Here are a few of the encounters that I have had, that have strayed out from the ordinary a bit.
I was riding a tram one day, and I was sitting in the front. A woman boarded the tram, and started muttering very rude things in the general direction of the two young men sitting across from me. I think I heard something like “pigdog” and a few other uncouth remarks. From the look of them, they were of Turkish decent, or some other Middle Eastern country. The muttering got louder, and I realized that the woman was fiddling with her cell phone, trying to take a photo. The young men also realized this, and covered their faces. Now yelling, this woman started accusing one of the men of robbing her, and taking her hand bag. He denied this, and they started a tussle over one of the bags he was carrying. They were both hollering “mein Geld!” At this point, the girl sitting near them got a frightened look on her face, and got up to exit at the next stop. I started making my own exit plans. No one else in the tram, which was rather full, bothered to get involved in the struggle. Finally, the tram stops, the young man in question beats a hasty exit, the woman arguing sits down, and everyone relaxes. She proceeds to phone the police, and as my stop was next, I gratefully detached myself from the situation.
I have had at least a few people in the train station approach me and ask for money. They are generally really polite, and are just trying to get from point A to point B, and are out of luck. Or so they say. They never ask for more than a euro or two. I'm told there are "punks" in the train station that do this, and that they hate Americans. There was an older gentleman on the tram one day who wanted to trade me a ten euro bill for “klein Geld” to pay for his ticket (the ticket machines only accept coins). And lastly, there was the little girl who hoodwinked me in Berlin. She couldn’t have been older than eight. She stopped me, and gestured to a paper in here hands. Written in both English and German, the paper explained that this was a signature drive for some local legislation regarding the welfare of disabled people. Sounds good, I though, and proceeded to write my name down. Then, as she gestured again (she never said a word) toward the donation box, I realized I had been snookered. I laughed, and handed her a euro, which no doubt went to feed her family, or buy her an ice cream cone, and then left.
A very interesting encounter was with a fellow probably early to late 60’s in age. We were lined up at a cross walk waiting for it to turn. It took forever for it to turn, and as there were no cars coming he ambled into the street. Finding this against a certain stereotype, I laughed bit, and he heard it. He comes back across, and fires off a few quick sentences at me in a thick Saxon accent. Realizing I couldn’t understand him, he switches to beautiful English, and starts a long monologue about all the problems that he has been dealing with. To begin with, he is irritated at the way West Germany took over East Germany and still lords over it. To have to obey all their laws is not right, says he. “If all the decisions come from Frankfurt, then this isn’t a democracy.” As we walked down the row of apartments, he continues on to another point. Apparently, he was upset about the large number of students coming from everywhere to attend the University in Leipzig. “9/11 was perpetrated by students in America. I don’t know if I’m living next door to a terrorist!” He goes on, arguing that the number of refugees coming over is also a problem. There are apparently not enough jobs to go around. Then, in closing, he argues that, while a lot is bad here, at least we don’t have issues like the American health insurance debacle. He is satisfied with the health care in Germany. He said a lot more, and I couldn’t help but laugh a little inside, as he hit on every stereotype that I had come across for older people in the former East German areas. As we came to my apartment, I excused myself, and he politely thanked me for my time and for listening.
Posted on Tue, July 14, 2015
by James Nantze