April 22, 2009
Man oh man… wow. Okay, where to begin? Getting from Amsterdam to Berlin in one day proved to be impossible. You knew it was going to be a stretch, but you didn’t realize how goddamn difficult it would be to get out of the city. The roads and towns in Holland are fairly dense. No one is actually headed on the motorway for any significant distance. So there you were, getting one crappy little ride after the next, inching your way across the map. There was, however, one very nice Canadian gentleman who found you. You wound up driving together for an hour to avoid an 11km traffic jam. Turned out he was educated at Cambridge, also rowed, worked in construction when he was young,and studied philosophy. Match made in heaven. He was happy for the company, and you were pleased by the stimulating polical discussion. He seemed to warm to you, gave you his contact information in case you ran into trouble. He then dropped you at what turned out to be a very inconvenient spot. But neither of you knew that at the time, so you can’t hold it against him. Thanks Jasper!
Things started to look up when, at a petrol station on the side of the motorway, a stern German man in a hurry said he was going to a particular town far down the road. You thought, sweet, FINALLY, a good ride. Oh no, turns out he was headed south, rather than east, so why he told you he would be of any use to you is a mystery, because clearly you were an imposition on him. He didn’t want to be late for his appointment.
You discussed your options after you realized the mistake. He was going to drop you at a particular parking area, but it turned out to be closed, so he wound up sweeping you south ANYWAY, and before you could complain, he continued to bitch about how he was running late. At long last, you decided to ditch the guy. So there you were, dumped on the side of the motorway, getting blown around by the wind of passing trucks. Whoops.
A few more cars helped you creep across Holland and eventually into Germany, where again, most inconveniently, you found yourself abandoned on the side of the motorway, with no town or on-ramp or even a SHOULDER in sight. Fuck fuck fuck, this could be a long walk.
You started to hoof it, damning yourself for ever thinking you could reach Berlin from Amsterdam in one day. You had no phone, no wireless internet access. Just some fucking scrawled-upon pieces of paper and a map, which you held up despondently at vehicles blasting past on the autobahn at 200km and hour.
Walking backwards while trying to hitch hike lets the drivers see your face—your straining eyes, messy wind-blown hair, and your despicable situation. What sucks is that sometimes people stop, and you don’t realize because your back is turned. So when you finally did look back (or forward down the road), you saw a large blue semi-truck parked with its lights flashing. You broke into a run—the longest fucking run, with the heaviest fucking bag. And when you did reach the passenger door, craned your neck back to meet the driver in the eyes, and started to gush with thank you’s, it became apparent that this man spoke not ONE WORD of English, and you—amazingly—didn’t know a SINGLE word in German. Okay, not really. You knew leiderhosen. Some fucking good THAT word would do.
You pointed to Berlin on the map, and he pointed to a small little town about an hour down the motorway. You’ll take it! You jumped in the truck, and prepared yourself for some supreme awkwardness. He talked at you, and you could only respond with wide, confused, apologetic eyes. Awkward smirks and shoulder shrugs. He pointed at a cup, at garbage, at the countryside, at pieces of paper, work slips, blathering names of German towns—God only knew what he was trying to say. At long last, he began to laugh, and so did you. Neither of you could communicate even the most basic phrases, desires, or feelings.
It was a long drive, and somehow you allowed yourself to get comfortable enough to drift in and out of sleep. This guy, Rene, reminded you of that trucker you met in France. Seemed harmless (but then, you wouldn’t really know you were in a fucked up situation until it was too late). When you woke up, you realized the town was approaching. You tried to communicate which exit you wanted to get dropped at. But then he started carrying on with his cup, sheets of paper, names of towns, etc. Again, you had no fucking clue what he was getting at. Who knows, but after 20 minutes, it was clear. His first job was to visit the town you expected to reach, and his second job was much, much further down the motorway. If you stayed with him through the first job, he could continue taking you cross country. Why not? The prospect of Berlin was fucked at this point. You had nothing better to do.
When you arrived at a garbage dump, his gestures to papers and his cup made sense. He was carrying a load of trash. So you hung out with him at the weigh-station, then through the dump, then through the re-load, and through more administrative trucker business, getting your learn on, but still not understandning a single word. Hours crept by, and you realized that this guy wasn’t your fastest choice for Berlin. He drove on the back roads to regain the motorway, then said he wanted to stop for coffee. Fine, okay. You’d lost 3.5 hours at this point. Get coffee on the go with the guy.
No, no. He was stopping for dinner. You had the distinct impression that he really liked having your company. You could tell he was explaining enthusiastically to the the clerk at the cafe that he’d found an English-speaking woman on the side of the road. He seemed very pleased and casual about it. You figured, if this guy was going to rape and kill you, he wouldn’t be advertising your presence. Fine. You’re calm. You’re Laid Back Jim.
Over coffee, watching him eat dinner, you knew you would be spending the rest of the day with this guy, so you committed yourself to learning German. You HAD to be able to say SOMETHING. God, ANYTHING. Just one damn thing. So the lesson began. Words for “table, cup, hands, coffee, go, toilet, man, woman…” The more you learned, the more similar it seemed to Dutch, and suddenly a breakthrough. You continued your lesson in the truck, down the road, and learned all the colors, sizes, speeds, nouns along the side of the road… and lo and behold, you were speaking German! pats self on the back.
Getting dark, and you thought you would have him drop you on the side of the motorway, where you would pitch your tent in any one of the many luxuriously private, tree-covered areas. But before you could discuss, he said he was getting tired, and that he needed to sleep. Okay, fine, it was getting dark. You told him you had a tent, and that you didn’t care where he left you. He said, actually, that you could sleep in the truck with him, because he had a top bunk.
Naturally your inner alarm went off. This is the point where you get raped and killed. Of course he was setting you up for this, taking you on the job with him, then to dinner, then to BED! You told him you would think about it. Five minutes later, it started “shitting rain,” as they say in Germany. The idea of sleeping in a warm cab on the top bunk with this dude who taught you basic German over 6 hours together seemed less and less dangerous.
And okay, you’re not in the clear yet. You are at a truck stop, where there are showers, food, phones, etc. Rene just came back from his before-bed shower, and you are still sitting here, documenting your day.
So if you won’t wake up and finish this entry tomorrow, you have been raped and killed. But you highly doubt that.
AND YOU ARE ALIVE!