The Customer is Sometimes an Abbot

My day job occasionally requires me to don respectable-looking clothing. Yet, I don't like ironing and can't afford to send my clothes to the cleaners. The solution? Walbusch! It's a mail-order firm that offers impeccably stuffy clothing for the petty, and even the not-so-petty, bourgeoisie. There's nothing, literally nothing you can buy from Walbusch that would raise an eyebrow at a regional managers' retreat, or a seminar on the idea of nature in von Liliencron's late work. Plus, most of their stuff is ironing-free. You get it out of the washer, hang it up, and it pretty much looks wearable, without that cheap perma-press look. And it's not even all that expensive!

So I was sending them an email to get an order straight recently, when I happened upon the 'Titel' field in their email-contact form. One of the charmingly 19th-century things about Germany is the obsession with titles, which seems not to have slackened one micron since, say, 1867. And if there is any group of Germans likely to be persnickety about their titles, it's the kind of people who would order deeply respectable clothing apparel from Walbusch.

Walbusch understands their clientele. Oh yes, they do. Most certainly. Go to this page and click on the 'Titel' dialog-box, and you will see something truly majestic: a list of just about every title a German could possibly ever carry. The list starts with Abt (Abbot(!)), and then dazzles us with a cavalcade of social distinction, from Architekt to Botschafter (Ambassador), Baron, Prinz (Prince), Graf (count), zillions of kinds of Ingenieure (engineers) and Paedagogen (teachers educators), and some truly exotic creatures who perch in the higher echelons of administration: Oberamtsrat, Oberstudienrat, Hofrat and even Prokurist (no, it's not what you're thinking). The only one that's missing is Santitaetsrat. But if you're a MIN-RAT., whatever the hell that is, Walbusch has got you covered.

And why, pray tell, does a Prokurist give a shit whether a box of underpants comes with his title prominently displayed on the address label? Easy: because then all of the poor schlubs who took his order, packed his clothes, shoved the box in the cargo plane, drove it to his neighborhood, and delivered it to his front door will — like his neighbors — know that Maximilian Halbschmarotzer is a Prokurist, dammit!*

* Not that I fancy cultural tit-for-tatting for its own sake, but it's useful to remember things like the Walbusch 'Title' dialog box next time you hear some haute-bourgeois German sniffing that Americans' desperate need to display their wealth must point to a terrible sense of insecurity.