After Six in the Evening (Abends nach sechs)

TuchoGesternMorgen

After six in the evening, couples stroll in the Berliner Tiergarten arm-in-arm, and holding hands, and they’re quite right to do so. It goes like this:

He collects her from work, or she him. They stretch their legs a bit, the evening air does them good after sitting in the office all day. Along the grey streets, for example through the Brandenburg Gate, and then into the Tiergarten. What do they do while they’re about it? They tell each other what happened at work. And what did happen at work? Trouble, that’s what happened at work. They say that one ‚swallows one’s anger‘, but it’s not true, one doesn’t swallow anything. One cannot respond in the moment it happens, not to the boss, not to the work colleagues, not to the janitor. That’s not a good idea, the other guy earns more, so he’s in the right. But it all comes out in the end, after six o’clock in the evening.

The couples stroll through the green avenues of the Tiergarten, and he tells her what happened to him at work. First, his report. You may have noticed how such encounters are reported just like dispatches from the front. The reporter is a model of calm and reason, only the evil enemy is a red indian on the warpath. It goes a bit like this: „I said, ‘Herr Winkler, I said, you can’t file it there!’” (reported in the calmest tone in the world, mild, gentle and wise.) „He said, ‘Excuse me!’ he said. ‘I’ll file it where I want!’“ (reported quickly, abruptly and furiously.) Now the Commanding Officer again, „I said, calmly, I said, ‘Herr Winkler’, I said, ‘you can’t file it there, otherwise the C post will get mixed up with the D post!’ He starts to shout! I have no right to give him orders, and anyway he never does what other people tell him to do. Don’t you think…?“ And, of course, they had both carried on like fish-wives. But sometimes it was the boss, and one can’t answer him back, so one ‘swallowed it’, and now it’s coming back. “Don’t you think…?“

Lottchen thinks it’s scandalous. “Oh! Well, I never!“ That does him good, It soothes his suffering heart. He can finally spit it all out! „I would really have liked to tell him to sort it out on his own if he didn’t like it, but I’m not going to make a scene with such an ignoramus! The man has no idea, I tell you! Not a clue! The way he is doing it now, the C post is bound to get into the D post, not a shadow of a doubt! But why should I care? I know what to do, just let him get on with it. He’ll see where that gets him!“ A bashful, admiring glance flits across the super hero. He is so right.

But now it’s her turn. „You can’t imagine how Elli schemes. Fräulein Friedland had a new blouse on, the day before yesterday, and she said on the phone, we were listening in, ‘We all know where some of our colleagues get the money for new blouses!’ What do you think about that? And Elli doesn’t even have a boyfriend any more! Her’s went away ages ago, to Bromberg!“ Trouble, fights with the second floor across the board. In the thick of the battle. „I didn’t say a word, but I thought to myself, ‚Well,’ I thought, ‘we also know where you got your silk stockings from!’ You know, she gets picked up from work every second evening. She has the car wait around the corner, but we found out straight away! She’s a really brazen piece of work!“ He squeezes her arm and says, “Would you believe it?” And now she’s in the right.

And they walk on. All the couples stroll on in the Tiergarten, telling each other tales, complaining about their lot, and they’re all in the right. They recover their equilibrium. It would be unhygienic to go straight home with all the saved-up conflict and frustration of the previous nine hours. It has to be let out. Miscalculations, stupid telephone conversations, answers not given, insults denied: everything comes out into the open. It is an orgy of the irony of working life. The blue veil of twilight descends on the trees and shrubs, and the couples stroll along the paths, arm-in-arm, killing their bosses, destroying their rivals, striking the enemy right in her lying heart. The audience is grateful, attentive and completely credulous. It applauds continuously. It shouts, „Encore!“ at the best bits. It kills, destroys and strikes with one. It is ally, friend, brother and audience, all at the same time. It is a pleasure to perform in front of it.

After six o’clock in the evening, offices are rearranged, staff promoted, bosses dismissed and, above all, salary levels set. Who would arrange the pay scales differently? Who would determine fair bonuses? Who would grant paid holidays? The couple, after six o’clock in the evening, that’s who.

The next morning, everything starts from scratch. One goes to work even-tempered, yesterday’s agitation is long gone, hat and coat are hanging in the cloakroom, books are straightened up, and off we go! The trouble can start. At three o’clock on the dot it’s there again, the same story as yesterday: Herr Winkler won’t file the post correctly, Fräulein Friedland screws up her nose, there is a slot missing in the holiday rota, and still no pay rise. Trouble, headaches, pointed telephone conversations, heavy silence in the office, thunderclouds overhead. The thunder roars, but the refreshing rain doesn’t arrive until the evening, with her, with him, arm-in-arm, in the Tiergarten.

Peace on earth and goodwill to the couples. The accused has the last word, and they are all in the right.

Author: Kurt Tucholsky

Published in:

TuchoGesternMorgen Tucho Between Yesterday and Tomorrow

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