Stepping out of the house, the first thing I noticed was the silence. It hung in the air like a vale of fog, simultaneously vague and conspicuous. Living in the centre of a city has it’s benefits, but silence is rarely one of them. This is especially true when you live so near to a train station, as well as a main bus line. Yet, despite being in such close proximity to these arteries of urban travel, there was still the eerie silence. At any other time I would have begun to suspect that the inevitable end of humanity had finally occurred, although the lack of any sound all but ruled out the zombie outbreak that many males of my generation long to occur. That might at first seem an odd thought, but then when else would we be able to wield a shotgun and cricket bat with near impunity? I should have seen this soundless void as a signal, a warning for what was about to occur. However, I could not see the signs before me, after all, this is entirely normal for Sundays in Germany.
As I walked to the U-Bahn station, I considered the lack of any sound. This was partly to distract myself from not thinking about smoking, a habit I am currently trying (and failing) to give up, but also because it still amazes me. Even after three years, the peace that falls over Germany’s cities on a Sunday is genuinely miraculous. Germany, the powerhouse of European economics and manufacturing takes Sundays off. Even Britain, practically a spinster knitting jumpers and baking cakes for a local fete in comparison, is open for business seven days a week. Unless you happen to work in the restaurant, bar, public transport or Christianity industry, you’re almost guaranteed Sundays off. Although the discussion of Sunday opening hours appears in the public consciousness every few months, when it comes down to it, people like having the free time. Although I fear that someday that might change, I doubt it will be any time soon.
In fact, most Sundays I choose to stay in, sometimes I do some work myself or just stare a various screens that inhabit my life. Despite having this option available, I had made the decision to partake in the very English past time of watching football in the pub. As I entered the U-bahn station, my phone buzzed with an update on the team sheets for the next match, insuring I could impress/depress my friends with an up-to-date knowledge of the upcoming fixture. As I descended the stairs to the platform, I saw my train slipping into tunnel away from me. There are few more inconvenient things than just missing a travel connection, especially in a country that values punctuality. In the past, when I lived thirty minutes from everywhere, seven minutes was insignificant. Now I live in the city, waiting seven minutes for a train might as well be a lifetime.
I took up a waiting position next to the vending machine, in the middle of the platform. The train arrived quickly and I easily found an empty seat, perhaps if I knew then what would happen I might have just walked. As the train moved off, I heard the unmistakeable pop of someone chewing gum. No big thing. Then it happened again and again and again. I looked to find the source of the sound, my eyes alighted on a nonchalant looking guy sitting a few seats in front of me. I can forgive little kids loudly popping gum, but surely once you reach your twenties, you no longer require the playground credibility this skill entails. Another pop and I had begun to plot how best to murder this moron without anyone noticing. Having tired of popping his gum, the man then proceeded to remove the gum and stretch it out between his hands, fold it over and then repeat. Perhaps I could strangle him with it, I thought as we arrived at the next station.
Popping gum man left as I quickly shelved plans to elbow drop him. My eyes followed him down the platform. I failed to notice the group of four pulling up to sit next to me. Before I had a chance to move, they had sat down and proceeded to begin eating something. Within seconds I realised what it was, kebap. Far be it from me to prohibit anyone from eating one of these fine Turkish treats, but surely the place to eat one is not in confined spaces with unwilling companions. The smell of Kebap on its own is no problem, but four on the go at once can be slightly over powering. Just as the smell hit the carriage, I realised one of these gits had chosen garlic sauce. I looked around for an escape, just as the first piece of kebap missed my shoes by centimetres. I looked up to see the reaction of its owner, he looked through me oblivious. As I they chowed down, more and more dollops of garlic sauce and salad began to threaten my shoes. I moved uneasily, I was going to have to say something, we were passed the point of passive aggressive stares. As I opened my mouth to question their culinary choices, they all stood up in unison and exited. Hopefully the rest of the journey would go smoothly.
Just as the doors were about to close, I heard the unmistakable heavy breathing of a late passenger. The doors shut and without looking round I could tell that the latecomer had only managed to get half of their body through, something was trapped. The doors reopened, and a mass of sweat and hair slopped down opposite me. I looked up from the garlic strewn floor and came face to face with a goblin, at least I think it was a goblin, there was a lot of hair. Now I know we shouldn’t judge people on appearances, but we aren’t in kindergarten. Everyone judges, it’s just a case of how much and how vocal you are about it. The fella sitting next to me had obviously made some interesting life choices, many of which I had no effect on me. However, he had decided on few things that day that had quite a large impact on myself and everyone around us.
Showering appeared to be one of those choices and the other, the decision to buy an extra large bag of peanuts. Again, I love peanuts, but as you may know, they are also not a snack food for confined spaces. Thankfully, as the man began to shovel the bag into his gaping maw, the mess he made was limited. This was because any lost peanuts seemed to find themselves lodged about his person. So many of these fallen nuts began to be scattered across his shirt and trousers that I wondered if he was attempting to store them for later. My silent question was answered as he rummaged about his clothes to find them and then proceeded to throw them individually into his mouth. Disgusted and slightly impressed by his accuracy, I visibly winced as he burped loudly. I glared at him, but he simply looked at me blankly. I got off three stops early, angrily admonishing myself for not confronting any of these people and choosing instead to follow a long line of silent British protests. Next time I would say something, next time I would act. Next time, I thought to myself, you’ll do exactly the same thing.