German secrets revealed: punctuality

Jürgen and Martina’s house is full of clocks. There are three in kitchen, all digital, all set one minute apart. So, when we eat breakfast, it is 8:01 on the oven clock, then on the radio clock, then on the microwave clock. And I almost forgot, on a shadowy part of the wall, there is a clock with hands and a face. In the bathroom, there is a digital clock embedded in the ceiling above the vanity, a prime spot for viewing from the bathtub or even the toilet. I know much more about my timing of various functions than I ever thought I would. The only place I don’t know what time it is the shower. Even in Jürgen’s top floor home theater, a clock appears projected on the wall behind the t.v., by what witchcraft I know not. All this digitation complicates time telling because we’re on a 24-hour clock here and I’m still subtracting 12 whenever we’re in the p.m. I suppose this will become second nature and 17:00 will register as clearly as 5 p.m., but so far it’s a little surreal.

Yesterday, Jürgen took us into Berlin on a whirlwind highlights tour. Our last stop was a mall containing an intricate, incomprehensible clock. Aaron tried to explain that it works like a toilet, but that’s no help for me. Thankfully, I don’t know how a toilet works. As far as I could tell, the pendulum moves a spout so every second a bit of green tinted water pours into a tube. This first tube is connected to a whole series of tubes which fill and empty and flow into each other, and somehow all this green water fills glass balls which represent the hours and minutes.

Aaron disabled our bedroom clock because the ticking bothered him, so we stay aware of the time in our room by listening to the neighbor’s parrots. Right out our window, across the backyard, three or four macaws and cockatiels have an uncanny sense of when to remind us that it is HELLA EARLY IN THE MORNING! GUTEN TAAAAAG!!! I would like to meet these parrots, but predictably, Jürgen and Martina are not on great terms with their owner. Exotic birds do not good neighbors make, apparently. Maybe sound proof fences are in order here. The upside is, I know the word for parrots in German, though as Dad pointed out, probably what I actually know is “goddamn parrots.”

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