I went grocery shopping in Germany with my friend Chris. It’s a semi-regular thing as everything is much cheaper over the border.
I was happily anticipated the best part of the trip: Shopping cart bowling. Cart bowling is the God-given right of males raised in America suburbia to wheel their empty cart through the parking lot and to the nearest cart return area. You stop 15-20 feet in front of the line of coupled carts, take careful aim at the first cart, and shove your cart with clarity and concentration, purity of thought, and explosive force. The goal is to send your cart into the target cart so that it nests within it. When done perfectly, it offers the satisfying clang of one cart entering another with a sweet metal swoosh. When off target, the sound is a terrible cacophony of metal smashing into metal. This is also satisfying.
I had two shopping carts to return. I waited patiently until the cart area was clear. And then I pulled the first cart towards me, and with a slight forward step I launched.
Bam! Clatter clatter.
I just missed the center.
I lined up the second cart, took a breath, and fired.
Smack! Clang clang.
Not perfect, but closer.
I walked to the carts and straightened them into a neat line. When I turned, four or five people had gathered in a semi-circle and were staring at me with scowls. I gave them a friendly smile in return. As I walked through this gauntlet of disapproval an old man glared and shook his head. A middle-aged woman screwed up her face in an ugly expression and started pumping her arm up and down in front of her face.
Back in the car, I asked Chris, who grew up in Germany, what the arm waving was about.
“She is saying you are crazy.”
“You have upset their sense of behavior. Americans wouldn’t care, or just walk by. Here, they make it their business.”
“Now they give a shit?” I said. “They get all up-in-your-face over cart bowling, but just fucking shrug during genocide?”
Harsh and overblown, I know. But there is something about being a Jew in Germany. And it didn’t help to be surrounded by an angry mob making ugly faces and self-righteous body motions.