An Alien in America

An alien's perspective on life and everything else

Week 3 – Germany

Posted by nickxyz on March 3, 2008

Well, week 3. Been house hunting for quite a while now and not much of interest so far. Had a pretty promising townhouse, but the landlord rescinded his ‘Ok’ at the very last minute…. Almost sounds as if he was ‘convinced’ that two dogs would wreack havoc and irreparable damage to his ‘artisan’ wood floor. Well…. Talk about little kids and associated daily accidents….

Moving on. Also taking the train to my parents’ house pretty much every weekend to visit the girls. Initially, I was somewhat concerned with their speed of getting adjusted (not…), but they seem to have settled in quite nicely. No wonder, given that they are feed beef bones once a week, including the broth, as well as pig ears and other assorted ‘dietary supplements’ on a regular basis. They also do get a daily 90 minute walk… (yeah, they didn’t quite get that with us every day….), including a daily stop at one of the creeks. Regardless of the weather, the Fat one takes a bath every single time. Even if there is a sheet of ice covering the creek.

Talking about the weather. I can’t remember if this is normal for this season, but the weather does indeed fluctuate quite a bit. We have already had several days in the 50s and 60s in February, but also lows of 25 and colder, Fahrenheit that is. The early flowers are already peeking their heads out. According to the weather service, it should snow tomorrow… which would be the end of most of the early flowers.

Last weekend, I had planned to take in a little bit of culture. All prepared, even had a digital camera to take some ‘evidence’, but the weather had to turn into this awful nasty windy rainy cold something all weekend long. In fact, the wind gusts went up to 200km/hr in certain areas, including ours, causing some pretty significant damage all over. I had originally planned to board my customary train in the afternoon on Saturday to take the scenic route across the state border after my cultural outing. Starting out at the local S Bahn station, I took it to the main train station, thinking I would board my train about 10 min early and just settling in and taking a nap. Well….. 

First, I get to the platform and a different train occupies my train’s spot…. Not good. No announcements, no nothing. That train’s departure time was listed with 10 min after mine. Strange. I’ll wait. 5 min till departure time, finally an announcement. Train X usually leaving from platform 8 is now ready to board on platform 15, mine! Same announcement 3 minutes later. Train X finally leaves. Another 10 min pass. Another announcement: the train originally planned for platform 15 going to Y has been cancelled, all passengers please visit the service point for further information. By then, rumors had already spread that last night’s storm and this morning’s nasty weather might have had a more significant effect on public mass transportation than originally anticipated. Unfortunately, when I had purchased my ticket that very morning, no message or announcement had been visible on the Deutsche Bundesbahn’s website. Might have been helpful.

So we all trott inside to the service desk called service point. Already two lines had formed, about 100 km each… A handful of service personnel is trying to address passengers’ concerns while they wait in line. Poor staff. Some of the passengers had been sitting on their respective trains for several hours somewhere in the middle of nowhere waiting for the tracks to be cleaned up. One train even had been sitting for 5 hours…. I vividly remember the middle aged lady who loudly explained her plight to everyone in the entire building. Since we were all bored to tears anyway, it proved to be some rather entertaining side event. Poor staff…. Finally, it was my turn. After I had already found out that my track direction had been adversely affected by the storms (all service was suspended), I just wanted to have my ticket stamped to be eligible for a refund… The lady at the desk probably had been dealing with a huge mass of more or less disgruntled passengers already, so her mood and service committment did lack a little bit by the time I got there. Nevertheless, I convinced her that all I needed was her blessing in the form of a stamp to get my money back. I won’t go into further details about the fruitless conversation I had with her in trying to obtain a good customer service address (to mail the ticket to) and trying to convince her that the address listed on the ticket is nothing more than a business address…. required by law to be printed on each ticket. Same thing as the customary footer of each official business communication letter. Finally, I got what I wanted and made my way back to the platforms outside. Since there was no way of leaving the city, I decided to just take the S Bahn back from where I had come from.

According to the schedule, they run in 30 min intervals. I should just about come up on the next one. Get there, again, another train… The display still shows the train from 1.5 hrs ago…. strange. The wind again had picked up… My ears started to really get cold. So I waited for the next scheduled interval. Needles to say, the S Bahn didn’t show up. What else could I do than wait??? In the meantime, I had started a conversation with another passenger just as tired as I was about the ineffectiveness of the Deutsche Bahn to spread information to its passengers in a timely manner. The main train station that afternoon was a MESS…

Finally, about 1 hour later, my S Bahn finally arrives. I get on, sit down and just wanted the thing to move…. It seemed as if it took its own sweet time that late Saturday afternoon, deliberating whether it indeed would be going down its scheduled train track. 30 min later I was in the same spot I had departed about 3 hours earlier thinking I would be at my destination 80 min later…. And it had started to rain again, too.

Once at the house, I had a hot cup of tea, a little bit of food and went straight to bed. I think it was 6.30 pm. Had a monster headache, frozen ears and cold throughout. Didn’t need another flu episode…. Got up at 8 am on Sunday.

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