Thursday, September 22, 2011
Germany 10: Trains, thirst and chocolate, or, Stay thirsty, my friends
On Saturday, our last full day in Germany, SH and I took the train out to Andechs, a brewery and monastery about an hour from Munich. The train took us to a town from where we walked about five km up a hill to the monastery, which I did just fine in my sandals but which would have been unbearable in my cowboy boots, which sorely betrayed me this trip. They feel so good when I put them on but it was a lie, a lie I tell you. That cushioning I felt was all a lie because in the end, those boots pulled out the knives and started slashing my feet. The sandals actually provided more support. After five km up and five km down, I had blisters, but my feet still did not hurt in that razor blade way that I think we all know.
But that is not the point of this story. What I really want to talk about is train delays.
Almost everything we encountered in Germany happened on time. Our tour of the BMW plant started at noon. Exactly. The hostess did not say, "Let's wait a minute to see if anyone else shows up." Nope. It was noon. The tour started at noon. She started. She did not wait. She did not punish those of us who were on time by making us wait for the latecomers.
I loved her.
I hate being forced to wait for latecomers.
Why bother to show up on time if you are going to have to wait for the people who are late? Why should those who are doing it wrong be rewarded?
The Germans have the right attitude.
The trains and the metro run on time. They have schedules. This is when this train leaves. This is when that train leaves. You can count on it. You can plan on it.
When we planned to take the 4:24 train back to Munich, we knew that was carved in stone.
We knew that we should not linger at the biergarten to watch the band sing "Bad Moon Rising" and should instead march our butts to the bahnhof to catch the train, not even stopping to get water even though we were thirsty from our five km walk down the hill.
Actually, this is not a post about train delays but a post about thirst and about SH's paranoia.
We were late. We saw the train waiting. We started running. A German couple said something to us that I did not understand as I do not speak German - even though the guy at passport control as we were leaving Munich said I look German and have a German surname and I should speak German and why don't I? - but their body language seemed to be saying, Don't bother. The train is late.
But we kept running because the trains ran only every 20 minutes and we didn't want to wait another 20 minutes. We had things to do back in Munich that evening.
When we got to the station, we discovered the train was not moving. Had not moved for an hour. Was not going to move. We (=I, as SH would rather die than ask a stranger a question that shows SH's ignorance) kept asking various people if they spoke English so we could get an interpretation of the announcements. Finally found someone who explained that there was something wrong on the tracks further down the line. The rumor was that they were going to put us on buses, so everyone moved toward the street.
Two minutes later, everyone started moving back toward the train and getting on the train. Figuring they must know something, we followed. Then we saw that the departure board was showing that the train would leave in nine minutes, which would get the train back on schedule.
We didn't know if we should believe it.
We finally decided, after two minutes, that we should.
In the half hour that we had wandered frantically around the platform, trying to figure out what was going on, I had gone to to the ladies' and filled and drained my water bottle twice, so I was no longer thirsty.
SH had not taken advantage of the time to do the same thing.
And he would not drink from my bottle because I had developed a sore throat.
He had gotten a cold and I had gotten a sore throat that just that day I had idly speculated might be strep throat. Which I have not had since I was eight.
With seven minutes to departure, we decided SH should try to buy some water of his own because he would not drink from my bottle. He ran to the station. Did not return. Did not return. Did not return.
I was nervous. What was my Plan B if the train started to leave and he wasn't on it? I hate these situations.
Fortunately, he returned.
Unfortunately, he had no water.
He couldn't find any.
But I saw several people coming from that little bar with bottles of water!
He didn't try there.
Because he didn't want to ask.
Because he didn't want to ask! What if the person thought he was stupid? He didn't know how to say "water" in German!
But why not just try?
He didn't want to sound stupid.
I guess you just weren't thirsty enough.
At 5:04, the regular departure time, we finally left.
When we got to the next station, we were delayed again to wait for the oncoming train.
Train logistics stuff. You know - one track, two trains, potential Lifetime movie.
A word about German weather, air conditioning and trains.
I don't know what German weather is usually like, but I do know this: most of the buildings I was in had windows that opened and did not have air conditioning, which would lead me to believe that it does not get too hot in Munich or that Germans are a lot tougher than Americans or both. If it does get warm, it appears that the German solution is to open a window - they had the windows open at the Deutsches Museum - rather than crank the a/c. Which, as I noted, they do not have.
The train had windows that would appear to open, but only with a key. They were closed.
So. Closed windows. Crowded train. Five missed departures' worth of passengers crowded into one train.
And it was over 80 degrees, which is not horribly warm to us in the US, but I think might be warm for northern Europe.
The train was sweltering. I was pouring sweat. I don't usually sweat. Mostly because I hardly ever exercise enough to sweat and because I no longer live in a warm climate.
But I was sweating. So much sweat that the three bottles of water that I had drunk in the past three hours HAD NOT CAUSED ME TO PEE ONCE.
SH, who, as you remember, was not thirsty enough to ask for water in a language he does not speak, was parched.
"I have water," I told him, as I dangled the bottle in front of him.
He recoiled in horror. "I can't get sick! That bottle is disgusting! It's like a petri dish of germs! Your strep has been incubating in there for days!"
I shrugged. "Up to you."
Another fifteen minutes passed. We would start and stop and wait. The two girls across the aisle from us played a listless game of gin rummy. The older lady next to us heaved deep sighs of frustration. The man across from me tried to keep his bicycle from knocking into me and talked sports with the three men standing behind him. Probably sports. They probably weren't talking about all the great deals they were getting on amazon.com with the strong euro.
SH slid further down the seat. He wasn't even sweating any more. No more fluids in his body. His eyes started to sink into his head. We weren't even halfway to Munich yet.
I offered the water again.
"No!" he whispered weakly as he waved the cootie-laden bottle away from him.
"But yesterday we shared a gelato" I said.
You didn't say anything about strep then," he snapped, as much as a person can snap when he is weak from dehydration. "Plus there is no reason to increase my exposure."
He got quieter and quieter and wasn't even whining which is how I knew he truly felt crummy. A silent SH is a sick SH.
The girls across from us stopped playing cards and leaned their heads against the window. The bicycle guy fell silent. The older lady sighed, but not so loudly.
Forty minutes in and we still had five stops to go.
The train stopped. SH looked up. "Get off here," he said. "I have to get some water and we're at a stop served by other lines. We can take another train in a few minutes."
We jumped off the train and took the escalator down because we were that tired and lazy. If you are a healthy person who is not carrying anything, there is almost no reason ever to take an escalator down. SH almost always takes the stairs, even when he is carrying luggage. Maybe he should carry weights up and down the stairs with him when he is getting the dill pickle Pringles hidden in the basement.
In every train station we saw in Germany, except for the one where we were delayed, there were convenience stores and bakeries and snack shops. Places to get food. Because when people are on the train, they are bored and they want to eat.
The station where we left the train?
They were doing construction.
The place was ripped to shreds and most of the shops were gone except for a place you make bets and a falafel place that had bottles of soda on the counter. No water visible. Our train left in seven minutes. There was a woman paying for her two falafel with pennies that she was counting out one by one. SH did not want to wait and said it wouldn't matter anyhow because look, it was only soda, not water.
We trudged out of the station and looked for a convenience store on the street. Dry cleaner. Toy store. Gelato/espresso shop. We decided the gelato shop was the best bet. Again, we were stuck in line behind a slow decider who just didn't know which flavor he wanted and oh! yes! an espresso as well! and what? you want me to pay now? OK, I'll get out my wallet.
I wanted to scream at him. That baloney makes me nuts even when I am not in a hurry.
Finally, it was our turn. I asked for water because SH would not.
Nope. No water. I saw plastic cups on the counter in back next to the coffee machine, but knew there was no chance of getting a glass of tap water given the German attitude toward such.
SH decided that a chocolate gelato might tide him over until he found something more fluid.
We returned to the train station, SH licking his cone, me eying it hungrily. I knew he wouldn't share it with me because of the strep situation but I assumed he would save the very last of it for me.
I couldn't believe the falafel guy would have soda but not water. We walked past his shop and I stopped. "I'm asking," I told SH, who was appalled.
"Do you have water?" I asked.
Yes, I said it in English, but in German, the word for "water" is "wasser," so it's not such a stretch.
The man nodded. I held up one finger. He reached beneath the counter.
"Wait!" SH said.
"Wait why?" I asked.
"How much? I want to know how much it costs!"
"Does it matter?" I asked.
"Of course it matters!"
This from the man who thinks nothing of spending $5 on a beer when he isn't even thirsty.
I rolled my eyes. "How much?" I asked the man.
One euro fifty, he said.
SH decided that he was thirsty enough to pay that amount. I held the gelato while he drank the entire bottle in one swallow, then handed the cone back to him. His face started to look better. He perked up. Could have been the water, could have been the chocolate.
Then, as I gasped in dismay, he popped the last bit of the cone into his mouth.
His suffering had become mine.