I spend a lot of time on trains these days. Some days I don’t mind it, and other days I want to slap half of the people around the head for their horrible train etiquette. But that is a post for another day. Today, I’d like to share a little story about something I saw last night, which perfectly sums up a lot of things that perplex me around here.
A crowded evening train, specifically the area at the doors, and directly in front of the restroom.
Bike Guy, a 35-ish gent standing directly in the middle of the doors with his bike, partially blocking both the train door and the bathroom door.
Original Occupant, who was there first.
Gotta-go Guy, 60s, who had a one-track mind.
Unwitting Disturber, who got a surprise.
Heather, the simultaneously amused and confused observer leaning against the opposite door.
The train stopped, a few people got off and a few people got on. The last man, Gotta-go Guy, boarded and stumbled his way around Bike Guy, to get to the bathroom door. He yanked at the door handle to no avail, and stabbed repeatedly at the ‘door open’ button. Why wouldn’t the door open? Well, that would be because Original Occupant was in there, you guessed it, occupying the toilet. As Bike Guy had been standing there for 15 minutes since the train departed its original station, he was well aware that there was someone in the bathroom, yet he did not say anything to Gotta-go Guy, who was still yanking and pushing at the door. For those of you unfamiliar with the doors on this kind of train, here’s a visual…
Just to the left of the door, you can see the ‘door open’ button. When the bathroom is occupied, it lights up red. Despite the red lights, Gotta-go Guy kept on trying. He was probably in his 60s, so perhaps he couldn’t see the lights or something. In my opinion, these toilet doors should also have some sort of a sign at eye level that tells you if the toilet is in use or not. But they don’t, and who knows if that would have slowed him down.
Finally Original Occupant unlocked the door from inside, and got a bit of a surprise when the door flew open as Gotta-go Guy yanked on it again. He pushed past her into the toilet, she quickly exited and went back to her seat. Bike Guy and I watched as the door slid shut again, but Gotta-go Guy apparently didn’t feel the need (or know how) to lock the door once he finally got in there. I think you know where this one is going.
Not two minutes later, Unwitting Disturber strode down the aisle, scooted around Bike Guy, and yanked open the door. Whoops! He quickly swung the door closed again, and stepped back. He was wearing headphones, so even if Bike Guy had tried to stop him, it may not have done any good. They looked at each other, both gave a kind of shrug, and waited for Gotta-go Guy to finish his business. A few minutes later he came out, and made his way unsteadily down the train. It looked like he had a Feierabendbier too many, but I don’t really know what was going on there.
The rest of the ride passed without incident, and I took the whole thing as further proof that it’s best to just pony up the extra Euro and pay to use the usually shiny-clean toilets with easily-locked doors in the train stations.
In a few of my classes this week, we discussed this recent article about how happy Germans are in different parts of the country. This in turn led to conversations about the mentality here in Franconia. Many people defended themselves and their neighbors, but many also admitted that people in this area don’t have the best reputation as far as friendliness, helpfulness, and open-mindedness go. This bathroom thing was a great example of that.
Even after three years here, it absolutely baffled me that the guy with the bike, who was RIGHT THERE, didn’t tap the Gotta-go Guy on the shoulder and say, “hey, there’s someone in there, that’s why the door won’t open.” Or when the Unwitting Disturber squeezed himself around him and his bike, why not try to stop him from getting an unwilling eyeful? I was inconveniently positioned to help these people as I was on the opposite side of the car, wedged in the corner of the door behind the bike, and afterwards I thought about how I could have helped. But would I have? Part of me thinks I would have tried, but the other part has maybe been here for too long…