Klaus Hnilica
Thursday January 24th, 2013

When Men Do The Right Thing …

Carl and Gerlinde (XXIX)

Each day, it got clearer for Carl that there was no way out of the “thunderstorm that cleans the air“ in the form of an argument with Gerlinde. Otherwise, he was in danger of being driven to insanity by her shopping mania.…

For several weeks, no day had passed without Gerlinde persistently telling him that, again, some absolutely sweet, light-blue little pullover with beautifully open-worked raglan seams had shrunken so much without her having done anything that there was definitely no option but to throw it away: regardless of the fact that she had only worn the beastly thing three times and only hand-washed it in lukewarm water twice – could you imagine!

And then what about the annoyance with these stupid apricot-coloured cardigans you could not find in any of her usual boutiques, except at abominable C&A! And there – typically! – you only could get them in sizes fit for pregnant walruses and sumo-ringers, but not for normal humans. Let alone for her after her eight weeks of New York Diet and minus six kilograms, who now urgently needed all kinds of new clothes; including underwear – of course from Carl’s spring collection!

Or else she would grumble at the breakfast table, even before her first sip of coffee or bite of bread, about totally uncool Wedge Sneakers from Goethestrasse she had bought for a celestial bargain price. Due to the new padding she had to wear, these same sneakers caused her feet such pain that the only thing left for her to do with them was give them to the OXFAM people. Her only consolation was that those torture sneakers had not gone well with the new, exquisite, black Zoé Lu bag she had discovered in a tiny boutique after weeks of search, anyway.

But other than this exceptional lucky strike, so she lamented without ever pausing to catch her breath, the last few weeks had been so lousy for her that you really could no longer file it under ’the usual hard luck’! No – no matter how Carl tried to soften the blows, there was definitely more to it. After all, it was not just her impossible clothes where she kept being out of luck, she eagerly said while chewing: all Carl had to do was remember those insane, black, Moroccan olives from the market a short time ago. There had been such a huge discount on them that she absolutely had to buy four pounds, because everything else would have been the height of stupidity. But as so often, our dear Mister Carl had not liked their taste – and consequently they were thrown into the biological waste still wrapped in their original packaging!

Or the twelve bottles of Spanish red wine from Freixenet she bought at the bargain price of four euros and ninety-nine cents because she had intended to surprise him. They had immediately ended up in the sewers!

These days, this was always the typical chain of events whenever she wanted to do something nice for him, Gerlinde pouted – and then she disappeared among coughing and sneezing into her freshly prepared anti-chill bath, which almost had overflown, as well. …

“Just relax!“ Carl shouted after her. But then he was truly glad that she had left, because he simply could no longer put up with this wretched nonsense. Mind you, he certainly was patience and endurance personified. How often had he tried, during endless and grueling discussions, to discourage Gerlinde from this unspeakable hunt for bargains and rags. He had advised her to buy purposefully, moderately and without hurry, and told her it did not matter if it cost a little more! Above all, he had told her to always follow an exact plan when shopping and only buy what she had intended to buy! Wasn’t that a simple rule everybody could understand and stick by? Even she as a woman?

But today, Gerlinde was incapacitated by this admittedly evil cold. So here was his chance that, at least for one day, there would be no shopping chaos in his household! Due to this one-time chance, he was even prepared to go to the supermarket and quickly – before office hours – get the few things Gerlinde had written down:

1 LOAF OF WHITE BREAD – 4 LEMONS – 4 TINS OF SARDINES – 2 packages of BUTTER – 1 kilogram of LENTILS …

That was all!

It would be best to buy the white bread as he passed the bread counter when leaving, that much he knew although he definitely did not know his way very well in this allegedly so great supermarket, where he always had to spend endless time searching.

But maybe this was why they always did this product re-arranging. Besides, he had read that, in all the supermarkets of the world, the customers were encouraged to walk counter-clockwise, because significant studies had revealed that sales were higher than if customers went through the rows clockwise.

But now, with all this running counter-clockwise, he first had to find the lemons – he was sure they must be with the fruit!

Gerlinde often lamented that there was far from enough fruit – and when she arrived it was often already sold out!

Today, there were heaps of gorgeous mangoes on the tables, also two brands of sweet melons and beautiful papayas – they were not precisely cheap, but huge – delicious-looking pineapples – at a bargain price – and heavenly, yellow kiwis. She liked kiwis, didn’t she? So what could be wrong with him taking advantage of this unique opportunity and really stock up? He was sure Gerlinde would be enthusiastic…

But where to find those damned sardines? As far as he remembered, that was next on the list. Or where to find someone you could ask? Today, the supermarkets no longer seemed to employ those people! They were hiding, because they themselves did not know where to find things; after all, the products were now put into the shelves by cheap leased labor.

In his misery, Carl simply asked the small, corpulent saleslady behind the fish counter where he could find the sardines! And since she was so friendly with the information she provided, he also bought from her a good portion of seafood salad and two delicious portions of smoked trout she assured him more than once had only just arrived.
But before he actually reached the alleged proximity of the desired sardines, there were a few tests he had to pass – like in a fairy tale: countless long and high shelves filled with inlaid herrings in hundreds of different jars and tins. He got the impression you could get twenty different kinds or marinade and more! In fact, you could even get them in tomato juice, which was something Gerlinde had asked him to get a hundred times already. Consequently, he boldly put no less than five tins of them into his trolley, topping them with eight different glasses of mussels, before starting to look for the butter…

Who but his impossible, stubborn solar-inspired neighbor Konrad and his frozen Luise were standing before the butter shelf! And were they not just at the moment trying to find what they wanted among all the two hundred different butter brands? Just like he was going to?

There was nothing to it but escape!

At dawn, the Konrad family was definitely not something you wanted to cope with. Not even Gerlinde could expect this kind of sacrifice of him! As fast as lightning, Carl turned left towards the red wine and instinctively grabbed a bottle of Amarone for 36 euros.

But unfortunately, he was too late!

“If that isn’t our dear neighbor stocking up his wine depot after the holidays“, he heard someone say behind his back. Carl turned around, pretended to be surprised at seeing them and said: “Oh my God – it is the Konrad family! Are you, too, out shopping?“

“What does it look like to you, Mr. Neighbor?“, a smiling solar Konrad yelled over the distance of five rows of shelves.

“Aren’t you in a good mood so early in the morning?“, Carl’s attempt at humor was a little forced. Still, he asked Mr. Konrad if he, too, liked  Amarone.

“My husband only drinks German wines“, wrinkled Luise interrupted them, “with those, at least you know what is inside“.

“That is true“, Carl nodded thoughtfully, “but if you stick to the high-priced wines in here, you will also never go wrong …“

“Well, we certainly cannot afford to buy one bottle of wine for forty euros“, Mr. Konrad grumpily replied.

“So what do you drink?“

“You know, in the Palatine, you can get quite a good vintage for next to nothing if you buy directly from the winegrower?

“Is that so?“, Carl said while adding eight more bottles of Amarone with a feeling of satisfaction he seldom experienced. Meanwhile, the Konrad couple shook their heads and went their way.

But Carl really got fed up when, back at home, Gerlinde – in cross-examination style – asked no less than five times about the stupid lemons and sardines. Not to forget the eight times she asked about the shitty butter and lentils. Did she imagine there were no other problems in the world?

Typically female: never look beyond your own plate. After all, there might actually be more to see than these narrow-minded household peanuts.

The great fruit he had bought was not even ignored!

And when he dared to politely mention it, Gerlinde only retorted she did not know what to do with this amount of products? Was he supposed to get a bigger refrigerator immediately now, as well, or what on earth did she expect? Unbelievable what women imagined …

If that was all the gratitude he got for voluntarily doing Gerlinde’s household chores, then thank you very much – he was not going to do it again!

The same was true for such wisecracks as “I do not remember having written Amarone onto the shopping list”. Consequently, Gerlinde was never ever going to hear about the eight beautiful bottles of Amarone that were still sitting in his car: except if she was prepared to join him when he indulged in all the eight little bottles…


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