Monday, September 15, 2003
From Prussia With Love
Despite the fact they've had more than a little to do with a couple of World Wars, are the nation that style and good taste forgot, and actually think heavy metal is a good thing, I'm rather fond of Prussians.
Beneath that legendary gun-metal hardness, and a holier-than-thou attitude which borders on arrogance, they're big softies at heart, and great people to party with.
What really annoys me, however, is their ever-rigid following of rules, their insistence that everything should be just so. You notice it especially when you're filling out official forms. Omit to sign and date each copy in triplicate and the right ink, neglect to answer question 8a, sub-section 2.4.5, or, Heaven forbid, submit your form without the appropriate Stempel, or rubber stamp, and blood runs in the street, the Bundestag meets in emergency session, and Poland gets worried again.
This adherence to rules even applies to road safety. Somewhere there's a rule book which states that your good little Prussian may only cross the road when the green man is showing. At all other times he must wait until given the all-clear to proceed. This is why, even when the street is clearly free of traffic, and every car betweeen here and the Urals has been immobilised and put off the road because of the oil crisis, you will spot troops of upright citizens obediently standing on the road-edge, waiting for the green man to tell them to cross.
You kill yourself laughing at this absurdity at first, until you realise that, after half a day, you're doing it yourself, having fallen completely into the Prussian mind-set, and trying hard not to think what a prat you're being.
Now, there's discipline for you.