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08. June 2011
Just recently, an acute case of bronchitis prompted me to set up an appointment at my doctor's office across town. Although I had left Prenzlauer Berg for surburban Steglitz at a time when other parents were flocking eastwards, I hadn't given up on my physician of choice back in the Kiez. I would soon realize that I had made a huge mistake.
My son and I left the house at eight a.m – the appointment was set for 12. I gathered up a stroller and an umbrella, a diaper bag and the entirety of my courage to embark on my very first BVG family trip. Logistically, our house is situated very conveniently between two different U-Bahn lines. But because Breitenbach station was closed due to construction and Schloßstraße doesn't have an elevator, I headed on over to Rathaus Steglitz – on foot, mind you, since busses in Westberlin's city fringes are as unreliable in June as they are during black ice warnings in the wintertime.
I had already reached the platform when I realized that I had made a first, crucial mistake: I had forgotten to stop at an ATM. Because I had sworn off fare-dodging with my entry into the world of parenthood, trading in nerves of steel for a role model function, I went and withdrew some cash – only to realize that a 10 euro bill won't get you all too far at a BVG ticket machine. I proceeded towards a bakery where I got back a bunch of change after having to buy a Marzipan-Croissant – Lesson number one: Never leave the house without change!
The real problems began when the train entered the station. Due to morning rush hour, the platform was so crowded that I couldn't find the designated train cars for bikes and strollers, so I just jumped in blindly and wedged myself through the masses. It was only a matter of seconds after the doors had slid shut that my son began to flaunt his vocal chords like there was no tomorrow. I was beginning to fight beads of perspiration.
We had to change trains at Potdamer Platz and of course, the elevator was out of service. How will humanity ever settle on Mars if we can't even build proper elevators? I was recovering from a herniated disc, so I needed to find someone to help me carry the stroller down the stairs. A suit-clad businessman pointed to the coffee to go in his left and laptop in his right hand and smiled apologetically before charging up the stairs in the same reckless fashion in which he had probably climbed the career ladder. Suddenly, two Turkish boys grabbed the stroller, wordless, and heaved it up the stairs. Lesson number two: “Women and children first!” may be a golden rule on sinking cruise liners, but it certainly doesn't apply to rush hour traffic at Potsdamer Platz.
Anyone who's ever transferred from S to U-Bahn at Potsdamer Platz knows what I'm talking about. It's a maze with a disastrous, time-consuming signpost situation, propelling me into my next predicament – I was on the wrong platform and my bladder began to make itself felt. Does the BVG have public toilets and if yes, where could they be? Lesson number three: A stroller's natural enemy is the treacherous escalator. I had to pee so bad that I decided to overlook the “no strollers on the escalator” sign. Minutes later, I almost broke my big toe and my son's nose before rushing through the station's lower level like a speed merchant. The sight of a toilet attendant had never made me this happy. Sighing with relief, I rewarded the kind soul with a three euro tip (see also: lesson one).
I had 70 minutes left until the appointment, allowing for a well-deserved repose, so I sat down and ordered a Soy Chai Latte and New York Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake. I ended up 15 minutes late for my appointment. Why? Lesson number four: Never leave the house without an extra deodorant!