»Seven«, I hiss. »Seven? No way. Oh, you're right. Eeeek!« My boyfriend turns back towards me and slowly puts the Malta travel guide which he had taken out of his backpack for camouflage back on the table. »Seven«, he grins somewhat helplessly and gets up in order to take a closer look on the way to the coffee dispenser. We are in the breakfast room of the first package holiday after a lifetime of camping trips. It's our fifth day, and we can't stop being amazed. St. Pete's has arranged a full seven fried eggs around his plate today, together with the compulsory five glasses of orange juice (so he won't have to refill in between), four slices of bread fried in oil, baked beans and a tower of bacon we haven't yet been able to quantify.
British breakfast is like hitting upon »Notruf« while zapping channels. You can't look away, but if you do look, you feel sick. By the way, St. Pete's is the corpulent English gentleman sitting at the table next to ours, and his name is St. Pete's because we've never seen him wearing anything other than a striped T-shirt with »St. Pete's Beach« written on it. In the meantime my boyfriend has come back with the coffee and murmurs: »Mr. Saucer is doing it again. It can't be a coincidence.« »Has Morning seen it? The Clearer would make him stop, but she still doesn't dare to approach his table«, I reply twisting to get up and visit the buffet for a second helping of muesli. On my way there I observe him attentively. It's true, the man sitting at the table at the far right has poured some spilt coffee back into the mug again and is now stirring it quietly. We suppose he systematically presses the coffee button twice in order to save himself a trip. One table farther down sits the nice little lady who speaks like Miss Sophie and always cleans up the tables. Eating my muesli I salute the friendly probably-lesbians and, standing by the toaster, I eavesdrop on the ritual morning discussion between the German hippie and the Debater.
Today the topic is oranges and the German Railway. On the way back to our table I come across Morning, our waiter who keeps saying »Morning Sir. Morning my love, how are you?«, and take a good look at GZSZ (1) who is blissfully stuffing an entire half of a roll into his mouth. His companion, once again, is not speaking to him, and somehow I can understand that since we named him after his ever-present fun-shirt, the front of which features a copulating couple under the heading »Good Times« and on the back of which there is a male primary sexual characteristic together with a right hand and the title »Bad Times«. The companion is silently eating beans with tomato sauce. Ever since her crochet dress provoked spontaneous associations in my boyfriend, we've been calling her Curtain.
Back at the table, my boyfriend points out some big news to me: Pearl Harbour finally has a new T-shirt, on which the writing »USS Missouri« at last solves the pressing question whether the »Remember Pearl Harbour« T-shirt he wore for the last few days was to be interpreted as a thoughtless souvenir coincidence or as a political message. Outraged, I dunk the strawberry tea bag I brought from home into the mug and think that »Kriegsschifffreund« (»Friend of war-ships«, translator's note) is now spelt with a triple »f«.
Actually, I am shocked by our development. Normally, during our holidays we sit inside our Volkswagen van with our tea mugs, look out at the sea contemplating our lives and enjoying our peaceful solitude. The breakfast room turns us into merciless scandalmongers. Every trip to the muesli jar becomes a reconnaissance mission. Genially murmuring »morning«, we blend in with the breakfast crowd and have brief chats about the sunshine and destinations for day trips. Squinting at other peoples' plates, we count their sausages and discuss fashion trends such as track suits with stiletto sandals or trousers pulled over the belly button together with gold chains.
Of course I know this game, the »who-what-and-with-whom« one plays joyfully lurking in restaurants and street cafés. But the continuity of this – especially in January – pleasantly manageable package-tour-breakfast-group allows for interesting long-term observations. And we are not the only observers.
Especially Curtain and GZSZ keep looking around themselves unobtrusively and go into a huddle whispering. Morning discretely disapproves of my ego-tea-bags, and the Clearer tries to be faster than the cleaning staff. Come to think of it, maybe they all eat so much in order to be able to make as many reconnaissance trips as possible. Package-tour breakfast is a state of siege. A secretless paradise for Schily and Beckstein. And all that with self-made code-names. I wonder what they are saying about us? Maybe my name is muesli. Or Headmop. I think I'll get some more orange juice.