Hmm, writing that post title made me want to listen to that song (entitled Title Of The Song, incidentally). Lemme pull up Grooveshark...
Grooveshark is loading. So yesterday was my first day of work. After class, I went straight home because I needed to change clothes. After all, what restaurant in Weimar wouldn't want a svelte young man in a tie working for them? I know that if I owned a restaurant, "svelte" would be under the requirements for employment. Slightly because it has like seventy letters but only one syllable. And it has an "sv" in it. Who is that svelte young lad, anyway?
Man, any girl would be lucky to date that guy. Oh right, it's me. Apparently standing next to a fire extinguisher... I don't remember that part. Working at the cafe was surprisingly not panicked! As soon as I got there, the guy whose shift I was taking over started explaining how things work. His name is Jason. It went a little something like this:
Jason: at the register So Pottkaffee is number 6, so you press 6-Ware. Then they also ordered Stachelbeerekuche, klein, so 31-Ware. Then total it.
Me: starting to panic Uh huh.
Jason: And see, it comes out minus the 19% VAT so that has to be added at the end.
Me: sweating Yeah.
Jason: And try to get this done quickly, because we're right in the way of the cooking.
Me: awkwardly stepping out of the way of a steaming pile of clean dishes Okay.
Jason: handing me the towel Okay, well good luck.
Me: drooling like an idiot Uh huh.
But between cleaning dishes, making coffee, and practicing saying "I accidentally burned the restaurant down" in German, I managed to get the hang of it. Remember the story last post about Goethe's wife, Christiane? I had always had respect for her. She wasn't very spectacular-looking, and definitely not very rich, but she had the chutzpah to approach Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an already well-established writer and civic official, and ask for a job for her brother. He got a job and she got a lifelong relationship. What's more, she was able to direct Goethe's attention away from Charlotte von Stein without even trying. The owner of the cafe was a lot like that. She wasn't particularly pretty, and never had much opportunity for anything. She told me all about growing up in the DDR behind the iron curtain. She wanted to study a lot of different things, but the strict school system forced her to stay on the same track her entire life. Jeans were forbidden in the school, as was anything too flashy. Cars were allocated by the government, albeit for extremely cheap (though extremely crappy). And even though her mom and dad had at one point owned their own shop, after the wall went up, they were forced to stop the business.
There were good things about it too, according to her. Social well-being was pretty much always guaranteed and 200 DDR-marks were enough to get you through a month. Everybody, for the most part, seemed content with what they had. Very little unemployment, too. I asked if she ever wanted to go back to that system, and she told me this:
"After the change, everything seemed fine for a time. Everyone was curious about the outside world, but after just a short while, the people began to see the social injustice. Capitalism works wonders for those with money, and those with the ability and resources to earn money, but for others, the civilization treads on them. The system is fueled by money, and so money is all that anyone cares about anymore. Where is the art? What happened to the empathy for those things of substance in the world? It has become a much colder place. But would I ever want to go back to the way things were? Absolutely not. This system gave me the ability to own my own restaurant and book store, and everything in here is my own. This is my own oven, my own table, my own dough and pans and coffee. I wouldn't trade that freedom for anything."
She is of the opinion that American capitalism and the socialism seen in the DDR both have a lot wrong with them. She said the world was holding its breath and hoping Obama would be someone to incorporate a mix of the two into the best of both worlds. I'm not so sure it'll work out. Laissez faire, y'all.
By the end of the shift, I had forgotten her name. I asked again: