One of the reasons things are not going as well as expected in Eastern Europe is that so many jobs are being eliminated by the new regimes.
I met an East German immigrant in the Boston air terminal recently, and we started talking about the old country.
"What did you do in East Germany?" I asked him.
"I watched people," he said.
"What do you mean you watched people?"
"I got up in the morning, dressed, climbed a ladder behind the Berlin Wall and watched West Germans."
"Anything. For example, if a West German woman went into a laundry, I wrote it down in my book. I even watched the driver when he delivered a Domino's pizza. No one escaped my sharp, piercing eyes."
"What were the West Germans doing while you were watching them?"
"They were watching me. There were times when things were very quiet and we did nothing but stare at each other for hours on end."
"Besides peering at West Germans in the streets, did you also watch them in their apartments?"
"No, we had special people to do that. You had to know someone in the secret police to qualify as an apartment watcher, because obviously there were more exciting things going on in someone's flat than outside in the street. To tell you the truth, I was hoping to be promoted to apartments when the roof fell in on watching West Berlin."
"During all your years as a street spy, was there any particular incident that stands out?"
"I once saw an American student come up to the wall, pull his pants down and turn his backside toward East Germany while photographers took pictures of him."
"What did you do?"
"I made a note of it in my book."
"After looking at Berlin through binoculars for so many years, did you ever have the desire to go over the wall yourself?"
"Never. If I went to West Berlin, then I would have to get a job watching East Berlin, and that would be really depressing. I was one of the few East Germans who liked where they lived."
"Then what are you doing in the United States?"
"I lost my job. They called me in and said, 'Klaus, you don't have to watch West Germans anymore.'
" 'Why not?' I asked them.
" 'Because we are no longer interested in what they do. They can toss Frisbees into the center of Odenstrasse and we couldn't care less.'
"I told them, 'Right now is the honeymoon, but someday when we get mad at West Germany again, you are going to need professional watchers, and they will all be retired.' "
"Are you optimistic about getting a people-watching job in the United States?"
"Yes. I hear that the Justice Department is looking for someone to keep an eye on Mayor Barry."