3. Cinemaxx, Mannheim
When you park underground at Cinemaxx, before watching a movie in one of its twelve kinos, you are eligible for a discounted parking fee. Not many people know this. There is a small box-like contraption set inconspicuously next to the ground-floor exit; punching the parking ticket here leads to a discount of a couple of Euros when you pay later at the parkschein automat next to the garage entrance. A queue had materialized at this entrance the other day, and it wasn’t moving. I heard questions ahead, followed by murmurs of assent, and soon information reached the spot where I stood. The automats were not working right: the discount on the punched tickets was not being acknowledged.
So the queue had stalled. You could pay a few Euros more and get going, but no one seemed interested. They had the right to this discount: why forego it? The attendants from Cinemaxx were summoned. Two red-haired girls appeared, one with a tattooed arm, the other’s ears ringed with silver, and neither had a clue what to do. Unlike other garages this one did not have a security officer room where you could also pay; the machine, which was the problem, was the only solution. Someone suggested calling the hotline number listed on the automat. A lady carrying an expensive-looking handbag pulled out a gilded phone and dialed the number. The situation was explained, and the person at the other end promised to call back soon. The wait began.
It did not last long. In the five or so minutes before the call was returned, the Germans waited in line, patiently, and while there was plenty of discussion I did not hear any howls of protest or discern a tone of discontent. The system was kaput, the queue was expanding, but everyone had faith in the invisible people working on the problem. My own response to all this was a mixture of admiration and ennui: in India this situation would have provoked a colourful cacophony of complaints, all amusing to watch when not in a hurry, and this thought triggered a deep and inexplicable longing for that country. Too much order can be dull for souls bred to thrive in chaos.
The folks behind the hotline number called, and the rank of patient Germans watched expectantly as the lady listened and nodded. The proposed solution was simple: we were to be charged one fixed price, and the automat would produce a new ticket, a replacement for the original. The queue began to move, and soon I slotted two Euros into the machine, collected the ticket, and walked toward my car.