It may have been one of the first times since I have been in Berlin that I took a ‘commuter train’, i.e. a train that people take going to or coming from their place of work.
I had just dandled my way to the Belgian embassy (which is difficult, if you bother to look up the definition of ‘to dandle’) where I finally tried to register myself as an expat (of course, I didn’t succeed in registering, because I had hundreds of documents with me proving my German residence, but not the one that they required). They were reallly nice there, though – talked to a lovely lady who would invite me for receptions at the embassy and was keen to know more about what I did (reminds me about that time in Sweden where we were invited at the embassy for dinner, just because the ambassador had a free night on his schedule (which I guess must happen a lot, since I don’t imagine there to be many diplomatic conflicts going on between Belgium and Sweden… or Germany for that matter)).
The linguist in me couldn’t let go of the fact that the plaque of the Belgian embassy that they recovered from the rubble from the Second World War translated ‘embassy’ as ‘boodschap’ (or ‘message’ – ‘Belgian Message’) as per the German ‘belgische Botschaft’. Nowadays, ‘boodschap’ is either used as an errand one has to run or colloquial as a bowel or bladder movement (large or small ‘message’), which made me imagine what a ‘Belgian Message’ would look like. The plaque was really nice; it had bullet holes and everything!
Anyway, on my way back (after a stop-over at the film development factory (or ‘shop’)) I found myself on an S-bahn train filled with commuters. It occurred to me that it was that time of day when ‘regular’ people get off of work. This meant full trains and standing up, something I’m not accustomed to, probably due to my irregular train usage hours.
An older woman resting on a cane stood at my stop where I had to get on. Stumbling on the train, she scanned the seats for any empty ones, but all seats were filled and everyone looked away and those that did spot her quickly looked away too. After two stops, when several people left seats that were quickly taken by younger and fitter people than her (she tried to take them, but was of course too slow), it dawned on me that she would not get a seat from anyone on this train. People coming from work in this particular competitive society have a sense of entitlement that I don’t share with them. It really annoyed me I couldn’t find the right German words to just ask that bunch of people if any of them would like to help an old lady, but I couldn’t just let it go, since it was annoying me so, so much.
Another seat came free and I jumped in front of two people who tried to fill it (and who did notice her struggling, I’m sure of that), so that she could sit there. I had to guide her, since she didn’t really believe me at first. Confused, but incredibly grateful, she rested herself and I did the same to my mind.
Why did I never join the boy scouts?