[lit-ideas] The World Turns in Germany

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:09:34 -0700

        When our train from Belgium to Germany arrived to time but the train 
from Koln to Mainz arrived more than an hour late, we wondered if Germany had 
undergone an arrivalunddepaturetimeredistributioninitiative, or some such large 
euro-noun jolly.  What in the world can you count on if not the arrival times 
of German trains?  But the artist who met us at the station said that trains on 
that line are often late.  Suicides, she said, use one particular bend.  
        Before we could go to see the Chagall windows we'd come to admire, I 
popped into the customer service office of the train station to hand in my 
reimbursement papers.  The railway was required to refund some of our ticket 
price and the inspector had passed down the train distributing the forms.  I 
waited my turn, handed the paper over, got roughly the response I anticipated, 
"We'd like to give you your money back but..."  
        Yes, the lateness of the train was an entirely German affair, *but* our 
tickets had "Belgium" printed on them, and so the form must be referred to head 
office for inspection and further attention.  Under such circumstances no ten 
euros can be disbursed to strangers.  Where would they be if they handed out 
such vast sums willy nilly?  
        "Bugger Belgium," I almost said, misquoting George V., "just give me 
the ten euros."
        The lady assured me that I'd soon be hearing from head office.  I gave 
them my e mail address and a credit card number, as requested, to expedite 
        Almost exactly one month later I received today, in the regular mail, a 
letter from Frankfurt, explaining in German that they have forwarded my case to 
a customer relations department in Belgium (Customer Relations B-Eu 015, 
Section 13/6, to be as precise as they are).  I should rest assured, they 
suggested, because within one further month I will either be sent an update on 
my case or possibly a final answer, "abschliessende Antwort".  
        I quickly double-checked online.  German for Final Solution was 
"abschliessende Losung."
        They invited me to call them if I have further questions.  Customer 
service is open from six in the morning until ten at night, Frankfurt time, 
0180 6 20 21 78.  Go ahead and use the number if you wish.  Say that you're 
calling on my behalf, or just for fun.
        Please do carry on.

David Ritchie,
apologizing for leaving umlauts out in
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