"You are doing an amazing job! The way you interact with the customers is really, really beautiful."
How did she react?
"Oooh, thank you!"
How did I feel?
Gentrification happens everywhere. Urban areas around the world fight over rising rents. Landlords, tenants, companies and politicians, they all battle. If you live in a city you have been there: No party without a guest's "gentri sucks!" monologue, no neighborhood without at least one critical mural.
My room mate and I's rent will be higher from January on, for no particular reason. We are no millionaires; Studying philosophy is the antidote to making cash on the spot. I am good at contemplating on monetary reality and its epistemology! But while I do that my balance stays as leveled as Northern German landscapes.
So I need legal assistance. Is my landlord even allowed to raise our rent? In Germany there are associations offering legal advice to tenants for very little money. Last Monday I went to one them and asked for counseling. Coming in spontaneously I had a one hour waiting time ahead of me. Alexandra, the counter lady, explained everything to me with an open smile on her face. While I had a coffee and listened to the click clack of the clock I watched her attend upon others. She calmly repeated what she had told me and did not for a second sound like she had been saying these words over and over again for years. She made everyone feel like they were the most important people in the room. Listening carefully, nodding sympathetically, answering clearly. And she cracked jokes. Good jokes.
While I observed the situation I suddenly remembered I had seen her before. Four years ago I had lived in the same neighborhood and had consulted the same tenant's association. And: Alexandra had been there, covering the front desk shift. I smiled. I love when, in huge places like Berlin, things stay the same. After my appointment with the lawyer (which unfortunately did not leave me full of hope) I passed Alexandra again and asked her if she'd really been around that long. She put down her Terry Pratchett book, grinned, and said: "I have been here forever!". I complimented her. I could tell she was thrilled. It was a sweet moment.
It's funny: Though I really want my living situation to be peaceful I can't wait for the day that I am in trouble with my landlord again so I can go and enjoy Alexandra's service.