I have recently become a devoted follower of “Gefragt Gejagt“, the German version of the ITV quiz show, “The Chase”. Of course, it’s great for my German – a little small talk with each contestant, a quick-fire round that’s pretty challenging, written and spoken questions in each individual “chase”, and useful expressions like “stop the clock!” and “the chase begins…” Aside from the practical though, it also means that for around 45 minutes every weekday, I get to drool over the rather delectable Alexander Bommes. (Sorry, Manfredas.)
With his cheeky smile and twinkly eyes, he’s more than enough reason for me to shut down my laptop at 6 p.m. on the dot. He also has a penchant for randomly bursting into song – which I have been known to do on occasion.
So, there I was one day last week, not fantasising (much) about being the first “Jägerin” (female chaser), Alexander falling for my devastating wit, humour and intelligence, and how a Bommes-von Grady duet might sound, when I was startled out of my reverie by a question.
“Which of these terms describes a type of wardrobe malfunction?”
A. Tittenbrief (tits-letter)
B. Arschfax (pretty obvious, I think)
C. I can’t remember anything after Arschfax.
Arschfax turned out to be the correct answer.
For once, the Jäger, the contestant, lovely Alexander and I were all stumped. What on earth is an “Arschfax”?
It turns out that it refers to when the tag of your underwear or trousers sticks out so that it looks like your arse is receiving a little fax. Like so:
I mean, in English, we’d just say “Your tag/label is sticking out.” In German – “Bah haha, you’ve got an arsefax!”
English is so boring sometimes.
(P.S. If anyone has Herr Bommes’ number, let me know. My bum would look great in those shorts.)
Me: Right, that’s it. We’re clearing out the living room. I don’t mind you having all the wires, cables, batteries, old phones, place mats, last year’s birthday cards, post from 2012… I just don’t want to have to look at it every evening.
Manfredas: You’re right.
Me: I know. I’ve bought three “decorative” storage boxes. White is for documents, black is for any technical stuff, grey is for anything in between.
Manfredas: You scare me.
Me: I know. LET’S DO THIS!
And that’s not even the half of it. Everyone knows that the Germans love insurance – Manfredas isn’t even sure how many different types of policies he has. While I’m not quite in that league, I have taken out two more forms of insurance – bicycle and (say it with me) Haftpflichtversicherung.
You see, I bought a new bike not so long ago and, looking at it in comparison to the shitheaps most people in Berlin ride around on, I felt that maybe my beautiful Tecnobike needed a little extra protection.
Given that there were more than 34,000 reported bicycle thefts in Berlin last year, you’d think more people would have insurance. Not so. Having asked Manfredas, friends and students for tips, in the end, I had to resort to Mr. Google – and even that wasn’t easy. I eventually found the brilliantly-named Bike Ass and, for the bargain price of just €46.41 per year, Tecnobike can sleep easy at night, even if she is chained up in the basement.
Manfredas: You should also get Haftpflichtversicherung.
Me: Sounds like some kind of disease.
Manfredas: (Sigh) No, it’s personal liability insurance. If you do damage to someone or something, it covers you.
Me: Nah, I don’t really think I need it.
Manfredas: Well, nobody takes out home insurance believing there’s going to be a fire, do they?
Me: No, I guess not. How much is it?
I went with AXA and now, for a yearly pittance, I can do €50,000,000 euro’s worth of damage. Woop!
A couple of months later, I’m very happy that I have both forms of insurance. While I haven’t damaged anyone or anything (yet), the potential for this happening in Berlin seems rather high.
Example: “OK, Tecnobike, I’m going to have to leave you here for a couple of hours while I go work. But look, you’ve got loads of room and plenty of bikey company. You’ll be just fine. I’ll miss you…”
You come back a while later and this has happened.
You might be thinking “What kind of idiot would park their car there?” or, more pressingly, “What IS that??” but if I damage either the car or THE THING trying to get out of there, it’s on me. I was tempted to do a couple of grands’ worth of damage just to prove a point, but I’m trying to be a responsible cyclist…
Interestingly, in Berlin, this is probably the most dangerous thing you can be. If you follow the rules, act like a normal human being, and show some consideration for other people using the roads and cycle lanes, chances are you’ll be the one taken out. Naturally, me being me, I’ve learned this the hard way.
So, there I was, pootling my way home on a beautiful sunny afternoon. I was heading for Karl-Marx-Allee, in the cycle lane between the lane of cars turning right and the lane going straight ahead, like me. I had started slowing down as there was a red light up ahead.
BAM. Out of nowhere, another cyclist tried to overtake me at speed (why I don’t know, as the light was red anyway), clipped Tecnobike and somehow my left leg and arm ended up crushed between the two bikes and a taxi. Miraculously, I managed to stay upright, which is good; I’ve found that roaring “ARSCHLOCH!” at someone from the ground isn’t nearly as effective.
Arsch mit Ohren: Me?!
Me: Yes, you, you @^$#^%^%#%$#$@#%%$^^&^&^%. You could have killed me!
Arsch mit Ohren: Uh, sorry.
We somehow managed to disentangle the two bikes and I limped to the pavement, the Arsch following me. The taxi driver had since driven off, satisfied that we hadn’t damaged his car. Eye roll.
Arsch mit Ohren: Oh, you’re bleeding. Would you like a tissue?
Me: I’ve got my own damn tissues.
Arsch mit Ohren: You’re shaking. I’m sorry, I don’t have any water.
Me: I’ve got my OWN DAMN WATER!
Arsch mit Ohren: Would you like to go for a coffee or something? You’re probably in shock.
Me: Are you insane?
Arsch mit Ohren: Or I could accompany you home? Make sure you’re OK?
Me: I was just fine ’til you ploughed into me. I think I’ll be safer by myself, thank you very much.
I finally got rid of him and, after calming down a little, inspecting Tecnobike (unharmed, thankfully), made it the rest of the way home unscathed. I was scathed enough as it was.
I watched with interest over the next few days as various parts of my body swelled up and turned different colours, my main regret being that I hadn’t turned back and run that asshole over in return. I am insured, after all…
Last weekend, there was a demonstration for safer conditions for cyclists in Berlin. While there is definitely room for improvement, from what I’ve seen, these people’s time would have been better spent learning some manners and oh, maybe how to ride a bicycle.
In the few months I’ve been with Tecnobike, I’ve seen people cycling while looking at their mobile phones, a guy cycling while reading a book, cyclists with a beer in one hand and a fag in the other, hands-free cycling, one idiot with his feet up on the handlebars, people sailing through red lights, not indicating which way they’re turning… and, of course, no lights.
Since the police and Ordnungsamt are somehow blind to all of this, Manfredas and I have started our own little “Balkonordnungsamt”. This involves yelling “Licht an du Vogel!” at the morons down below. However, as we’re on the sixth floor, it’s more likely that only our neighbours above and below can hear us and someone will call the Ordnungsamt on us.
Since my last ranty post, I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough.
I’ve found Jesus.
I’m as surprised as you are – turns out he’s been sitting in a souvenir shop in the Alte Münze all this time. Will wonders never cease?
Anyway, since it seems that Jesus has chosen me to be his earthly representative here in Berlin, instead of complaining about what bugs me (though I do enjoy that too), I’ve decided to be more proactive and put together a short list of commandments which, if everyone gets on board, should make life easier for all of us.
The First Commandment: Thou shalt do right (or left)
The first working escalator was installed in 1896 so you’d really think people would have figured out how to use them by now. Not so. In Berlin, the system is really very simple: stand on the right, walk on the left. Yes, that’s it. Right, left. TWO options. Rechts stehen, links gehen. Jesus people (sorry, Jesus), how hard is that to remember? Luckily, I’d polished my aggressive Berliner “HALLLLLOOOOO!” long before I started polishing my halo so a few chosen souls have learned their lesson. Clearly, however, my work here is not done.
The Second Commandment: Thou shalt pocket thy smartphone
For some people, the stupidity doesn’t end when they step off the escalator. No, they choose to stop dead at the bottom or top of it and pull out their phone, causing mini pile-ups where’er they go. And it’s not limited to escalators. I’m sure you’ve all seen the incredibly bright sparks who walk around a city, glued to their phone, completely oblivious to anything or anyone around them.
Well, I’m here to tell you – you’re not that important or interesting. Nobody is sitting on the edge of their seat waiting to see what you’re going to post, tweet, like, share… If you’re lost and need directions, move over to the side of the pavement and look them up. Better yet, ask a real person – if you look around you, you’ll see that they do actually still exist.
The Third Commandment: Thou shalt deal with thine own trash
When I first got to Berlin, one of the signs on the train windows made me laugh. It’s a picture of a hand throwing a bottle out the window with an “X” through it. “Who would actually do that?” I thought to myself. Well, you’d be surprised.
So brethren, if you’re drinking a beer on the train, take the bottle with you. If not, it rolls up and down the carriage, spewing what’s left of its contents and stinking up the whole place. If you’re finished treating the rest of us to the smell of your Döner, bin the wrapper on the train platform when you get off; don’t stuff it down the inside of the seat. You’d think that these things would go without saying but I guess there’s a reason Deutsche Bahn has started a Whatsapp “Reinigungsteam” (cleaning team) service. Shame it wasn’t in place when I saw someone taking a shit on the U6 platform at Friedrichstraße station. What a treat that would have been for the team…
On a bigger scale, if you have a broken printer, rickety wardrobe, holey shoe, etc., it’s not a “gift”. It’s an eyesore. Someone dumped a bed frame on our corner on Friday. By Saturday, two mattresses had joined it. If it continues like this, soon it will be like living in a Dänisches Bettenlager.
The Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt wear sandals
OK, I’m not fussy about the type of footwear but, in the name of all that’s holy (I’m getting the hang of this), please wear something on your feet. I think I’ve given you all a little taster of what the streets around Berlin can be like. What would Jesus wear? He’d wear bloody shoes, that’s what.
The Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt act like a parent and stop pissing everyone off
I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s ever been in a cafe in Prenzlauer Berg has had the same experience. You’re in kind of a hurry (or not – it’s irrelevant) so you pop in to pick up a tasty German treat to go. Brilliant, you think, only one woman and her toddler in front of me. I’ll be in and out in a flash.
“So darling, what would you like?”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you like a doughnut?”
“Or maybe a fruit cake?”
“You like chocolate, right? How about one of those?”
“Which colour? They have pink, white, yellow…”
“Or would you like the one with sprinkles? Or with little hearts? That would be nice, wouldn’t it, darling…”
Jesus Christ. (Oops.) Give the kid anything. It’s two. It will eat it. Or not. Who really gives a damn? (Double oops.) Certainly not me or the tortured cafe worker.
I know there were originally ten commandments but people have shorter attention spans these days so I’m going to stop with five – for now. How wonderful it would be if people actually took note.
Without me having to smite them, that is. “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger…” Hmm, might be getting a bit carried away now. Back to being holy.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain