

“Es zieht”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the 2 Germans sitting across the aisle from me were looking around with perplexed looks on their faces complaining about the fact that “es zieht.” It was all I could do to keep from dying laughter. Here I was, not even 2 minutes into my German experience, and already I was hearing, “Es zieht.” After the laughing fit passed, my next thought was, “Um, yeah, es zieht. We’re in an air tight tube. Something has to shoot air around in here or we’re all gonna suffocate.”

So, of course, the flight attendant was called. Before I go on, though, I must give this couple credit. They were never rude. They were just concerned. I mean. Very concerned. Like the headless horseman was on his right then!!! (Again, if you haven’t read my other post about “es zieht” this is lost on you.) They relayed the message that “es zieht”, and it was cold and asked if the crew could turn the temperature up. Um. No. There are 300 people on this plane, half of them European…DO NOT TURN THE TEMPERATURE UP!!!! It will get hot and you know what happens to Europeans when they get hot? Yeah. Body stench. I’ll freeze, thank you very much.

The flight attendant said she could bring more blankets, but that was all that could be done. Well, over the course of the next HOUR AND A HALF, multiple flight attendants came by to address the concerns of the couple (who at this point had 8 blankets between them I might add. I’m not joking. I counted. Yes, I’m that retarded). And to Lufthansa’s credit, none of the crew ever got rude or short with the couple. I was floored. If it’d been US Airways or United, the first complaint would’ve gotten an ugly look and then the couple would’ve been asked to cough up $20 for an extra blanket. But not Lufthansa. They were extremely courteous. Finally, the head flight attendant, Alexander Stein (really, can you get much more German than that?) came over to assist them. He worked out some seat arrangement where the man could sit in another seat and also gave them a complaint form to fill out. All the while, speaking as though he’d been an NPR reporter his whole life.

Well, the man ended up getting up. He disappeared for a few hours, but after one my short cat naps and my routine stretching, I looked over to find him mysteriously returned and not only returned, but returned with a blanket wrapped around his head!!!! Again, this is not a joke. I’m telling it like it happened. Because, you see, folks, if he had sat on that entire flight with air blowing on him, he would’ve died. Really. In Germany if you have air moving across your face for too much time, you will get sick. Just like in Azerbaijan, where if you sit on cold metal, you will get sick (OK. So that came out of left field, but I’m making the point about old wives tales etc…go with me on this).

As we de-planed, I followed the couple out. As they passed Alexander Stein, he stopped them and, no joke, said to them “Thank you so much for bringing the situation in your seat to the attention of Lufthansa. You see, where you were sitting happens to be a spot on the plane where two units meet and so the airflow is a bit stronger. I’ll make sure this gets in the right hands.”

Now, I don’t know if Alexander Stein really will get that complaint into the right hands, but Alexander Stein treated them with immense respect, and gained mine.

Way to go, Alexander Stein! And odd couple, I hope you don’t have the sniffles today…but I’m sure you do because your psyche told you you would. Oh well…


October 24, 2011

It’s official. The only airline anyone should ever fly to Germany is Lufthansa. And here’s why. 3 words.

They are nice.

Yes, yes. I know. The Germans get a really bad rap for being rude people, and generally speaking, the population as a whole does tend to come off that way, however, they know how to treat customers when they fly.

See, I remember the days of flying internationally before 9/11. Back in the good ole days when the American carriers still treated you like you were human. Back when they gave you your headphones instead of making you buy them on board. Back when you could get a glass of wine or beer without being charged. Back when, at the end of the flight, the flight attendants would walk around with a warm cloth so you could freshen up. Back when the flight attendants were actually glad that you decided to spend money with their company so that they could keep their job.

Yeah. Um. That’s G-O-N-E from the American carriers when you fly both domestically and internationally. But the Germans haven’t forgotten. All the flight attendants actually seemed happy that we decided to fly with Lufthansa. The food was actually good (for airplane food). The wine was tasty. They gave us headphones. And they brought us little warm towels right before we landed. I was floored! Lufthansa has also redesigned the interior of their airplanes. They have managed to give coach a couple more inches of leg room by making the seats a few inches thinner. Same number of sardines squashed in the can, but they have a bit more breathing room now.

So kudos to Lufthansa! Give them your money (they were cheaper than the other guys this time, too!)!

Side note: I have also recently flown Air France to Hungary. Same story. The French are considered rude, but not in the air. Super nice. You are also allowed to give them your money.