I recently became a little bit more German.
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.
I wonder if there’s insurance against that…