02 March, 2005

Könnten Sie bitte mein Brot shießen?

Here in Germany, every time you turn around there is either a Bakery or a cell phone store.  They're both like Starbucks.  I can't imagine why there is such high demand for cell phones, but one bite of the bread and you understand why you never have to go far to get a loaf.

Usually in Germany, you just go to the bakery (any one of your choosing) and grab a loaf of the bread you want out of a pile of loaves.  These loaves are neither wrapped nor sliced, and are usually still warm.  It's wonderful.  You then take your loaf and, without a word of German necessary, you wave it in front of the clerk and they will eventually tell you how much you owe.  At this point you look at the register, because it has numbers you actually understand, and unlike the clerk, it does not speak to you in German.

At the beginning of my stay here, I was content with my full, warm loaf of bread.  I would take it home and either just rip large chunks off and eat them with Nutella, or I would daringly use my neighbor's bread-knife (but only when she's not looking, lest I be accused of theft--See "Sherlock Holmes und der verschwundene Löffel") and attempt at cutting myself some slices that fit in the toaster.

It is during this time in my life that I have realized the full importance of the saying, "That's the best thing since sliced bread!"  You can never cut a slice that is just the right size to fit in a toaster, yet not so small that it falls apart in your hand.

I had made a discovery by watching the man in front of me at the bakery.  You can actually ask the clerk to cut the bread for you!  The next visit to the bakery, I was determined:  I would have my bread sliced!

I had done my homework, I looked up all the German words regarding bread and slicing so that I could ask the clerk to slice the bread, and perhaps retaliate with a German response if I was attacked with a question in return.

"Könnten Sie bitte mein Brot shießen?"  I asked the clerk.

She looked at me a little funny (which isn't entirely odd in Germany), took my bread, and started the machine that cuts it into perfect toaster-fitting slices.  I was content.  I had asked her something in German, and I was well on my way to achieving my goal of sliced bread with only minimal effort on my part.

She told me the price, I looked at the register to find out what I owed, and payed.  I then walked proudly away with my accomplishment in full display for others to see, as if to say:  "That's right!  Look at me, you Germans!  I too can have sliced bread!"

My friend saw my sliced bread and pleaded me to tell her the magic words I spoke that delivered me such a wonder.  I repeated my treasure, "Können Sie bitte mein Brot--"  It was at this exact part of the sentence that I realized that I did not, in fact, ask her to slice my bread. 

I asked her to shoot it.

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