"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


The Rules

Have you ever had a German bus driver make an announcement over the loudspeaker about you? (But since it's in German you have no idea that is it's about you until you get a few sideways glances from the other passengers.) Or, have you ever had a German bus driver stop the bus, get out of his seat, walk over to you and get upset with you for not doing something you had no idea you were supposed to do?

Well, I was 'that person' this morning. You see, Germans are very fastidious about following the established rules. There is no such thing as having different ways of doing things; there is either the 'right way' or the 'wrong way.'

For example, everyone obeys the crosswalk signals. I can't tell you how many times I have been standing on a corner with other Germans with absolutely no car in sight, but because the cross walk signal is red, nobody moves. They all patiently wait until it changes to green before taking a step.

Little by little I am learning the bus rules as well. Now I know that if you have a stroller you have to enter the bus through the middle door. Once on the bus I must park the stroller in the designated stroller and wheel chair area. If an elderly person enters the bus and there is no seat, I must stand up and give them mine. It is not neccessary to show the bus driver my monthly bus pass when I enter the bus. (But if the 'bus police' ask for it, you must do so promptly!)

Today I learned a new bus rule.

This morning I wheeled the stroller onto the bus, just like I do every day. I parked it in the designated area, put on the brake, sat down in a seat right next to the stroller and settled in for the 20 minute bus ride to town.

Two stops later the bus driver got on the loudspeaker and made an announcement. I had no idea what he said except that it involved 'kinder' (= children) something-or-other. After looking around and seeing no one else with 'kinder' besides me, and after noticing that most people's eyes were on me, I figured I was doing something wrong. Panic set in.

I leaned over to the lady next to me and asked in English, "What did he say?" She, having very little English, tried to explain, but I could make no sense of anything except it had to do with my stroller. Again, more panic.

That is when the bus driver stopped the bus, stood up and walked right towards me. Knee-shanking panic. He said something in German very emphatically and pointed at the stroller. I just shrugged my shoulders and apologized for not understanding German hoping he would have pity on me. No such luck.

The bus driver took my stroller, picked it up and turned it so that the handle was facing me where I was sitting in my seat. He kept repeating a phrase and pointing at the stroller. Then he pointed to the handle of the stroller and gripped it, pointing at me to do the same.

Finally, I understood! He wanted me to hold onto the stroller handle while sitting in the seat. I felt like arguing that I had the brake on and was only sitting a mere two inches from the stroller, so if the brake happened to give out, I could reach and grab it without a problem. Come on! Was it really necessary for him to have gone to all that trouble?! But I restrained myself and pretended to be holding onto the stroller handle the remainder of the bus ride while quietly simmering inside.

Don't worry, Germans, I will submissively conform to your rules--even the silly ones.

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