A non-fiction short story from the only German engineering failure in history, and in Germany — insert German sarcasm
This is my second entry of my new short story series which highlights photos that have been randomly selected from my camera roll, and are followed up with a true tale about the chain of events that took place around it.
May 25, 2019 Frankfurt, Mainz, Rüdesheim, Germany
I had only seen Carla in passing once at the Frankfurt airport. You’d think as flight attendants that you’re always running into friends around the world, but it doesn’t happen as often as we’d like it to. Carla is based in Detroit, and I’m based in New York. Throughout our training, we obsessed over the idea of working, dancing, breathing and of course drinking beer, in Frankfurt together, but it never happened. Until it did.
“Are you here yet? I’m coming to your room right now!” Every month Carla and I exchanged schedules in hopes to somehow find a way to work together. Our May schedules gave us the best surprise, Carla worked DTW-FRA on the same day I worked JFK-FRA, landing us in our beloved Deutschland at the same time. We didn’t waste a second of our 24hr layover together.
We started the morning at Mainz Hauptbahnhof (The main train station in a small town outside of Frankfurt), and headed to Rüdesheim. Carla, myself and John, a fellow crew member sat together taking in the ambiance of a German train in its entirety. “NEIN! Da darfst du nicht sitzen (No! You cannot sit here)!” A woman abruptly shrieked at an older man who had just taken a seat next to her. The man returned the fire and yelled that she is not in charge of seats, therefore he can sit where he pleases. The two continued yelling loudly back and forth. Not a single soul other than us three seemed tickled by what was happening. All of a sudden the old man got up, took a seat elsewhere and everyone continued minding their business.
It makes me giggle because this is a perfect example of a difference in German culture (in comparison to US). Loud, confrontational but nothing is ever personal. It does not exceed past what is presented at the time, and it quite literally doesn’t matter who is involved. There is no passive aggression or lingering anger. When it’s done it is done. And they were evidently done.
Carla led the way, and had us change trains. Obviously, Carla had a weak moment and tapped into her American rule-breaking side, because when we changed trains to go three stops through a tiny village that no one had any interest in patrolling, I realized we had not purchased train tickets. I, a true German RULE FOLLOWER was mortified. “I’m going to get arrested, in Germany and have to explain this to my mom,” I said. So, to any German official reading this, I want you to know I was put up to this without consent or knowledge, I would never disgrace us with such rebellious and uncivilized behavior. Sorry mom. As if my inner ethical conflict wasn’t enough, Carla took it upon herself to record my distress. See the video below.
Okay so, I slipped through the cracks and made it to Rüdesheim without being thrown into German Gefängnis (prison). One thing about flight attendants, they either stay in their hotel rooms or they go out and squeeze every possible adventure in one day. It’s clear which ones we were. After we escaped the train, we hustled our way to the docks and boarded a ferry (yes, we literally went from plane, to train, to boat, we are transportation professionals). The ferry took us on a beautiful river cruise to a castle. We did not see the castle, we saw the bottom of our beer glasses instead. I promised this to be a non-fiction story, so as much as I’d love to give you a fairytale description about the magnificent structure on the mountain, I’ll have to tell that story another time because I sure as hell never saw it.
We did hit the town and visit shops, drank more beer and naturally schnitzel-ed our way into a food coma. After a long day of laughing and trekking along the town’s cobblestone roads, we decided to head back via train. We got to the station and to our surprise, it was chaotically packed with people. Germans don’t take kindly to unorganized stresses, so we immediately knew something was up. We found a corner to sit and begun what we didn’t know would be a long wait. We continuously heard announcements advising that the train was delayed, with no indication of when the train would actually be arriving. Us three buzzing flight attendants had no cares in the world at that moment, but that would soon change.
After an hour passed, we started to get nervous. Then the drama kicked in, we imagined ourselves never making it back to the hotel. We talked about what our other crew members would think, would our airline find us? Would we be stuck in this small town drinking beer forever? Finally, the train came and we were on our way back to our hotel. It was the longest ride ever, the train continued to make long stops throughout the ride, and our anxiety never subsided. Regardless, it was an adventure in its own.
If you’re unfamiliar with German punctuality, and why this incident is even dramatic or abnormal in the first place, let me provide you with an example. In 5th grade, I lived and went to school in Germany. Every morning I caught the train at 6:41am. Not EVER 6:40, but 6:41am precisely. One morning, the train was delayed, it arrived at 6:42am, and the doors opened at 6:43am. I remember stepping up to the train and overhearing an Oma (grandma), screaming at the driver. She told him he was unprofessional and unacceptable, that time meant everything to her and that now because of him personally, her image of a punctual citizen was damaged and that he should be held accountable for the tardiness bestowed upon her. Just regular German stuff.
We made it back. We didn’t get stranded drinking beer for life and nourishment. Everything was and is fine. This truly was one of my most memorable layovers to date… except for the late train, that was absolutely unacceptable.