Thursday, 26 January 2012

Breakfast in Bavaria

Hotel breakfast-room toasters are always inadequate. I have made a study of this all over the world and it is universally true that bread inserted and exposed to their elements for any amount of time will remain resolutely untoasted. This disappoints me more that the tea which is increasingly available in hotels on mainland Europe. The improvements are, presumably as a result of customer complaints, in provision of tea, hot(-enough) water and milk which doesn't taste artificial. A almost-decent cup of tea is now a possibility which I find deeply satisfying.

I am in the Munich Airport Sheraton, where I have been for a few days whilst I conduct some meetings in Augsburg. As hotels go, it does make you feel that it takes you by the ankles and shakes the very money from your pockets. Its not that nice and its quite expensive. But then there is the 14 euro for parking every night and the 20 euro for breakfast. It feels a bit skinflinty to me.

But I am not here to write a hotel review, though I am probably rather well placed to do so, no. Breakfast made me very pensive and I feel the urge to clarify my thoughts here in writing.

Breakfast rooms in hotels always provide much food for thought, as well as the other kind. There is always a variable array of plates, jars and bowls, accompanied by elaborate devices with containers that keep sausages hot, make bacon sweaty and turn scrambled egg to a kind of durable polymer of which shoe soles could possibly be fashioned. I stand at these things still bewildered after several decades of travel, and I still never really know what to have.
At home, I might have porridge most days, done in the microwave and sufficing until my 10:30 sandwich relieves my cycling-induced hunger. But here, faced with such a cornucopia, confusion is induced. As human beings, we really are rather baffled by too much choice, regardless of how desirable a state various economic theories might believe it to be.

So, leaving aside the tedium of what I generally do choose (and its not scrambled egg because not even a hyena's robust digestion could break that down), I turn to the behaviour.

I am sitting at my table, squeezing a small silk tea bag in some tepid water, whilst my toast undergoes its slow transformation to hard, warm bread. A small bald man in business attire, about late thirties, strides in and immediately heads for the cereal. He prepares a bowl of muesli, with milk, 1% Fett and takes it to his table, then he stomps over to the toaster and without pause, pulls my two pieces of pale toast from its slots and casts them carelessly to one side, WITH HIS BARE HANDS! Now, my mother taught me to wash my hands after I go to the toilet, but I know that not everyone had such enlightened parents and I was horrified momentarily that this man has arrogantly exposed me to his germs.
He stands waiting for his "toast" with a air of aggressive possession. I momentarily consider striding over and looming over him to pointedly take my toast. I can loom rather well, I have to admit. There is quite a lot of me. But no, I think, I shall put aside such petty thoughts.

But then he barks a couple of demands at the lovely waitresses and my ire is raised, my goat got.
I decide that either he is a nice man having a bad day, which is always possible, or that he really as unpleasant as my judgmental first impression had decided.
Anyway, I decide to ignore the little shit and get on with my breakfast. I take my toast, butter it, cut it into soldiers as any self-respecting Englishman would and dip one into my quite perfect soft-boiled egg.

The waitress comes over to me to ask for a signiture and beams at me with a lovely genuine smile. She asks inheavily accented Bayrisch-flavoured Deutsch if I have all I need and I reply that I am very satisfied, thank you.

And I wonder suddenly why some people are lovely to those they encounter every day, and some are unpleasant and intolerant. I am aware of the the G B Shaw quote about all progress being made by the unreasonable man, but I am prepared to forego a little progress for politeness sake.
The waitress sweeps away gracefully and I confess I give in to an urge to appraise the cut of her uniform as she walks to the desk. But even in this, her sunny disposition is apparent and contrasting to our little Napoleon with his scowl and bad grace.

It seems to me that being polite, pleasant, "nice", is a much better way to approach the world. Ok, we all have days that bring us circumstances that we would prefer to be otherwise and sometimes this is aggravating. But when we talk respectfully to people, ask them in a civilised manner for those things we want from them and generally go through the world noticing the happy things and responding accordingly, the World seems generally well-disposed to us.
And I wonder that some don't see this connection, this cause-and-effect, and continue to be curmudgeonly and critical with every comment and every interaction. Its better for your immune system (due to the production of nasty cortisol that results from aggravation) and in general just a better way to be.

So, with this in mind, I tidy up my hotel room prior to leaving, such that the cleanig staff have a minimum of work to do to rectify the chaos of my stay.

And I bid you all a sincere and heartfelt Good Day!

Except for our little Napoleon who I hope gets painfully egg-bound as punishment for his grumpiness.


sonia said...

Ick, I've come across my share of rude travelers and always felt quite certain that they were just miserable people. To be able to travel is a blessing given the economy. Clearly, Nappy didn't think so.

Librarian said...

Oh, there is an abundance of things in this post I would like to comment on, but I do not want to bore you sick with my ramblings and musings.
Being more a coffee than a tea person myself, I can not comment on the quality of tea in German (or other) hotels, but what I do miss in most German hotels as opposed to each and every one in the UK I've ever been to is the tea/coffee maker on each room.
It is so nice to be able to have that first mug of coffee before getting dressed and facing the crowd in the breakfast room, but you can't have that in so many of the German hotels I've been to.

As for nice v. grumpy - well, I personally enjoy my work, my shopping and travelling and all the other numerous activities infinitely more when I go about them being polite and kind to others and, where appropriate, friendly. I think I have even written about that myself at some stage on my blog.


Of all the jobs I've done (hundreds) waitressing exposed me to the worst behaviour imaginable from seemingly decent people.
Put food in front of someone and you see their true personality emerge.
That arsehole was probably used to his wife plonking his breakfast in front of him, and felt most demoralised at having to prepare his own toast.

PerlNumquist said...

Well, I found some quite unpleasant behaviour when i worked at the motorway services one summer as a student. The mess people used to enjoy making, just for the hell of it could turn my stomach on occasion. Not nice to clear away. This was 30 years ago nearly so the reports of declining behaviour in society don't really wash.
I just don't understand why people would revel in being grumpy and objectionable when the world is a place of much greater opportunity and enjoyment when you approach it cheerfully.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Pete:
What a thoroughly disagreeable man. Sadly, we have to say, that we have met many such fellow travellers, so much so that we really try to avoid large public rooms where the habits of such people are in such evidence that one is powerless to ignore them.

We agree with you that just a modicum of civility, a kind word and a smile is usually all that is necessary to get the very best from others and it does serve to make the world a happier place. And, in our experience,just a few words in the native language can work wonders!!

Kay G. said...

The young people here don't say "Have a nice day" anymore. Now, they say "Have a GREAT day"!

"Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not." That just came to me but I don't know who said it!

I just wrote a post about seeing faces in things and Librarian said that you had written a post about it too, tell me where so I can read it!
Oh, and have a GREAT day!

PerlNumquist said...

Lance & Jane: I think largely it is about manners. I know manners,especially when one is English, can often be front to hide barbs, so it is not all good. But in general, all situations are better when one has good manners. Being ungracious just makes one abrasive and causes people to avoid you, as you point out with your eschewing of large groups of travellers. I would personally prefer not to be avoided, but to be a worthy companion. My confusion is over why people would choose otherwise.
Kay: The article was not entirely about pareidolia (that tendency to see faces in patterns), more abut faces and how they change. It is here:

Jenny Woolf said...

Interesting - I have had so many hotel breakfasts but do NOT tend to notice the other diners much, I suspect I am too busy trying to decide what to have myself. But I might have been tempted to slip the used teabag into Napoleon's bowl of muesli when he wasn't looking.

I haven't been to the Munich Sheraton but could recommend the Hotel Torbrau. It is very convenient, comfortable and above all it has fantastic staff who seem really proud to be working there.Mind you I don't know if they have a business suite or conference rooms, I suspect not.

And, thank you for your comment on my blog! I'm glad I've found yours.

PerlNumquist said...

Thanks Jenny. I get so bored with hotel breakfast rooms. Rarely is there anything of interest in them.
Thank you too for the recommendation. I shall look up the hotel you mention. My meetings are usually actually in Augsburg, but I don't like any of the hotels down there and I prefer to be near Munich because I can go dancing there in the evenings. It beats watching german telly in a hotel room. The sheraton airport was, according to the company booking system, in Munich. Ha! I shant be trusting them again!