May 1993, Laboe, Germany
Germans have a reputation for punctuality. And generally, it is in fact a well-deserved reputation. When I first visited Munich, I stayed outside the city and took the S-Bahn into Munich, which was scheduled to arrive at my stop at 9:12. But at 9:12:30, other people already started to fidget, looking at their watches, and looking at the schedule! Eventually, the train arrived at 9:12:45, and everyone was happy again.
Punctuality is especially important to the efficient operation of the railroads, and since trains are an important fact of life for Germans, it isn't difficult to understand why time is so important to Germans. Consider the S-Bahn. In most cities with commuter S-Bahn systems, there's a central line running through the middle of the city, with lines branching out in all directions in the outskirts. And so while outlying stations may get a train every 20 minutes, once the lines merge in the center of the city, trains arrive every two or three minutes apart.
Actually, punctuality might not be a matter of social conditioning for Germans. I suspect there may be a genetic factor. For me, I seem to have a natural talent of arriving on time without much of a conscious effort. For example, when I was first dating Sylvana, I would drive all the way across the city and surprise her by arriving at her doorstep at the exact pre-arranged time!
But what does this essay on German punctuality have to do with this photo of a beach in the Baltic Sea resort town of Laboe? Note the clock placed in a prominent position on the beach. And note that this isn't at all unusual for Germany. Other beaches also have clocks. And you can bet this clock keeps as good time as the clock in the railroad station!
Click on the thumbnail to see the full photo.