Things finally came to a head today. I'd been feeling the malaise (or ennui, if you will) coming on, and I'd been doing various creative, spiritual, and mental/emotional health exercises to stave it (that is, the malaise/ennui) off. But I knew that at some point, something was gonna give. I asked the house church to pray for me yesterday, so I knew that God would get something done, one way or the other.
God seems to answer my prayers in the grocery store a lot. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Sort of.
So this afternoon, I got ready to go to the grocery store. Crest, to be specific. I finally remembered to bring along my cloth bags and Klappkiste (? a foldable plastic box, great for carrying stuff, staple in every German household). I debated taking the cloth bags into Crest with me and asking the bagger simply to bag my purchases in my personal bags. I decided against that, though, figuring it might throw the bagger for too much of a loop.
Because, as you know, friends and neighbors, baggers don't like to be thrown for loops. I didn't know that before this afternoon, but I sure as turkey-at-Thanksgiving know it now. My leaving the cloth bags in the car must have been prophetic. But again, I'm getting ahead of things.
Went to Crest. Shopped for groceries. Couldn't find chicken broth. Found lots of new food for Pippin. Gave up on chicken broth. Chicken broth and catfood not related.
When I arrived at the cash register, I told the bagger that I'd like for him to place all my groceries directly in a cart without bagging them. The bagger in question made an affirmative noise--"Mmhm" or "Okay" or somesuch. I turned my attention to the cashier and the growing total on his screen as he scanned my groceries.
A few moments later, I looked to my right and saw the bagger putting my squash and northern beans into a paper bag.
"Oh, I'd like for the groceries to go into the cart," I said again, thinking maybe he didn't hear me the first time. "I don't want any bags."
He bagged a can of catfood. "Well, I'm really not supposed to let you do that."
My brain tried to process for a second. Didn't succeed. See, this is the part where the cultural transition issues come into play: I couldn't grasp all the implications of what he was saying. It was literally impossible for me to shift gears in my mind. I grabbed onto the first thing that popped into my head, probably chipping off a few mental teeth in the process.
I would love to say that I replied to him with gentle, polite, but firm insistence.
Instead, all that came out was, "What happened to 'the customer is always right'?" And it was rather snippish, too. I was mortified at my own rudeness, but plowed ahead anyway. "I really don't want any bags."
"Well," said he, "we've been having problems with people stealing food."
I felt my mouth drop open. Rationality was making a hasty exit. I looked from him to the open exit door...seven or eight feet away. How would I steal food, going from this register out that door? Do you want to watch me?
Aloud, I said, "I'll be going from here--" pointing at my feet "--to there--" pointing at the doorway close at hand.
He glared at me. At least, it seemed like a glare. It could have been an expression of abject disappointment in the way his day was going. I don't know. He kind of mumbled something. I gestured in the general direction of the shopping cart. "Please just put the groceries in the cart. I really. Don't. Want. Any. Bags."
He began taking catfood, beans, and other items out of the bags and putting them into the cart. As I turned away with a world-weary sigh, he muttered, "All right, but it won't be my fault if you get stopped."
I forbore replying to that. This whole time, the cashier had continued merrily scanning items and sending them in the general direction of the recalcitrant (!) bagger. The total had risen, but I didn't care anymore. I just wanted to get out of there.
I finally got out of there. I told the bagger, "Thank you for your cooperation," and said it with a smile. I pushed my cart the seven or eight feet from the register to the open doorway. I neither stole food, nor did anyone accuse me of any crimes. I drove home and put away the groceries.
Ed walked in the door, and I cried because I hadn't cooked anything and had bought the wrong kind of light bulbs.
"All I wanted," I wailed, "was to do something good for the environment! I wanted to save some trees! I just wanted to shop the German way!"
A big part of why I'm okay now is that I have a husband who listens, who doesn't care that there's no food, who's perfectly happy to make his own supper, and who lets me cry when I need to. He's amazing. God is amazing, for blessing me with Ed.
So there's the most recent story of my cultural transition. We're approaching the one-year mark, and I think I'm doing pretty well. I'm aware of moments like this afternoon, I recognize them for what they are, and I process them. I don't fret about why this is happening to me or about whether or not this is ever going to go away. I know that eventually, because I have God, I'll be fine. No matter what happens. He has brought me through worse than this.
It's funny, though, how my major meltdown moments are connected with stores. This one at Crest, a previous one at Buy-for-Less. A few years ago on furlough, I had one at Wal-Mart, and in Chemnitz, I had one at IKEA (a sofa and a credit card were involved). That just goes to show what an integral part necessities-shopping is in culture.
And that's all I have to say about that. :o)