The lines behind the REWE checkout counters were dense and busy. Christmas was behind us, but grocery shopping showed no signs of lulling. I placed my items — aubergines, thyme sprigs, olive oil, lemon, cheese, yoghurt, sambal oelek sauce, avocados — on the conveyer belt. The woman behind the counter was one of those sprightly, chatty ones who make you wonder if this isn’t the best job in the world. Middle-aged, in her early fifties perhaps, she wore her golden hair in a plait. A round face with wise wrinkled eyes. Simple stud earrings. No makeup.
When my turn came, I greeted her and asked: “Haben Sie eine papiertüte?” Do you have a paper bag?
“Ja, hab ich,” came the reply, as she scanned the groceries and put them aside.
The typical response here is to hand a bag over to the shopper. The woman did no such thing; she continued to scan my items. At one point she looked at me with a cheeky grin, and said: You didn’t ask me for one, did you? You only asked if I have a paper bag.
I laughed, and said: That’s a game I play with others!
Well, now you see that others can play it too! She smiled and gave me the bag.