June 2, 2009

Tengelmann Challenge Part Deux

Still here, still pondering the laundry, doing my launderponder.

Soon after we moved back to Germany from California I blogged about the challenges of grocery shopping here v. there. Nearly a year later I continue to admire the Germans for perfecting the art of the unpleasant shopping experience but at least in my own little town I enjoy a 'regular' status at the local Tengelmann and occassionally someone smiles at me.

I take the kids shopping when I just need a couple of things and on a good day nothing too horrible or embarassing occurs. But last week L completely disappeared at the check out counter!

I had asked her to put some Tic Tacs back on the shelf next to the check out stand but she went running back through the store instead. I looked away for maybe a minute and she was gone. I called, no answer.

I looked around at the other shoppers - I mean, someone must have seen her, she was right there a minute ago - but they were all too busy acting out their respective demographic behavioral stereotypes to offer any clue as to my child's whereabouts:

Older men: stern demeaner, no eye contact

Women of all ages: glaring at me for losing my child but uninterested in helping me find her

One younger guy doing his own shopping: a cheery smile (German men under 30 tend to be fairly sunny)

Leaving my stuff on the belt I raced through the store with K calling my child's name.

No worries, she was in fact in the back of the store and all was well. We trooped back to the teenage cashier, who was nice enough about our sudden egress and only sighed once.

The other shoppers looked a bit put out but my kid had wandered off so I wasn't feeling too bad about making them wait. Actually, I was feeling kind of self-righteous about making them wait since I had been worried and they were all so unhelpful.

But there was more to come. I was handing over my cash card when K (who had not yet embarassed me and was ticking like a bomb) suddenly pointed at the cashier and halloood, 'MOMMY WHY DOES SHE HAVE SO MANY RED SPOTS ON HER FACE? ARE THEY PIMPLES???'. It was like she was trying to be heard across a vast chasm.

The poor spotty cashier had done nothing deserve that. Why couldn't K yell something like, 'Why does that woman behind us look like she just ate a lemon???' That's what I would have yelled. But we mustn't live vicariously through our children.

Moral highground lost, I paid, said thank you and escaped with my tactless offspring.


  1. You've got to love the honesty of kids.. right? Right?

    I'm laughing over here..

  2. Ugh. I finally figured out that my kids were doing that just to watch me squirm.
    Now they mostly just do it to me: Is that a pimple on your face? Why does your skin look like that?
    I've also had my daughter compliment the cashier girls. That is a big Phew! moment.

  3. Is there a clause somewhere that says "Kids, you will embarass your parents at times when they least expect it and always on the top of your voice!" I am laughing but feeling your pain at the same time.

  4. This is the worst! I can't wait for my turn!

  5. When we were little, my brother embarrassed my mom regularly. I do remember him asking ladies their ages (a big no-no in most cultures), and also declaring once "Mutti, kannst Du bitte mal Nerven kaufen. Du sagst immer Du hast keine Nerven mehr fuer uns", asking her to buy some nerves for herself, because she's always declaring that she has no more nerves left for us....

  6. That reminds me of when Mr. M and I were leaving a grocery store and a South African man was helping us out. Mr. M was about three and said to him, "Why are you so black?" I wanted to disappear.

  7. Golly. The Germans sound so, uh, er, Friendly!

  8. Oh how I feel for you! Maybe we should just lock them in the house until they learn public behavior!

  9. Maven - this story makes the Germans sound unfriendly but to be fair many are quite nice and even more are nice once you get to know them. It's like they won't waste time on you unless you have some sort of relationship. At least it's honest, although questionable when a child goes missing. I don't think these people had read 'It Takes a Village.' Also they don't have all the built-in friendly mechanisms Americans have for interaction with strangers, especially in customer service situations. So you probably get the same mix of good and bad people here, but the tolerated behavioral norm is less 'friendly' than we Americans are used to.

  10. Tengelmann's in Ruhpolding... ah, the memories!! (Children who wander off in stores... ah, the memories there, too!)


  11. Oh, I would have died, surely. You did so great! Funny story and so glad it wasn't mine. :)


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