Friday, March 5, 2010

Adventures with Jake on the U-Bahn...

Having recently spent nearly two weeks in New York City, I felt good about riding the subway in a foreign country. When I asked my friend, Jake, what the trains were like here in Berlin he informed me they were really cool - and that he'd ridden them several times without paying, because unlike NYC there aren't any turnstiles stopping you from getting to the train.

So what stops everyone from using it for free? Hmmmm?

When I told my sister about Jake's findings, she immediately tried to nip it in the bud, telling me not to do it. I already knew why, but maybe I just needed to hear her say it.

Her answer was short and matter-of-fact: because you and I don't get away with those kinds of things.

Later, as Jake and I were waiting for the train I passed along Missy's perspective on the matter, to which he replied, "Hey - you want to buy a ticket, there's no one stopping you."

"You're not getting one?" I asked, an octave higher.

"You see anyone else getting them?"

I looked around and there were three others standing around waiting for the same train. They hadn't paid for their tickets and didn't appear to be too worried about it. So I decided to break my first German law, and when the subway came, I watched Jake confidently board and quickly ducked in behind him.

We rode the train for at least two miles before I finally worked up the courage to speak in my outside voice. I asked Jake where we were going and how he figured we would get there, because looking up at the big street names made finding anything seem impossible. But he assured me it was easy. I wondered whether or not he was pronouncing the names properly when he told me we would simply take the U-1 Kurf├╝rstendamm train over to the Gleisdreieck stop, then we would take the S-1 train over to Mehringdamm stop, and presto, we'd wind up exactly where we needed to be.

At the first two stops I was completely expecting the German Police to come take me away. But at each passing station, my confidence grew. At one point I was actually even making eye-contact with some of the other passengers, shooting them knowing glances. But the excitement of the moment was short lived when a nearby voice caught Jake's attention. "Fahrausweis, bitte!" The voice demanded, and Jake watched with wide eyes as she produced a ticket for the plain-clothed police officer. Jake turned to me and before getting up, he said, "We'll be getting off at the next stop."

Wait... wait. What does he mean? Is this bad?

When I got up to follow Jake he was already way ahead of me, zig-zagging past other passengers. I was tempted to look back to see if the undercover Polizist was running after me, but I didn't because I was too scared. I was already imagining the phone call we'd have to make to Jake's girlfriend, Kirstin... "Hallo Kirstin, it's Patrick and Jake. We're not going to be home for dinner tonight, or for the next forty years. Apparently the judge has decided to make an example out of us."

When I finally caught up to Jake, he was at the very beginning of the train, with his face planted against the sliding-glass exit doors. Even though I thought it looked like an admittance of guilt, I did the same. As I stood there waiting for the Polizist to arrest me, I looked out the window and wondered what I was doing in Germany.

Miraculously, we got off the train in time, and quickly searched for the first ticket dispenser we could find.

So yes, peace of mind does in fact have a price, and it comes in the form of a U-Bahn ticket...


  1. Your writing gives a clear visual! Very funny.... after watching several episodes of "Locked Up Abroad" I could understand the "peace of mind" that comes with purchasing the tickets.

  2. My son My son! What can I say! Good choice!

  3. Oh Patrick! Ofcourse you HAVE to buy a ticket because otherwise, you will be miserable on the train. I went through the same situation when I was in Germany. My German friends NEVER bought tickets, but me and my American friends had seen people get busted for not having a ticket. Needless to say....we bought tickets! Oh the fear of going to jail in Germany...I miss those days!

  4. Isn't it time for a new story about your adventures in Berlin?