In 1992, the rapper Ice Cube released the single “It was a Good Day”. It describes a good day for him in South Central LA. I always liked the tune in the background and the lyrics are quite clever as he describes a perfect day consisting of winning at basketball and dice, “meeting” various women, drinking at the wheel but not being bothered by the police or rival gangs and not even having to use his assault rifle. We’ll assume he wasn’t glorifying the misogynistic gangster/pimp lifestyle but was using rap to create an irony-laden critique of the hopeless plight of the suppressed underclass.
I have been thinking of this song for the past couple of days, although the definition of a good day here in German suburbia is a little different. It all started yesterday when I decided that I needed to move my car from in front of our garage, so I could get my motorcycle out later. The weather was extremely hot and Ariane was due back from her first motorcycle lesson so I thought she might like to go out for a quick ride on the pillion afterwards. As I got into my car, I bumped into my neighbour Nils. I had seen his car parked around the corner earlier but now it was on our shared driveway and he was loading it up for a trip to Lake Constance. “Ooh”, I exclaimed, “so your parking spot is now free. I can move my car round the corner.” Nils shot back with even better news. “There is a proper parking spot free right in front of the house.” There is indeed a parking bay with space for 2 cars right in front of our house, and one was empty. I swiftly pulled my car onto the road and into the vacant parking spot. I was delighted. I did remark to Nils that, as a young man, I dreamt of changing the world – but now I’ll just settle for a good parking spot. And so “the Good Day” had begun.
Later on, I met the postman who had a package from Australia in his hand which my daughter Emma had been waiting on for 2 months. Unfortunately, there was a small import duty to pay but due to Covid 19, the postman was not allowed to take any money. But I could collect it at the post office later. This may sound like a minor irritation, but it was in fact the chance I had been waiting for! I’ll explain why in a minute.
Having lived for almost 30 years in Germany, I finally applied for (and was granted) citizenship a few months ago. Once this was done I went to the local council offices and applied for my passport and identity card. The passport arrived within a few days but the identity card took ages. I had left my phone details, and they promised to inform me by text message as soon as it arrived. After 3 months I called to ask where it was. But all I got was a recorded message saying they were closed due to the virus, but identity cards could still be collected in person. So I headed down there and presented myself. The sole employee left me standing there for a long time even though she’d seen me. She obviously had some important paperwork to finish. After a few minutes she looked up and asked if she could help. I said I’d like to pick up my identity card. “Have you received a text message?”. “No.” “Well then it’s not here.” She went back to her paperwork. I plucked up some courage and said, “it’s been 3 months.” She slowly put down her pen and asked me my name. “Whittall, Matthew” I said in the continental tradition of putting your surname first. “Oh, that’s been here for ages” she said, in an accusatory tone. She somehow made me feel like it was my fault for not collecting it earlier – even though somebody had forgotten to send the promised text. “Most people wouldn’t wait so long.” was her summary. My feeling of guilt was, however, outweighed by the joy of finally getting my hands on my identity card.
Everybody has an “Ausweis” – identity card. It is in credit-card format and has your photo and address on it. It’s what you leave as a deposit when you rent something and it’s all that you ever need when applying for something or proving your identity. It’s much more convenient (and reliable) than providing utility bills as proof of address as is still the fashion in England. I never understood all the fuss about the possible introduction of identity cards in the UK. Unless you are planning some criminal activities they are convenient, practical and useful. Unfortunately for me, I have hardly needed to show it. And so we come to the explanation of why I was excited about collecting a package from the post office. I needed to use my Ausweis! It worked perfectly (even though I was wearing a face-mask) and the package was handed over as soon as I’d paid the modest import duty. Happy times!
The next job on my agenda was the weekly visit to the recycling centre. Amazon had been quiet last week so I didn’t actually have much to get rid of, but I decided to go anyway. There’s nothing like the warm feeling you get from having an empty collection of IKEA plastic containers waiting to gobble up next week’s plastic, paper and cardboard. I started to load up the car and, on a whim, I checked our mailbox. To my utter delight, the weekly free newspaper (which is free of content but packed with brochures from various discount supermarkets) was already in there. This was great news. I could throw it straight into the recycling bin and empty it into the tip on the same day. I have a theory that the paper person (it’s an older gent, not a boy) waits for me to get back from the recycling centre before dropping the free paper into the letterbox. But today, it was my turn to shine. No more than 5 minutes after receiving the paper, I was chucking it into the giant paper crusher up the road. The only fate it deserves. Those IKEA containers are still empty.
And so, here I sit, with the chorus to “It was a Good Day” ringing in my ears. I didn’t have to fight for my life in the vicious turf-war between murderous gangs, but I did get a nice parking spot, use my newly acquired “Ausweis” and throw the free paper straight into the bin. Who said modern life has become boring? It was a Good Day.