STRASSENBEGEHER

Squares and Lines. Looking down. All day long. I watch my steps. Setting one foot in front of the other. Rolling my foot to perfection, from the heel up to my tiptoes. With a quick application of pressure onto the asphalt to finish off the step. My body under pressure. I walk cautiously. At least this is one of the only things I really do. My eyes move slowly upwards. From all those squares and lines. I fix them on my surroundings, some passengers, the windows of people’s houses. My legs straight, as is my back. My red-blond hair short. A golden earring in my right ear. My face motionless. A kind of poker face.

And then those walkers. They attach their dogs to a leash as soon as they see me. I grandly smile at them. Straightening my uniform. Dark blue with the red logo of the city on my right arm. I have two kinds of uniforms: a winter and a summer one. In summer I wear a light blue shirt with short sleeves. The pants are always the same. Straight cut. I have four pairs of them. A man comes quickly out of his house as I walk by. I stop for a while. Watching him pulling out his car to park it correctly. From an Absolute Halteverbot to a designated parking spot. Parkhafen. I grandly smile at him. In a way I like their scared look when they feel caught. For an unleashed dog, for a wrongly parked car.

But I do none of these things. I do not write out tickets for unleashed dogs and wrongly parked cars. I am a Straßenbegeher. That is a profession. My profession. I walk ten kilometres a day. Fifty kilometres a week. Two thousand three hundred kilometres a year. In my Revier. In the west of my town. I know all those sidewalks. Squared paving-stones, small and big, grey or red, placed diagonally or in a line. My job is Recht und Ordnung. I watch out for Unfallgefahrenstellen. I spot Stolpergefahren. A defect paving—stone on the sidewalk. Sticking out just a few centimetres too far. I need to report the damage. The Stolpergefahr. The Unfallgefahrenstelle. I pull out my recorder: Cranachstraße, Nummer fünf, linke Seite, defekter Bordstein in Nähe des Blumenkübels. There are five of us Straßenbegeher in this town. Five for the 90 000 inhabitants, who take what we do for granted. I do not mind. I like to be unnoticed. I am my own boss and I do good. I do not need a thank you. It is okay that way. My colleague from the other side of town has been a Straßenbegeher for many years now. They call him sheriff there.

After I have done my rounds I return to the office in the town’s Rathaus. I write reports. Every day. Thousands of reports a year. I report Unfallgefahrenstellen. In zweifacher Ausführung. What at first was just a Stolpergefahr can be specified now. Specified Danger. I have special forms. I specify the sort of damage. My reports will be handed out to the Flickwagenfahrer. Little orange pick—ups. They drive to the Unfallgefahrenstelle. They repair the sidewalks. They do what I tell them to do.

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