Category Archives: Public transportation

To be trusted with tears

fith-and-minn

Photo courtesy of Metro Transit

Why the disheveled man approached me rather than someone else I couldn’t say. It was a recent chilly Wednesday evening and I had pulled my beret down over my ears.

The man wanted to know if the 54 would stop at our corner, something I easily confirmed with a glance at the bus departures board. He lingered after I answered; it seemed he wanted something more.

“Name’s Kevin,” he said, offering his hand, which I took.

“Nice to meet you.”

I pulled my bike bag a little closer.

“Know who you remind me of?” Continue reading

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Stepping on toes

skyway

A skyway connecting two office buildings in Lowertown, St. Paul

Recently I was sitting alone at a skyway-level Caribou in Lowertown St. Paul, drinking a holiday concoction that I never would have ordered if I’d been paying, this drink on the house to encourage my frequent buying habits. I was staring out the window at the glass skyway connecting two office towers, watching white-collar workers drift across the street suspended in air, coatless in their controlled environment. And watching this steady stream of largely undifferentiated, white, middle-aged workers crossing the skyway, I was reminded of standing in a science museum in rural Vermont on a previous sabbatical with my children, observing ants work their way through humid plastic tunnels, oblivious to the humans on the other side of the tube. So it was here too, lightly dressed workers plying the halls of the office towers, oblivious to the winter weather, carrying styrofoam cups of soup with plastic lids and takeout coffee and brown bags of subs and chips, making small talk with their co-workers, always moving, never stopping. Continue reading

Found the silver lining

metrotransitAfter last Sunday’s melodrama and teeth gnashing about the end of our sabbatical year, the end of my freedom, the end of life as I know it, Monday morning came without fanfare, and I was reminded yet again that life goes on.

My knees still hurt so I didn’t bike in for my first day in the office as originally planned, but that turned out to be quite okay, maybe a whole lot better than okay, if you really want to know.

I took the bus to work, which is about the most unsexy thing you can possibly do in this town. I don’t know why that is, exactly, but it’s just not a choice most middle-class residents make around here; the unspoken understanding is that it’s what you take when you have no other choice. And actually, at that moment, that’s where things stood: our car was en route from Pittsburgh to Chicago, and my knees were bruised and sore and resistant to cycling. I was taking a bus because it looked darn attractive, given the options. Continue reading

On the right track

wannsee stationI’ve discovered an alternate route to the boathouse from my neighborhood. It starts out by heading due north on the bus instead of south, leading me away from the boathouse instead of towards it, yet it gets me there almost 10 minutes faster than the other way.

Does that make any sense? Of course not. But we’re talking about navigating Berlin, after all, so somehow it does.

The bus takes me to Zoo Station, where I pick up the S7 instead of my old familiar S1. There’s little difference really, considering they both drop me at the Nikolassee station.

The best feature of the S7 route is that it takes you through the wooded western edge of the city. The stretch between Grunewald and Nikolassee is the longest distance I’ve encountered between two stops in my trips in and around Berlin. Not that I mind stops, but it does give you the sensation that you’ve traveled a great distance when you are whisked through the woods without slowing down, as if you’re being transported to another place entirely.

Continue reading

See and be seen

wolf in sheep's clothing

My photo of a painting on the inside of a Francesco Clemente tent on Potsdamer Strasse.

They stare whether you’ve done something mildly interesting or nothing at all, and maybe that’s the most disconcerting part. You never know what it was that drew their attention to you.

It’s blatant, the stares; Germans don’t seem to have that American need to avert the eyes. Standing or sitting on a train, walking down the sidewalk, browsing in a store… if you’re out in public, you’re fair game. If you’re sitting on your balcony and are visible to residents across the street, you’ve offered yourself up for observation as well. Continue reading

The daily commute

 berlin s-bahn“I love mass transportation,” M declared as he came in the front door yesterday morning, returning from his usual hour-and-a-half round trip taking C to school.

“Oh, ha ha,” I replied from the dining room table where I tend to camp out with my laptop. Early in September he had resigned himself to accompanying C all the way to Zehlendorf each morning, and he returns to meet her at the S-Bahn station to bring her back home as well. We know C could take the bus and the train and walk the three blocks on her own, as S reminds us almost daily, but the girl gets lonely. She appreciates the company. This means M typically spends three hours total on these school trips: there and back in the morning, and he does it all again every afternoon. He has made it his mission. After he drops C off at school, he listens to operas on his iPod, obscure ones he downloads weekly from the vast trove at the public library. He has worked his way through all of Verdi’s operas already, and is plowing his way through the dozens of operas written by Verdi’s predecessor, Donizetti. Continue reading