Television is bad for you, not because it dumbs you down, but because it makes you too clever for your own good. This is a story about a neighborhood-watching German lady who also may have watched too much court TV.
"I'm telling you, it's a baby!"
An elderly lady from the German city of Koblenz was recently woken out of her summer slumber by the screaming she heard coming from one of her neighbor's homes.
The piercing, high-pitched voice -- obviously belonging to a neglected child -- immediately dragged the old, unsuspecting woman into a nightmarish world of afternoon court TV shows, in which women are sued for going shopping rather than taking care of their children.
"Mother, oh mother!," the child kept screaming.
What is more important, family or shopping?
The lack of response was deafening.
"Poor, poor baby," the old lady must have thought. "Where is his mother?"
She knew exactly the type: those skinny ladies with too much makeup who seem to be surgically attached to their shopping bags. Those self-confident feminists who care more about their careers than creating a nurturing home for their family. Those flippant, frivolous miniskirt-wearing flirts who never cooked a decent meal in their lives.
Oh, yes, she knew what they were like. At the mere sight of those mindless little things prancing into the courtroom, Judge Judy and her German counterpart Richterin Barbara Salesch have been known to metamorphose into raging bulls exuding righteously indignant judicial steam out of their honorable, slightly oversized, ears.
A hot summer
Germany has been hit with an unprecedented heat wave this summer. In this kind of climatic misfortune, most people become slow-motion caricatures of themselves living in a permanent state of hangover or extended Mediterranean siesta.
It's been a sizzling hot summer in Germany this year
But as we grow older and as our thermoregulatory system begins to live a life of its own -- making some senior citizens wear woolen hats in the middle of August or refuse to go to bed without a hot water bottle -- we also develop an ability to act against the elements. We become resolute heroes despite the weather. Nothing can stop us.
The gentle lady of Koblenz -- a law-abiding citizen par excellence -- did what she thought was the only right thing to do when faced with an obvious case of negligence. She couldn't really go directly to her favorite TV judge, so she called the police. She reported the incident and asked for prompt action. A child was in desperate need for help.
A different genre
That was the point at which the afternoon court drama turned into an evening crime show, a "CSI Koblenz" of sorts. The police arrived in no time, set up the perimeter, investigated the scene, developed a profile and came to a shocking conclusion.
A famous German nursery rhyme starts with "Eins, zwei, Polizei, drei, vier, Offizier"
There was no crime scene. No clues were uncovered. Not a single suspect was apprehended. In fact, not even a single victim was found.
"Foul play," some people would say. "The police officer in charge is a crook!"
But that would be jumping for conclusions. The Koblenz police reported on Monday that nobody was apprehended because the screaming child turned out to be, in fact, a 25-year-old talking parrot.
Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
The parrot -- who got a little raucous while showing off his latest linguistic trick -- could have been charged with disturbing public peace, but that would have sent a wrong message to all the foreigners considering enrolling in a German language course at the Goethe Institute. Nobody should be discouraged from learning the slightly-larger-than-life language of Schiller and Heine, even parrots.
We should keep in mind that learning a foreign language is not easy if you come from a species whose idea of a kiss is synonymous with a sharp bite. Parrots have tongues and vocal chords that let them sing better than most German teenage pop stars. But they are no Angelina Jolie: They have no lips. Which means that bilabial sounds such as "m" and "b" are close to impossible for them to articulate properly, making a parrot's cry of "mama" even more impressive.
Not to mention that nobody should get arrested for trying to overcome the big linguistic divide. Even on a sizzling hot summer day when there's not much else to do.