Wake up, sleepy head! It’s Sunday! You can now go back to sleep.
Now that you have your apartment and a bed to put in it, you are free to lounge around under your freshly-bought covers all day. That is, until someone dares to ring your doorbell, or you wake up to find that it’s Monday and you are late for work. If it is the former, DHL doesn’t deliver today (and your family knows better) so it’s probably Jehovah’s Witnesses; remain quiet. This won’t be hard as Sunday in Germany is the designated Ruhetag (quiet day).
Ruhetag means that no loud noises are permitted on Sundays. Well, except for those issued from the churches (not paying taxes isn’t the only exemption). Since everyone went out the night before, evidently ringing the church bells for 15 minutes or even, say, 30 isn’t sufficient to call the hungover faithful to their salvation. No. They must instead be rung, at an unholy volume that would rival an AC/DC concert, for nearly an hour…three times a day.
As an apartment dweller, you are free to also sleep in on Saturdays: You have no need to do yard work as your rent ensures that some other poor sap has to do it. If, on the other hand, enough time has passed (and more importantly, enough money has been amassed) that you have bought and moved into a house, then you will never again have a free Saturday.
“Why won’t I have any free-time on a Saturday, and what does that have to do with yard-work?” would be a normal response. Well, since most people work throughout the week, and since Sundays are clearly off-limits, Saturdays in Germany are the one day that nearly everyone that owns a house must mow their lawn. The sounds of Rasenmäher (lawnmowers) that would normally be absorbed by the span of two days are crammed into one and the air is filled with the raucous symphony of two-strokes engines. I’ve never been, but I assume that Sundays here sound similar to Sundays in Talladega, Alabama…if they were go-karts being raced around the track instead of rockets with wheels, that is.
I don’t know the actual origin of the word Samstag, so I am going to assume that some ancient German king, tired of mowing his lawn, decided that he wasn’t going to do it anymore and simply did what my dad did: He made his kid do it. That unfortunate kid’s name, of course, was Sam. As “Tag” means “day”, Samstag translates to “Sam’s Day”. Up until the point when the king said to his wife, “No, dear. I am not mowing the lawn today; today is Samstag”, I presume that everybody just called Saturdays “Scheißarbeitstag” (crap work day) and made excuses. Back then it was easy and the common justifications were “It’s raining” and “The Huns are invading”. Though it does rain a lot here, the Huns rarely invade nowadays. You’re going to have to get creative to skip lawn-duty these days, my friend.
The previously well-kept secret in the U.S. is that, due to rebellious German immigrants, the fabled and industrious royal gardner of lore is how America came by its bearded and finger-pointing mascot, Uncle Sam. We are all familiar with the posters featuring the top hat-bedecked and bearded man proclaiming, “I want you“! What you don’t know is that it is merely an excerpt from the original saying that finished with “…to mow your lawn any day you damn well want to”. King Lazy’s son is our Uncle Sam.
As unmoving a cause as lawn care is, the slogan was promptly adopted by the war campaign – ironically against Germany who birthed the idea – and only the first part was retained. By the way, Eve; should we have a child, girl or boy, the name Sam is a strong contender. It’s my patriotic duty as a lazy would-be father.
Maybe Saturdays are inconvenient for you to trim your grass as you work weekends. Should you hatch the plan to carbo-load on spaghetti during a weekday Mittagessen (lunch) so you can take a long mid-day break and power your way through your lawn’s waist high grass, you cannot. In addition to Ruhetag, there are also no loud noises permitted between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM during the week. Healthcare, maternity rights, and rights in general aside, it is at this point that I must interject an infrequent point which highlights America’s superiority over Germany. “Quiet Sunday” here in Germany purportedly has its roots in religion as any work – even cutting weeds – on the Sabbath is forbidden. Even though the U.S. is much more religious than Germany as a whole, in America, particularly in states like Colorodo, smoking weed on a Sunday while listening to Black Sabbath and cutting your lawn, is perfectly okay. We shouldn’t toot our own horns just yet, however: Allowing the drug-impaired access to lawnmowers only feeds the other cash cow – religion’s better looking twin; the American health-care system. There are many U.S. doctors rubbing their hands together right now while saying, “Yes, finish that joint and operate dangerous machinery. My private jet needs diamond-studded toilet seats”.
I have heard that the weekday quiet hours exist here because that is the time that both the very young and very old nap. This makes perfect sense and I fully understand and support this. New mothers need a break and there is nothing more unnerving than your infant being awoken unnecessarily, especially if I am taking a nap and their cries wake me. My dad however, well into his 70’s, has different ideas. True to the stereotypical American cowboy that he is, this man abides by no rules nor schedules and naps anytime – and anywhere – he damn well pleases.
Oh. Did you think your story of why you pulled him over was interesting, officer? He, evidently, did not. Wake him gently. He is both an American and a veteran and so has a concealed weapon permit. Thank goodness he didn’t get his license until after I moved out of the house. Had he had it earlier, I would have said, “Hell, no” when my mom told me to “Go wake your dad for dinner”.
Since Saturday is the one day a week that most men skulk around their lawns, I will use this as a bridge to the topic that concerns those that partake in lawn-care, and other gas-powered forms of potential self-destruction; visiting the Krankenhaus (hospital).
As you have rightly guessed, mowing the lawn involves a lawnmower. For those that have never operated one, first gently remove the silver spoon from your mouth before reading further so that you can properly exclaim, “I need to give my gardener a raise”.
Lawnmowers, as well as chainsaws and hedge trimmers (Kettensäge and Heckenschere) have fast moving blades that have absolutely zero qualms with removing digits or limbs. A lawnmower in particular has the added potential for injury as it will, at nearly the speed of sound, fling rocks or twigs toward any unsuspecting spectators. If you have dogs like I do, the added yard-borne ammunition of tennis balls and petrified poo only adds to the danger. Naturally, all of these potential injuries, consolidated into one day, make for a very busy Saturday at a German hospital’s ER.
Once you have recovered from your injuries and can get back to work (non-motorized until your PTSD has subsided), you are likely to discover many old and interesting things as you limp around your yard. Being that the land has been settled for millennia, any disturbance of the soil from planting bushes or flowers is bound to uncover all sorts of goodies – foundation stones, old wagon wheels, etc. What will also be unearthed are pottery shards. Lots of pottery shards. It’s almost as if the shepherd that built our original structure was also moonlighting as a hyperactive potter.
These shards, no matter their age, will not impress Germans as they grew up digging in the dirt here and were used to uncovering much more interesting things in their youth that are now, to them, mundane. “Oh, another medieval sword. Is that petrified blood? I’m bored”.
To a history-obsessed American like myself who has watched too many Indiana Jones movies, however, the shards are clearly evidence of some long lost civilization. Abracadabra! Your yard has now been magically transformed into a vastly important archeological dig. Luckily for me, the leather European shoulder bag that Eve bought for me a couple of years ago holds a bullwhip nicely. Why do I need a bullwhip? For disarming my foes and swinging across bottomless chasms, of course. It also serves as a means for correcting those that question my need for a bullwhip. You have been warned.
The one thing that you are unlikely to find while preening your landscape is what I uncovered while trimming the ivy from the partial wall in our yard: A plaque from 1938 embedded in the wall declaring it to be the first year of the great German kingdom. That’s right; a nazi plaque. The chiseled writing is in old German and is quite weathered, so reading it proved difficult. Eve and I had often speculated what it said, but it wasn’t until we threw a barbecue this summer that Eve’s dad and a friend helped to decipher it. As Germans are loathe to even think about that part of their country’s history, nothing spoils a festive mood quite as thoroughly as discovering a nazi relic during a party. The coup de grace was the enormous and fragrant poo that our dog Wilson deposited next to it a short while later. Having no other way to communicate his disdain, I think that he was trying to tell us – in no uncertain terms – what he thought of the discovery. Good boy.
Sadly, Wilson passed away recently and so we have yet another reason to dig in the yard: We are going bury his pottery-interred ashes with a tree that we are going to plant in his honor. It will even have a dedication plaque on it which will read something like:
“Here lies Wilson, fearless defender of liberty,…” Um,… “tireless chewer of baseballs…”
Hold on. Since I do find so many pottery shards, and since we do have a plaque dedicated to the vanquished powers of evil, and since his remains were never found, I wonder if the ashes of the chief jerk-face, Hitler himself, are interred under our wall…
It looks like I have another dig ahead of me. Alert the media: It is sure to be a fervent journalistic extravaganza. The event will, naturally, be on a Saturday; I need an excuse to get out of mowing the lawn.