I moved to Germany in the 1980’s and it was a very unique experience living on the economy. There were rituals and rules, many of which I didn’t understand. For instance, an apartment dweller was often responsible for cleaning the sidewalks and the portion of the street in front of the tenement building. I have often thought that if we did this in the United States, things would be so much cleaner.
But, this isn’t a tale of the outdoors – it’s a tale of the stairwell. Living on the fourth floor walk-up, meant a whole lot of stairs between me and the front door. Thankfully, shopping was limited to a day or two’s worth of food at a time and carrying bundles up the stairs wasn’t nearly as exasperating as climbing just one flight with thirteen bags from our current garage into the kitchen.
Back to the stairwell chores. It wasn’t more than a week or so in the new surroundings when a sign hung on the front door one morning, “Jetzt bist du dran.” I was still struggling with my limited German and knew that it had to do with something being thrown towards me but I wasn’t sure what it was. I asked my neighbor, she replied,
“Ah, it is your turn.” Turn? Turn for what?
“My turn” turned out to be the sweeping, mopping and cleaning of the entire stairwell – top to bottom. Wow, eight families sharing one stairwell can be quite messy. It took about three hours to meticulously sweep and mop. Finished with the chore, I felt satisfied that my neighbors would agree that I had performed the task to my utmost ability and was a worthy neighbor.
Apparently a little too worthy because less than a week later, the sign was hanging on my front door again. I went to see the neighbor, “Frau Rita informed me that Frau Müller was not feeling well and “Jetzt bist du dran” or “My turn” so to speak.
After volleying this stairwell chore for close to two weeks, I was delighted when a young wife from Thailand moved into the building with us. I took the little sign (back on my door again!) and moved it up to her door. The volleying of the chores was completed and when she asked me what the sign meant, I smiled and said “the ball is in your court” and it’s time to start cleaning our house.
If this happens to you – just volley the ball or the sign, pass the buck or share the load.