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The Hamburg Baby Burglar

, , , , , , , | Legal | May 7, 2022

Back in 2011, we moved to Hamburg, Germany from The Netherlands. My German was basic at best, but I tried. One day, I was coming back from a jogging session and I saw a neighboring building on fire. It was nothing massive, but black smoke was coming out of a couple of kitchen windows on one of the stories.

In front of that building, I saw my neighbor: a young woman with her four-month-old daughter in a pram. The neighbor was completely in distress, obviously trying to reach someone on the phone without any luck. She was screaming into what I suppose was a voicemail:

Neighbor: “Pick up the d*** phone. Why don’t you answer me?!”

I approached her to see what was wrong and whether I could help. Apparently, one of the kitchens burning belonged to a friend of hers — the one she couldn’t reach. She was in complete panic, afraid that the friend was still inside. The street was starting to fill out with various emergency vehicles, being extremely loud. I offered to help her and she gave me her kid so that the baby wouldn’t be in all that noise. Mind you, I had been living there for just a couple of months and more than knowing we were neighbors could not be said about our relationship. 

I took the kid in the pram to a safer place and had to ask for permission to enter the street, as it was closed off by the police officers. I was wearing a bright neon pink shirt — the typical “don’t run me over” jogger outfit. The kind police lady let me pass after I told her I live in the building next door and advised me to go inside with the kid to avoid breathing in the fumes. In all the confusion, I didn’t tell the neighbor where I was going, and she didn’t tell me where to take the kid. We each assumed the other one knew. I’m sure you all already know where this is going.

I took the kid inside, into my apartment, as advised. She was tired, and as I rocked her in my arms, she fell asleep. I put her on the sofa and sat beside her, not knowing if the could turn and fall down. All of a sudden, I could hear helicopters flying over, quite low. My heart leaped; I was sure that the building on fire was in a very bad condition.

Suddenly, someone rang the doorbell. When I opened it, I saw two police officers standing in front of me. They looked at me, up and down, and asked if I had seen a baby girl, matching the description of the baby sleeping on my sofa. 

Me: “Yeah, she’s here, sleeping.”

Officer: “What? Wait… This was all a misunderstanding. What luck. Oh, dear, what luck! Could you pick her up and bring her along?”

Me: *Completely confused* “Sure.”

I picked up the still sleeping girl and, guided by the two police officers, stepped out of my apartment onto the street. What I saw scared the living daylights out of me. There was an entire corridor of the police force: a full K9-unit, motorbike police officers, police officers on horses, uncountable police cars, ambulances, etc.

Apparently, the neighbor — the little girl’s mother — finally reached her friend and, happy that the friend was okay (she wasn’t at home, but working, to begin with), she turned around to her kid… who was gone… and she had no recollection anymore to whom she had given the child. So, her first reaction was to go into full-blown panic mode and claim that someone had kidnapped her kid.

In a street full of emergency services due to a fire, it wasn’t difficult to organize a full search. And then, it hit me: those helicopters were looking for me!

All is well what ends well: we (me and my husband, who missed the whole ordeal due to work) went to visit the neighbors a couple of days later with some newborn presents, and we had coffee, cake, and a good laugh about everything. I even ended up babysitting on a couple of occasions.

And, ladies and gentlemen, that is how I ended up having a true story of how I, once upon a time, was Hamburg’s most wanted criminal, even if it was for a very short period of time.

You Say Tomato, I Say Pay Up!

, , , , | Right | March 11, 2021

I’m in line to check out. The old woman in front of me is still loading her items but there is still plenty of space for me to place a divider and my items, as I only have four things. Queen of the conveyor belt doesn’t like this and turns to give me a death glare. She is trying to spread each and every single item out on the belt, taking more space than she actually needs.

She’s also standing right in front of the card reader and staring intently at the customer who is currently being checked out. When it’s her turn to check out, she speaks very condescendingly to the cashier.

He starts to ring up some slightly bruised tomatoes and she stops him.

Customer: “No, no, not those! Those are bad.”

Cashier: “Okay, then I will set them aside.”

Customer: “No! I still want them; I just don’t want to pay for them! They’re bad! You’re just going to throw them out anyway!”

Cashier: “Well, I don’t have the authority to make that call.”

Customer: “Fine, then I don’t want them!”

Cashier: “Sorry, I don’t own the store, so I can’t make that decision.”

Customer: *Rolling her eyes* “Ugh, I know that!”

She then took forever to pay and to pack her things. What bothers me most is that she deliberately picked out “bad” tomatoes, hoping she could bully the minimum-wage cashier into giving them to her for free — or perhaps she hoped a manager would get involved.

Tomat-NO

, , , , , , | Working | October 29, 2020

I order a sandwich that normally came with tomatoes, but I ask for them to be removed. However, once I get my meal and unwrap the sandwich, I find that it has tomato slices stacked on it and falling out of it. I check my receipt and confirm that it lists tomatoes to be removed, and then I take it back to the front. There is a manager manning the registers now.

Manager: “Hello. Is everything all right?”

Me: “No. I asked for tomatoes to be removed from my sandwich, but I’ve been given extra tomatoes, instead.”

The manager checked the receipt and the sandwich and immediately promised to make me a new one. As he turned to go to the kitchen, he and I spotted a pair of teenage employees peering out from the kitchen area, grinning. They lost their grins when the manager made eye contact, and they quickly hurried away.

I got my new sandwich, but due to the extra wait, I had to take it with me to eat on the walk back to my office. Once I got outside, I saw both of the teenagers waiting at the bus stop. Both of them glared at me as I passed, so I’m given to assume that they didn’t just make a mistake, but maybe gave me extra tomatoes as a prank, which their manager did not find as funny as they did.

Home Is Where The Landlord Is A Pain In Your Butt

, , , , | Legal | June 25, 2020

I get a new job in a city away from home where living is expensive and hard to get. I go home on the weekends, so I rent a furnished room, lucky to have found something in time. 

The landlady wants the rent in cash — a red flag for me — but I figure if she wants to evade taxes, it’s her problem, not mine.

She also says she does not need a written rental agreement but understands that I insist on one. To cancel a rental agreement for a furnished room in Germany, you need to give fourteen days of notice; this goes both for the tenant and the landlord. She insists on two whole months for both sides. Needing this room and knowing that writing this into the contract is actually void because the law says otherwise, I agree to that, as well.

When I finally want to register this room as my second address — as you are required to do in Germany — after putting it off for far too long, this goes down.

I have shortened the conversation a lot.

Me: “I need to register now!”

Landlady: “Oh… We haven’t discussed that, you know?”

I think, “We shouldn’t have to; it’s the legal thing to do!”

Me: “Is that a problem for you?”

Landlady: “Yes, I would have to make a different statement for my taxes.” (Meaning: “I would actually have to pay taxes!”) “Is it a no-go for you to just do it this way?”

I think, “Yes, absolutely; it’s illegal!”

Me: “Well, I need to register in order to be able to get money for commuting.”

Landlady: “I’ve been renting out that room since my kids were small.” (This means at least ten years.) “No one ever registered here before! Because then I can’t just throw them out when there’s trouble.”

I wonder how she can argue this way and still want an illegally long cancellation period. Then, she drops this:

Landlady: “Can’t we just pretend you live here free of charge?”

Me: “Well… I don’t know how to do that. I also have to pay extra taxes that depend on the rent in order to have a second address, so I don’t know how they would do the maths, then.”

Landlady: “But there must be a way to do it when people live with family.”

Me: “I guess… I can look into it.”

Landlady: “Then we do that. And I need you to give me back the rental agreement and I would trust you not to take a picture of it.”

I immediately think, “I am SO going to take a picture of that agreement!”

I am absolutely not happy about this idea but I am scared both of conflicts and of losing my place to stay. I also tend to be easily persuaded as long as the person is still in front of me, so for a split-second, I actually consider this. Begrudgingly, I agree to look into it. 

Following this conversation, we make some small-talk and I mention how officials make me nervous, especially because when I applied for job seekers’ allowance, they told me I had to tell them about every last cent or I would face serious consequences, blah blah.

She answers with this gem:

Landlady: “But I think it’s very good they scare you in that way! Way too many people take advantage of the system!”

Lady… you just told me you’ve been evading taxes for over ten years!

I started looking for a new flat, especially after one other incident where — after telling me I wouldn’t need to tell her when I was there and when not — she told me how annoying it was that I was home during her holiday.

I found a shared flat that I moved into yesterday! And thanks to home office times during the health crisis, I never had to go back to that room in the meantime except for picking up my stuff. And, of course, I kept the rental agreement safe and sound. I was so glad to get out of there.

Trying To Become A Sausage Dog

, , , | Working | January 22, 2019

(I have a small rescue, a corgi-dachshund-chow-mix, who is a very picky eater. He basically eats everything but dog food, so we have had a hard time feeding him since we’ve only had him a few months. The dog and I are in a very posh pet store that specializes in pet food and even promotes their own brand of treat, which is a sort of “gourmet” sausage for dogs. As I am browsing the store, quite desperate to find something the dog will actually eat, an assistant approaches me and asks what I am looking for. I explain, and she clearly doesn’t like the idea of a dog being picky, as this is seen by many as a failure in training rather than a medical or personality issue.)

Assistant: “Well, your dog seems to be healthy, so I don’t see why he shouldn’t eat the food here.” *points to shelf* “But I have something here that has so far convinced everyone; he’ll definitely like it.”

(I am not convinced, especially as she is referring to the afore-mentioned sausage, which is rather expensive and almost as big as the dog himself.)

Me: “Yeah, I don’t know. If he doesn’t like it, what am I supposed to do with it?”

Assistant: *giving me a condescending look* “Well, of course we have samples!”

Me: “All right, let’s give it a try!”

(She cuts a piece of the sausage which I give to the dog. She can’t see him from behind the counter, so she asks smugly:)

Assistant: “How many do you want? He’s eating it, isn’t he?”

Me: “Um…”

(The dog had had one sniff and decided to drop on the floor and ROLL AROUND IN A PIECE OF GOURMET FOOD… looking rather happy, I must admit. I fled the store and haven’t dared to come back yet.)