As I have often done in the morning after dropping das Kind off at camp, I am at a table outside the Spätkauf, sipping espresso and sunning my face before beginning my work for the day. Up rolls an elderly man – sweatpants, old windbreaker, sandals with socks (natürlich). Rolls because he is using a walker with wheels and a handbrake. And because the door into the Späti is a big step up from sidewalk level, he parks there, just at the threshold, and shouts in his morning greeting. The man inside asks him what he would like. It appears they have done this before.
"Fünf Sterni und fünf Kindl!" comes the reply.
The shopkeeper spryly comes out from behind the Kasse, takes the beers from the fridge, and places them into the wire basket fixed to the front of the man's walker. Money is exchanged, farewells also. And then, with a creek and the tinkle of glass bottles – a uniquely Berlin tintinnabulum – the elderly man wheels off over the paving stones in the direction of the Schlesisches Tor. After pausing briefly to chat with another man, he continues his slow progress toward...home?
It is 9:30 in the morning.