Germans usually like things to be in order. (Most Berliners are exempted from this because of their participation in the social experiment.) Things have to be done a certain way in this country and any deviation from that is not considered good sport. Of course there are exceptions to this rule. Coming from Pakistan, however, where chaos in every segment of society reigns supreme and people have devised go-arounds, initially this Ordnung (order) seemed like a great thing. But now that I have been spoiled by it, I have earned the privilege of acting holier than thou to the Germans and lecturing them from my pulpit.
There is a calling in Germany for an elite organization. It is not for the faint of heart, and there is no rest for this band of brothers (and sisters). Each day they are on the front lines, defending all that is sacred and holy. They are the ones who stand between order and anarchy. They are called the Ordnungsamt (Code Enforcers). Similar to the Statue of Liberty, the Ordnungsamt training center* has this inscription on the doorway:
“Give me your prim, your proper
Let flow your inner feelings of order yearning to be free”**
The Ordnungsamt basically drives around the city checking if laws are being broken or not. They have powers of arrest, but not through lethal force. Usually, they just hand out fines. Mostly, the Ordnungsamt hands out tickets for parking violations, checks if people are picking up dog crap from public property after their dogs (FYI this has never been enforced on my street), checks if trash is being dumped on public property, actually physically measures the distance between a shop and city property to see if the shop owners are infringing (I kid you not) and responding to calls about the neighbors being loud (which the upstairs ones are being right now), and much much more.
But the Ordnungsamt is just one piece in this whole Ordnung bonanza. Another crucial element is nosy citizens aka wannabe Ordnungsamt people. Now most people in Germany are no different
from you or me; just ordinary folks getting by. But many among them are über sticklers for the rules. Believe me when I tell you, many of them photograph wrongly parked cars, call the police or Ordnungsamt and then wait on the sidewalk to show the photos when the officers arrive. If you get such people as your neighbors, you’re in for some bad times. A friend of mine lived with his wife in an apartment building where such people were living a floor above them. At the slightest noise after 10 pm or all day on Sunday, police would be knocking on their door. They were so exasperated that they moved to a new place.
Now, after reading all this, you might be wondering if I’m overreacting. Don’t worry, I have just the thing for you. Lo and behold, there’s a smartphone app now for people who want to catch and quickly report traffic and parking violations. It’s called Wegeheld (Street Hero) for people like this. In case you’re interested, it’s available for Android here and the iOS version will follow soon.
* I’m assuming there is one.
** If it exists, that is definitely not what it says.