On yer bike

Part of being a good Berliner, as anyone will tell you, is owning a bicycle. And since I’m now in a living arrangement where I can look at a bicycle as a bicycle (rather than just one more thing that will have to be moved in a month’s time), this seemed like the perfect moment to take the leap. Sheila, the half-naked Aussie, had generously offered me hers because she has to go back to Oz for a bit. But then, she’d also fallen off it into the back of a convertible as it was too heavy for her. I politely declined.

Fortunately, my Irish friend, Séamus, builds bikes for a living and (rather conveniently) was working on a nice petite model that might just be ideal for me. Unfortunately, he lives on the other side of the city. This wouldn’t normally be a big deal, but with Berlin’s transport system up to its old tricks again, it took a bus and three trains to get there. Not to worry, I took one look at the shiny red beauty and instantly decided that it would be mine.

You will be mine, oh yes...
You will be mine, oh yes…

While Séamus rattled on about tubes and wires and oil and other important stuff, I was thinking “pretty, red, pretty”. But, being a professional, instead of just letting me ride off into the sunset, he insisted that we go down to his backyard and give it a couple of test runs to make sure it was a good fit for me. After a few precarious moments, I was off on a wobbly circuit of the yard and amazingly managed not to crash into any of the cars or fall off. A quick height adjustment of the handlebars and I was good to go.

Me: It’s going to be a bit of a nightmare getting it back to mine on public transport. 

Séamus: (giving it a manly kick) Ha, don’t worry. Parts of this thing are over thirty years old. I don’t think you’ll manage to destroy it in an hour. 

Little did he know.

He offered to ride with me to the station but, as a good law-abiding German, I refused as the one thing the bike didn’t have was lights. It’s only about a two-minute ride but rules are rules, you know. Plus, I just knew I’d be the unlucky bugger that got caught.

When we got there, people were streaming out of the station as the S-Bahn had shut down three hours early. So now, instead of two trains which would leave me a 5-minute walk from my door, we would have to walk for 15 minutes, and I’d have to take two trains and a bus. With Séamus practically wheeling the bike for me, and me impractically bitching and moaning the whole way, we made it to the next station. I got (and validated) a ticket for the bike and then I was on my own.

I’d thought moving my worldly belongings by public transport was tough until I tried to get a bicycle up and down escalators. Still, despite almost falling on several people and ramming an old lady in the shins, I made it to the bus-stop. The bus came bang on time and I hefted the bike through the middle doors.

“NEIN!” came a cry from the front of the bus. “NEIN!”

I figured he was probably talking to me, so I elegantly alighted and wheeled the bike to the front door to see what all the fuss was about.

Bus driver: No bikes. 

Me: But, but, I don’t have a choice. I just bought it and it has no lights so I can’t ride it. 

Bus driver: NEIN!

Me: But I bought a bike ticket! It’s only a few stops and there’s so much room and…

Bus driver: NEINNNNNNNNN! 

And then he closed the door on me. The fact that I’d managed to have this “conversation” in German gave me some small satisfaction, but not enough that I didn’t pause to give him the finger and call him a pedantic prick. (I used English for that one.)

So, there I was, stranded at the side of the road, facing a good 45-minute walk. It was almost 11.30pm at this stage and I just thought, “You know what, Germany? Stick your rules. If one set of rules means that I have to break another, then so be it”. And I got on the bike. It had reflectors and there was nobody on the footpaths, apart from (comfortingly) other cyclists riding without lights. About five minutes down the road, my cardigan got stuck in the wheel, which required a dismount, a good deal of swearing and some tricky extrication.

I got on again, sheer fury driving me forwards. Bloody mothers can wheel their jeep-sized buggies filled with their squealing brats onto buses. The bus driver will even make the bus “kneel” for them so they can more conveniently torture a busload of people’s eardrums for god knows how long. How am I, standing silently in the middle of an empty bus holding my bike, more unacceptable than that? Just because I didn’t push the bike out of my lady orifice doesn’t make it any less my new baby… And then I looked up and I was home. Huh, I was only a couple of minutes later than if I’d taken the bus. Good old rage.

Today, I decided to take Red Beauty out on a spin to a nearby park. The first thing I was faced with was a sign saying there was no cycling in the park.

Grrrr...
Grrrr…

Followed by a sign saying that you actually could cycle in the park.

It seems mothers and squealing brats are allowed too.
It seems mothers and squealing brats are allowed too.

Jesus, Germany, make up your mind…

Still, it was all worth it in the end.

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That bus driver can still kiss my (newly-toned) white Irish ass, though…

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112 thoughts on “On yer bike”

  1. Not sure I’d want to know how this happened: “my cardigan got stuck in the wheel.” A long cardigan, I presume? I haven’t read this comments in case you’ve already been asked. Just trying to catch up on a week’s worth of posts 😉

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  2. So funny. But how do you get yourself into these situations Linda. Firstly, you get a bike that’s pulling in the punters and then you get a bus driver who doesn’t have any social skills. Probably doesn’t speak Irish!

    Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any bikes on the bus either, but then again, I live in the East and use the tram….! I once took the tram from Friedrichstrasse at 3 a.m on a Saturday and it was crammed to bursting point with yummy mummies, yuppies and their kids. Mine included, and I can’t for the life of me remember why we were all on the tram at 3 o’clock in the morning!

    p.s. I wouldn’t use my bike on the road as it’s far too dangerous. The other cyclists are a menace!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Years ago I used to deliver tanker loads of diesel to the city bus depots. It takes about 40 minutes to unload 52,000 liters and it’s the driver’s job to stand and watch for leaks or issues. I was delivering at about 3 am one morning when I noticed all the buses returning to the yard had written in French “Hors de Service” (meaning out of service) on the displays that showed where they were going. In theory Canada is officially trilingual – English, French and Inuktitut (a First Nations language) – but most provinces are designated one language or another (there is one officially bilingual province). Most gov’t services are offered in at least two languages. But there is a lot of merging of French and English words here in Ottawa. So you might, for instance see a restaurant called “Chez Frank” or overhear a french speaker say “Movez vos car.” It is considered a fun sport to deliberately misinterpret words in another language. Anyway, I was telling one of my colleagues about seeing all these buses returning at 3 am and I mentioned to him that I finally found out what they were all doing out there at that time of day. I told him that they were all marked “Whore’s service” in french and how thoughtful it was of the bus company to serve the needs of the ladies of the evening. He looked at me a little strange. ha!.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. He was actually a native French speaker and he stopped and thought for a minute and then his face brightened up and he said : ” Oh yeah, that IS how you English would say ‘Hors’.”

        Liked by 2 people

    1. My mam read it – said she was sweating the whole time so it clearly had a big effect on her! She just sent me a text to tell me – should I be worried about you two? ; )

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  3. Wow, you are becoming a proper Berliner! Actually, I am still surprised that despite all the NNNNEEEEEEEIN!!!!s, you arent going on a Latvia-esque anti-German rants. Rose colored glasses and all?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, it was a bit of a rant 😉 And I guess rules are rules! Really can’t complain about the service in Berlin. 98% of the time I have positive experiences, as opposed to 2% of the time in LV 😉

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            1. I’ll have to get someone else to take them – I’m a both hands on the handlebars kind of girl! Maybe there’s a selfie stick that you can attach to your bike – bikies 🙂

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  4. Wait a minute. Were you in NYC? You’ve just described every bus driver here. But we do have a program called CitiBike, where you can rent a bike by the hour from racks in various locations around the city. So…it’s a mixed message.

    Happy riding! Now all you need is a basket on the front. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And maybe a pretty flower 🙂
      The basket would definitely come in handy – would just have to figure out how to attach it – still haven’t got lights either 😉

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    1. Thank you! And yes, I’ve heard horror stories about the Italian postal service, and Telecom Italia, and well, just about every other Italian company 😉 Maybe you could ride into the post office next time – something a bit different – then ram into his shins if things don’t go your way 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think having a bike is a general German thing, not just Berliners. I never got one though – I’m afraid to cycle on the road.

    Ah, good old job’s worth. One of those universal annoyances!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I was more offended he didn’t fall for my charm 😉 I’m afraid to cycle on the road too – I thought there were way more cycle lanes than there were in my area, until I was actually on a bike!!

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  6. Is the last picture a hint that your shiny new bike is also amphibious? 🙂

    Also, I wouldn’t ever imagine a bus driver to do anything about a bicycle but not give a shit here (I bet ‘not giving a shit’ is in their job description) – old ladies riding the bus are far more likely to close ranks and not let the bicycle upstart in!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The bike might be amphibious but I’m certainly not 😉
      It was even too late for old ladies to give a crap at this stage. They were probably all tucked up in bed by 6pm 😉 One old “lady” called my friend a Schlampe for riding on the path once 🙂

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      1. Yeah, if an old lady is in a bus at 11:30PM, she’s either too cool to mind, too drunk to care, or too mean, immediately planning to follow you out of the bus, mug you and get away on your bike!

        (Oh, and your friend should probably see a doctor: after all, you CAN get the strumpets from the bicycle seat, and old ladies are real experts at diagnosing this!)

        Liked by 1 person

              1. Okay, I tried to think of something clever that (properly) rhymes with ‘crumpet’ besides ‘trumpet’ and ‘strumpet’, and – there’s nothing! Dictionaries don’t help either! 🙂

                So, here’s a delightful and unsavoury German poem. It is Goethe, but it’s about birds shitting on a church, so it’s not all a loss (and, yes, the dots mean ‘scheißen’):

                http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/johann-wolfgang-goethe-gedichte-3670/466

                Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s a rule that you can’t ride your bike without lights? And you also can’t take your bike on the bus? Some buses but not others? It’s crazy. But I bet there’s no rule that you have to wear a helmet. I noticed in Amsterdam that NOBODY wears helmets. But in the US, where people chafe at practically any rules, everyone wears helmets when they aren’t required to. Go figure…
    She’s a beauty, that bicycle! Candy-apple red!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think, THINK, that if the bus is a replacement for a train that’s not running, you can take it on. But I guess not on normal buses – pretty sure of that one now 😉
      Not sure about helmet laws actually but nobody wears them! Lights are definitely law – think there’s a big fine if you don’t have them. But maybe some loophole that you can cycle on the path without them? Argh, it’s all so confusing!! Hope the candy-apple red beauty is still there this morning 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

            1. I was a nervous wreck! It was probably a really good all-over body workout though as I was gripping the handlebars and clenching every other part of my body 🙂 Came home drenched in sweat but not sure if that was terror or exertion 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  8. Hahaha oh Linda, scorned by an angry German for being accompanied by a ginger 🙂 That’ll teach you to throw in your lot with those types! Although I’m still trying to figure out how your cardigan got stuck in the wheel….

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Probably only I could manage it but it’s kind of a long one so it probably flew behind me a bit (in my fury). It got stuck between the wheel guard (is that a thing?!) and the wheel and wrapped itself around the spokes a bit – I came to a grinding halt 😉 When I managed to get it out, I put it in my bag and kept going – madder 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Those bus drivers! A couple of days ago, on the Rail Replacement Service (Munich S-Bahn also gone awry), the driver refused to open the rear doors making us all line up and get on at the front, and when people complained, he said that he had to check that nobody was bringing food onto the bus. Bloody despots…!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, that’s mad! I have no choice but to eat my lunch on the bus some days! Didn’t realise I was breaking yet more rules 😉 You know, I think you might be able to bring bikes on the rail replacement buses, which led me to think it was all buses… do you know?

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  10. Ha! We have similar bus rules here in Ottawa as well. We have buses with bike racks built on the front bumper. You can always use them by placing you bike in the rack – but buses without the racks it is up to the discretion of the bus driver – this rule is intended to allow drivers to keep bikes off the bus during rush hours but the rule is also used by drivers to discriminate against those whose faces they do not like. Best of luck! And congratulations on your new baby.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂
      Maybe he just didn’t like my face then – it was pretty scrunched up in rage by the end of our exchange 😉
      Bike racks on the front bumper is a great idea!

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