Bezirk [1] in Berlin© – 15:  September 19, 2011

 THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  •  Turning onto an asphalt street after riding far too many blocks on Popo-punishing cobblestones (Popo = German for bum, which conveniently satisfies my craving for alliteration)
  • Seeing the steeple of the church near our flat after a long bike ride (telling me that I’m a mere 3 blocks from home)
  • Getting horizontal, either for my afternoon nap or going to bed at night

 A NANOSECOND BEFORE DISASTER

 Cats are indeed curious.  William is particularly fascinated by any place involving running water.   But the toilet holds a special fascination.  [Think!  How do animals great one another?]  Today both of us narrowly missed a total disaster.  If you’ve ever had cats, you’re aware of their ability to apparently transport themselves from one place to another, instantaneously and totally invisibly.  One moment he was within view, but in the time it took me to drop my britches, he had jumped up on the toilet rim, escaping my notice until I felt my bare butt touching the top of his head.  Fortunately, I was able to stop my descent before I ended up with a wet, panicked cat tearing up my behind.  YIKES!!  I shudder just to think about it!

 NOTE:  To FULLY appreciate Evie’s wonderful cartoons, please enlarge your screen so you can see the extra little tidbits she’s added!

Note:  Objects in drawing are larger in reality than they appear here.

 WHIMSEY

  •  Toiletten:   As any woman over 50 will readily attest (if not verbally, then by her actions), we are ever on the alert for a stick figure in a skirt.  A couple of times now (first at Legoland – those wacky Danes!), I’ve come across a slight variation in the universal symbol for what is arguably the single most sought-after attraction on any trip—those little stick-figure men and women offering sweet and blessed relief!  Specifically, this variation depicts the gentleman stick figure crossing his legs, and the lady stick figure with her knees together and her hands holding her crotch.
  • Hair:  Saw a guy today with a Mohawk—Day-glo orange!

 NEVER TOO OLD TO GO OUT HONKY-TONKING

 There are at least as many neighborhood bars in Berlin as there are neighborhood bakeries.  You certainly don’t have to go far from wherever you are to find one.  I passed one yesterday that had both a walker and a wheelchair chained up just outside the door.  Presumably even the halt and the lame can make it to the neighborhood bars.

 TATTOOS

 Having never imagined what might provoke folks to spend long hours letting some stranger poke needles into them (often in some very sensitive areas), I think I’ve finally found a practical (well, semi-practical) rationale for tattoos.  Folks just have a strong need to adorn themselves—jewelry, clothing, hairstyles.  Well, if you ride a bike and if you wear a helmet (or live where it gets cold enough to require hats), jewelry in particular causes problems.  I lost one of my favorite earrings when I pulled a hat off, and I damned near strangled myself on my necklace when I tried to put on my bike helmet and my back pack.  (Damn, those things have more straps and latches than you can shake a stick at!!)  Not a problem with tattoos, though.  Nonetheless, even though I’ve inflicted some piercing upon myself (3 holes in each ear-lobe for my earrings), I still don’t see myself dancing down the yellow brick road to Tattoo-land.

 NOTE TO SELF

 Don’t wear a scarf while riding a bike.  I learned this one the hard way today, with one of my favorite scarves.  (Of course, you always WEAR your favorite stuff, thereby having a higher chance of losing it or destroying it).  It’s getting cooler (apparently summer wore itself out in the US with all the 100+ days and had precious little energy left for Berlin) and, although I thought a sweater might be a bit much, I wrapped a scarf around my neck.  So, I’m blissfully riding in the gorgeous weather, en route to get the grandkids from day care, when all of a sudden my bike gets very difficult to pedal.   I got off the bike and discovered that my lovely scarf had slipped off my neck, which alone would have been bad enough, but apparently simply losing the scarf wasn’t enough – it had wound itself around the hub of my back wheel.  Fortunately, I wasn’t in the street (risking getting hit by a car) and I followed my standard practice – if anything is strange, get on your feet (and my threshold for ‘strange’ is very, very low) – rather than trying to push through it.  Coulda kilt myself!!  (Or worse.)

 EVERY DAMNED ONE OF THEM!

 Six months to the day after our son turned 16 and got his full driver’s license, he had a fender-bender.  No one was hurt and the damage was minor.  However, to avoid getting points on his license, he had the option to take a driving class, which had to include attendance by one of his parents.  So Steve and Harvey took the course.  In fact, this particular course should be a universal requirement before anyone gets a driver’s license.  They learned lots of useful stuff.  As part of their homework one week, they had to identify other drivers who were doing something that was dangerous.  It just so happened that over the week-end we were in Boston, where I have to believe driver’s licenses are issued only to the insane.  Absolute WORST drivers in the world!  We were leaving the airport, going through the toll gate, where approximately 8,923.5 lanes of traffic had to merge into lanes for one of three toll gates.  In the lane beside us, there was an 18‑wheeler.  There was a small sports car behind (and under the bumper of) this truck.  Apparently the driver had no intention of letting anyone get in front of him.  We hadn’t even entered the city proper yet, but Harvey asked Steve, “How many of these cars are a danger to us?”  Steve replied, “Every damned one of them!”  And he was right, of course.

 This is how I feel when I’m riding my bike.  How many people do I see that are posing a danger to me?  Every damned one of them!  Here’s a sample:

  •  Guys walking out of a bar, carrying a bottle of beer.  The later in the afternoon this is, the more likely the guy is gonna unpredictably wander into the bike lane.
  • People at bus stops—although there is plenty of room between the bike lane and the curb for bus passengers to wait, they typically prefer to wait in the bike lane.  This is especially fun when a bus comes, with the cross-flow of people getting off and on the bus.
  • People texting while walking or biking.  Yeah, it’s almost worrisome as folks doing this while they’re driving.
  • People with wires coming out of their ears.  No doubt listening to their iPods and totally oblivious to anything else on the planet.
  • Anyone walking down the sidewalk carrying potential trash.  There’s at least one trash bin on every block.  Unless the bike lane is in the street, folks must walk across the bike lane to get to the bins.  Rarely do they check to see if a bike is coming.
  • Anyone walking down the sidewalk carrying mail.  Same as above, except—presumably—they’ll be headed towards the mail box.
  • Folks sitting on benches.  Many streets are lined with trees.  In some places, folks have put little fences around them and may have even planted flowers beneath the trees.  Sometimes the top rails of the fences are wide enough to serve as seats.  OK.  Each little fenced-in area has 4 sides, 3 of which do NOT face the bike lane.  Would you care to guess which side most folks prefer to sit on, and with their legs sticking into the bike lane?
  • Tourists.  American tourists are especially dangerous, as they are the most likely never to have experienced a bike lane in their lives.  So if you hear anyone speaking American English, be afraid!
  • Anyone capable of moving.  Folks are unpredictable and unfathomable.  Somebody will be going down the sidewalk with great purpose, and, if they continue on that particular course, they’ll never intrude upon the bike lane.  But, suddenly they seem to have an uncontrollable urge to get into the bike lane, for no apparent reason.
  • People watching the traffic.  You’d think that’s exactly what you’d want folks to do.  The only problem is that, although they’re watching the traffic with great intensity, it’s the traffic that’s going in the opposite direction, which should be of considerably less interest to them that what’s happening on their side of the street.
  • Commercial trucks.  Not only do these typically park in a way that blocks the bike lane, but you can bet that, sooner or later, some guy or gal is going to exit the vehicle pushing a dolly, while focusing exclusively on keeping the object on the dolly and not bumping into the door frame.  Bikers are the last thing these folks are taking into consideration.
  • Waiters, Waitresses, and Dining Patrons.  Berliners like to dine outside.  Often that includes simply putting chairs and tables on the sidewalk in front of the café.  That can be a problem if there’s no bike lane and you’re using the sidewalk to avoid the cobblestones in the street.  It can also be a problem when the bike lane runs between the sidewalk and that little strip of land where the trees are planted.  Sometimes the café extends to those small strips of pavement, too, so you can effectively be riding your bike through a café.  Folks aren’t particularly careful about what they do with their arms and legs, either, and their gestures may include thrusting an arm right into the bike lane when they’re emphasizing an important point in their conversation.  But if you think it’s dicey for the person on the bike, just imagine what it must be like to be waiting tables in a place where you have to dodge bicyclists!

 And, of course, we mustn’t forget the greatest menace of all – the oldamericanladyinberlin, who’s still trying to figure this bike thing out and who, when spooked by anything at all [drunk guy leaving a bar; dog heading for a tree because he got a whiff of a message his friend left him there] simply STOPS, in a panic, without any thought of what might be going on behind her.  [It’s all she can do to cope with what’s in FRONT of her, much less behind her.]


[1] ‘Bezirk’ is German for ‘neighborhood.’

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