I am at the airport and in a good mood. It is a sunny day in Berlin, and my mom is arriving from Los Angeles. There, she is walking through the exit! Immediately wrapped up in conversation, we head for the bus station, tagging along a heavy suitcase. From afar, we spot the large crowd, at four pm in the afternoon, in the middle of the summer break, we are not the only travelers.
Determined to get on the very next bus, we plant ourselves right before the bus stop sign devising a clever plan to snatch front seats. Shortly upon the bus’ arrival, we are in our seats, the suitcase between us. Under a built-in window, in leveled up seats, we hover over tired, pressed together fellow passengers, who are clutching the handrails and bars - relieved for a brief moment to be sitting and somewhat separated from the crowd. Ten minutes later, trapped in a bus with no air-conditioning nor open windows, crawling through rush hour traffic by seemingly inches, with far apart stops, and more and more passengers squeezing themselves into the bus, glued to seats directly in the sun, melting away in the basking heat, we begin to regret our choice. Around us other passengers raise their voices: “Can you open the doors while we are locked down in non-moving traffic,” they call out to the driver. But the chauffeur is strictly following instructions, in between the stops, the doors remain closed.
Bumper to bumper, we continue dawdling along a dusty, never-ending construction site. Some people are wiping their foreheads, a child is wailing, a man pinched to the frame of our seat is wringing uncomfortably: Unable to take off his black suit jacket, his white shirt is soaked through with sweat. Finally, with a twenty minutes’ delay, we arrive at the Central train station. Hastily the large majority snatches up their belongings, edging and pushing through the cluttered crowd to the nearest exit, and jogs toward the Hauptbahnhof. My mom is thinking aloud: “Perhaps we should take the Sbahn instead?” – “Goodness, no”, I reply, “the platform will be packed.”
Closing the door, our driver is preparing to leave the station. Suddenly someone shouts: “Wait! Whose backpack is this?” Dead silence. Questioningly, a man is holding up a red backpack. Great. Now that would be just what we needed: To have to exit the bus because of unclaimed piece of baggage! This time the doors open almost immediately. The attentive traveler takes this opportunity. Leaning out of the bus, dangling the backpack over his head, he calls out: “Is someone missing his backpack?” Calmly the sun-tanned owner on a cell phone raises his hand. The backpack is dropped onto the ground, the doors close, ten more minutes until our destination.
Stepping out of the bus, we feel sorry for the bus driver. Exhausted he wipes his forehead. By taxi, our journey could not have not been any faster and of course not cheaper. The city owns seven air-conditioned buses. Maybe next time we conquer one. But then again, there are over 1.300 buses in Berlin.
© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved. 2020