Archive for December, 2011

Train Station Tales – Munich
December 30, 2011

In the beginning there are only five of us – a guy sleeping in front of me, trying to make himself comfortable on the benches before he eventually opts for the floor, where he’ll stay for the next four hours. There are a few bums who have also found a place to rest their heads on the linoleum. One is snoring loudly and, despite my earplugs, the sound is slowly driving me insane. The second homeless man sleeps soundly for a few hours until he wakes in need of whatever it is, rolls up his sleeping mat, and leaves. Not long after a group of American tourists walks in looking for a place to sit: “They’re all homeless in here,” one yells, and they quickly walk back out.

Such is the night I spent in the waiting room of Münchens Hauptbahnhof, Munich’s central train station, waiting for the 3am train to Berlin to take me home.

As the night drew on more and more exhausted partygoers filed in, finding a comfortable spot on the orange plastic chairs to wait for their trains home. A couple of punks come in and find a spot to spoon on the floor. By 2am there were almost thirty of us, though only about five women. Most of the men had dozed off, either in their seats or on the floor. The women were all awake and alert though, whether staring straight ahead or scribbling madly away.

More snoring.

A dweeby looking guy with a white teddy bear sits near me. After too long in the same close quarters we offer each other sheepish smiles. When I notice that he isn’t looking away but actually grinning at me outright it occurs to me that he’s probably high on something. I begin a staring contest with the floor tiles.

They aren’t all scary though. Another traveller lets me use his laptop to charge my dead iPod, so I agree to watch his computer while he goes out for a smoke. A few seconds later a homeless man comes in and starts rifling through his things. “Jemand sitz schon da, sie können hier nicht sitzen,” I tell him, in an effort to drive him away. He replies my blowing his nose loudly into a discarded sandwich bag.

An hour before its scheduled departure my train comes into the station, track 19.

At this point it’s too early to board the train, but I can’t stand the snoring any longer. I consider throwing my pencil as the offending bum, but am dissuaded by the fact that it’s my only writing apparatus and that it contradicts my long held philosophy of avoiding altercations with homeless people.

I accidentally make eye contact with teddy bear guy again, and then place my bags on the seats beside me to avoid neighbourly visits.

I regret not having put some Janet Evanovich on my Kindle. I am instead stuck choosing between Bill Bryson and Michael Pollan, neither one of which is great company at 2:45am.

As I finally board my train at 3am I wonder how we can build high-speed rail networks that will rush me home at 400km an hour, but have yet to cure more obvious problems, like homelessness. But just a few minutes later I put away my Kindle, rest my head on my tray table, and fall quietly asleep.