The art of the story
"Man in front of City Hall“
The story of
Our friend from City Hall is gone: For decades, Uwe sold Hinz&Kunzt in the Rathauspassage. Now he has passed away. An obituary by Hinz&Kunzt social worker Stephan Karrenbauer.
Uwe, our longest-serving salesman, died in hospital at the age of 78. We are truly sorry. Since the mid-1990s he stood in the Rathauspassage, he knew many members of parliament personally – and they him. In recent months, he had been diagnosed with cancer. Although he was getting weaker, he remained resiliently optimistic. “[I’m] doing everything I can to survive,” he said. “I don’t want to miss anything.”
And that’s what the rescue workers did. Yesterday, on his way to chemotherapy, he collapsed and lost consciousness. The rescue forces were able to revive him for a short time, but he did not regain consciousness and passed away.
Uwe, badge number 38, was one of the salesmen of the very beginning. When we met him, he was in his early 50s and very destitute. He had been through an odyssey: children’s home, men’s housing, street, and a cheap hotel in the neighborhood paid for by the state. Decades earlier, he had once started an apprenticeship as a gas station attendant and dropped out later. Sometimes he had a job, but never for long. He was an alcoholic, addicted to gambling, and restless. Through Hinz&Kunzt, he finally found an apartment for the first time in his life.
My children were a little afraid of him. When he laughed, you could see that he hadn’t any teeth left – only pointed corner teeth. And he always wore slippers, summer, and winter – and then with several pairs of socks in them. This really outraged my children: Couldn’t we buy him some real shoes? We wanted to, but he didn’t want them. He found his slippers comfortable.
His clients loved him
He had only two sales places in those 27 years. The first of them was in front of the Douglas perfumery in the city center. There is still an old photo: The Douglas saleswomen and Uwe – beaming and proud. In the mid-1990s, another project by Hinz&Kunzt founder, Stephan Reimers, opened the Rathauspassage. Reimer’s fan Uwe moved and has represented the “man of the people” in the political sphere ever since. He knew all the politicians, we believe. Many of them were regular customers and had a chat with the Hinz&Künztler. He enthusiastically told us what he had experienced. Once, the Klitschko brothers’ manager gave him two front-row complimentary tickets to an important fight. He proudly showed the tickets around everywhere, everyone had to gape at them – and then he sold them. He needed the money. Because he drank less in the meantime, but he remained addicted to gambling for the rest of his life. As an addiction therapist, that was a big challenge for me. Only a clean life was a life worth living for me. “Stephan, why should I go to therapy?” he said to me. “I’m not hurting anyone, why should I give up something I enjoy so much?”
Speaking of money: In the 1990s, he still had to pay an insanely high fine for constant fare evasion, around 3,000 marks. To our horror, he bragged in court that he earned around 100 marks a day. That was not true at all, but he promptly collected a correspondingly high daily rate. We asked him in amazement why he had said that. His answer: He wanted to appear respectable so that he wouldn’t have to go to jail. At least we were able to agree on an installment payment with the court …
“If I didn’t have Hinz&Kunzt, I would have been dead a long time ago,” he kept saying. And maybe that’s even true. Hinz&Kunzt was his life. And he was important to us.
Uwe was one of the most optimistic people I have ever met. I never experienced him being angry with anyone for a long period of time, that he even thought badly of anyone. And people treated him with kindness and affection. He literally lived for that affection. Even when he was only at home because of cancer. He was exuberantly happy when someone visited him and brought him something. His neighbor Sonja often rang the doorbell and brought him something to eat. And his care provider liked him, too. Why was he so popular? Perhaps because this alcoholic and gambling-addicted man, of all people, embodied something like innocence – and pure joie de vivre.
Uwe died on December 17th as a result of his cancer. We will miss him.