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?!


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