I decided to greet LSB at Schoenefeld airport with a placard featuring a blown-up picture of his own face. I had all the available equipment at hand: my flatmate’s high-quality printer, a cardboard box, which I had used to carry my groceries home, and some sellotape.
The evening of LSB’s arrival, my flatmate was welcoming friends to an “All-Male Poker evening.” Though he had included me on his invitation list, he had also apologised to his guests for my sex, adding that at least I could “make myself useful by serving beer.”
I responded by crafting a formal email during work, which I had checked and improved by a very obliging production assistant. Writing to all those included in the invitation list, I mentioned that it was with extreme regret that the Poker Evening would have to be cancelled since I had made a prior commitment to host a feminist congress at the address.
One of the advantages of being Irish and odd, is that when in a foreign country, the latter is often excused by the novelty of the first.
Unfortunately as the first guests were arriving I was in the kitchen, of all places, and even worse, cooking.
I was making LSB a potato and kidney bean bake to welcome him to my motherland. But I was doing so in a highly emancipated fashion.
Of course the scene delighted my flatmate, who ushered his friends in with insufferable smugness, pointing out that I was both a woman, and in the kitchen.
One of the guests greeted me with a smirk and said “Feminist Congress, yeah?”
I beamed at him.
“Thank you so much for coming!” I said. “The discussion topics are displayed in the room next door.”
“What?” he asked.
“You should have got my email,” I told him straight-faced.
“I did but I thought it was a j..”
“I really appreciate you coming,” I said. “It’s always hard to get men to agree to come to these kinds of events.”
His face dropped and I returned to the saucepan.
I left for the train station just as the “boys” were seating themselves at the “poker table.”
One of my favourite things about living in Berlin is my “Azubi” train ticket. With it, I can travel all around the city without having to tag on or off and it is valid on the weekends too, meaning I can whizz about exploring the city.
In the five weeks I have been here, I have not once been checked for a ticket.
As the train was pulling into the Shoenefeld stop, a group of four young men entered the carriage. They had chains and tattoos and shaved heads and suddenly one yelled “TICKETS, PLEASE”.
Ruffians, I thought.
Until one approached me.
I looked up at him, in his torn jeans and crumpled t-shirt and thought “Are you serious?”
But he had one of those machines.
I rummaged in my bag for my wallet and whipped out my Azubi ticket, complete with hideous photo ID.
His lip curled a little.
“Do you have an extension ticket?” he asked.
“A what now?”
“An extension ticket.”
“The zones covered by this card were transgressed at the last stop,”he said.
“Oh! I had no idea,” I said, as the door opened and the voice announced “Last Stop.”
“I’m sorry,” I offered.
“Please show me your passport,” he said.
Mother of divine comedy, I thought.
At this point I was imagining LSB loitering forlorn in the arrivals hall, thinking I had forgotten him.
All I wanted was to get away from this most unpleasant man, and wave my placard.
“Where do you live?” he asked, still in possession of my passport.
I gave him the necessary details, and avoided the question about my “police-authorized address” by asking how I was supposed to have known that “extension tickets” existed.
I did all this in a most charming manner, hoping that he would consider me diminutive and not that bright.
He was having none of it and issued me with a €40 fine.
Clasping the little slip of paper and inwardly cursing him, I ran all the way to the arrivals hall.
I saw an elderly lady dressed in a green overall arrive and embrace her dog, who was on a lead held by her daughter, whom she ignored. Then an Irish businessman was greeted by a German Paypal employee.
And finally, LSB emerged from behind the screen.
I waved my placard madly.
He ran to me.
“Wilkommen in Berlin!”
“What on earth is this?” he gasped.
“Oh, just in case you’d forgotten what you looked like,” I murmured as I took him by the hand and led him to the ticket machine, where I bought an “extension ticket” for €1.50.
More on LSB in Berlin to come.