ring my bell / by mrm

It always surprises me when people live up (or down?) to their cultural stereotypes.

I live in a "WG" (pronounced "Vay-geh;" short for Wohngemeinshaft, or shared apartment) with two other people. Our WG is in a four-story apartment building. There are eight flats. In Germany, or at least in Bavaria, there are no apartment numbers. Instead, the building has a number and each person's mailbox in the hallway has their name on it and that's how we get our mail. Outside our apartment building we have a shiny brass plate sort of thing with everyone's name next to their respective doorbell. The names are not engraved; rather, your name is on a little piece of paper inside a sort of slipcase. In January, when I moved in, we updated our nameplate and mailbox accordingly. Unfortunately, in the process of doing so we lost one of the tiny brass screws that affixes our nameplate to the wall. We tightened the other screw, though, and the name plate sat quite correctly in its proper position, nicely parallel to the one below it. However, about three weeks ago, one of our neighbors stopped one of my roommates on the stairs and said we really should replace the screw. (Did I mention that we are by far the youngest people in the building? The next closest in age are in their late thirties, I suppose. The oldest is probably around seventy.) As of just over two weeks ago, the screw has been replaced.

We received a hand-written note today in our mailbox. Dear WG, it said, It would be nice if you would replace the screw on your name plate with one that matches...It would be so nice if it didn't look "messy." Kind regards, Your Neighbor.

I find the anonymity amusing. And it's true, the screw we used to replace the one that disappeared (despite much searching!) amid the tiny stones and dirt of the flowerbed doesn't match. It's silver and it's slightly too big (this was a tiny, tiny screw), so it sticks out from the frame by about one centimeter. Clearly, this is an eyesore.

So, my plans for Monday (every single store is closed in Bavaria on a Sunday) include going to the hardware store to search for a tiny, tiny brass screw.

I won't ask for a cup of sugar anytime soon.