Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Berlin: I wish I had a camera

I'm in the hotel lobby waiting for my colleague. It will be a while, so I make a call.  I see a man I wish I could photograph. 

He comes in a black mini hatchback Mercedes Benz; dressed entirely in black, there is an insignia on the car and as he approaches I see the same insignia on his shoulder. It is an upside down  broom in a flower of flames.   His hands are black with soot, he holds a black, plastic bucket, his cargo pockets hold tools in custom made holders, and atop his head is a battered but elegant top hat.  He is a chimney sweep.  His name is Herr Mager.

From his professional demeanor and his apparent lack of any embarrassment at  being so sooty and the way the hotel staff hurry to call the manager, this is a good job, perhaps even a great job. 

I read somewhere you have to be born into the business in Amsterdam, and perhaps it is similar here.  That hat could easily be a third generation family heirloom.   He disappears with his bucket and tools, and comes back a while later; if he is any sootier it would be hard to tell.  He gives me a brilliant smile, white teeth startling in his smudged face.  Jumps in his car and is off to another job.  Oh to have a camera to capture this icon, this handsome worker, this classic picture of a  profession.

There is something so proud about the workers here in Germany.  Their job  isn't who they are yet how they represent themselves is  who they are.  The elevator repair man inspires confidence that the Otis taking you to the fourth floor is well maintained  From his uniform to his hair cut to his tools neatly ordered in his carry crate, you just know he doesn't cut corners. 

We never seem to have developed this pride in America that every job is worth doing well.  I like to think as the world shrinks, and globalization spreads the good of these cultural differences will spill over and we will be wise enough to glean this good.

I have to tell you, if I had a chimney to sweep, I'd want Herr Mager to do it. ;-)  

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