Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Parable (well, not really) on the Dangers of Trains

Sorry, nothing truly new today. While organizing my documents (an awesome endeavor for the unemployed) I came across this old gem. I wrote this a million years ago in my Euro days. If you're a romantic, I should point out that I wrote this piece in a Paris cafe while the girl I was with read Voltaire. No joke. For the sake of such romance (and, let's face it, laziness) I haven't changed a word from the original cafe version. Enjoy, and if you've known me long enough, revel in the nostalgia.

“Frankfurt!” The word shouted in an angry German accent abruptly ended my slumber. I slowly stirred and examined my surroundings. I was in a train’s couchette. Mary was asleep to my left, while Amy awakened on the comfortable chairs to my right. I had slept on the cold, hard, dirty floor in between, like a dog. I was therefore more motivated than my traveling companions to stand up and greet our Teutonic agitator.

I stared, face to face with the man through the window of our couchette. He was old, thin, bald, dressed in all black, and seemed not far off from sketchy. He banged on the door and once again shouted, “Frankfurt!” before moving on down the aisle of the train.

“So?” I said to Mary and Amy, both of whom were now sitting up. I sat down next to Amy and lit a cigarette, always a good breakfast. We glanced out the window of the train, seeing the sun rise behind the Frankfurt skyline, while discussing how excited we were to be there. After all, we would be in Munich and Oktoberfest in a mere two hours. I was looking forward to adding a litre of Hofbrauhaus or two to my power breakfast.

Two more of our friends had taken this night train ride from Paris. The five of us had spent the first half of the evening in this couchette, drinking wine and telling stories. However, Mike and Allison had decided to find a different couchette to sleep in; five people in one seemed an impossibility. I wondered whether they had been awakened by any crazed old Prussians.

Mary closed the window shade, and I was on my way back to floor city for a nap when the conductor appeared at our door. He spoke very little English, but re-established the fact that we were in Frankfurt. I explained to him that we were going to Munich and that we expected the train to be leaving the station shortly. He reiterated, in broken English, that Frankfurt was the end of the line, and a different part of the train had split off, bound for Munich. This shocked us all to our feet.

We did not take long to discover that Mike and Alison were not on the same part of the train as we, and were presently barreling toward Munich. We searched the train in vain, as Mary and Amy fell into denial, insisting that our mates remained somewhere in the Frankfurt station.

I noticed that due to the timetable, with a train leaving for Munich in a quarter hour, that we had no time for denial. Mary predicted that Mike and Alison would not try to meet us in Frankfurt, as it was not our intended destination. We had no choice but to buy tickets to Munich. Because the next available train was of course not another slow, smoky night train but instead an efficient German bullet, our Eurail passes were worthless and the price was high.

The girls quickly fell asleep on the speedy U-Bahn express, while I strolled about. I really was hungry, despite the cigarette breakfast, so I moved to the bar car. This car, at the front of the train, was alive with Germans preparing for Oktoberfest, though I seemed to be the only paying customer. It seemed that each of the fellow patrons of this bar were clad in lederhosen, and they had brought coolers full of large sausages and larger beer bottles in anticipation of King Ludwig’s annual rager. This display of revelry at eight a.m. assured me that, regardless of finding our friends in Munich, Mary, Amy, and I were assured of a wonderful drunken good time.

Of course, we ultimately had no reason to worry about the prospect of finding our well-traveled friends. Nevertheless, when we were all on the platform at Munich, we could almost understand the excitement that Germany herself had felt when she was reunited.

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