Say nothing? Say what? Unwanted travel companions can be agonizing.
For a while it helps to take the gossip with humor, to conduct small-scale sociological studies and to enjoy the grotesqueness of it. Three middle-aged women, previously unknown to each other, sit with me at the table of a train compartment for hours. (By the end of it the friendly get-together will culminate in an exchange of telephone numbers.)
The roles soon become clear. One of them finds everything (the landscape, ticket app, coffee service) absolutely amazing and above all “awesome,” while her sweater slogan proclaims a clearly demarcating message: “Before you ask: NO!”
The second finds everything (November, the armrests, Deutsche Bahn) dreadful and above all “shit.” The third, apparently the oldest, appears to be the deliberative one: “On the one hand I think..., on the other hand I have the feeling...” The fourth one has plugs in her ears, although the player battery is empty. That's me.
They never run out of things to talk about. After a debate about the difficulty of finding flower arrangements in fall that don't look like funerals (“... but on the other hand my chrysanthemums last into Advent”), and a survey about whether the new-found friends have counted how often they look at their smartphone per day (the optimist has, namely 94 times, “I admit it”), the conversation inevitably leads to politics.
One of them hates the AfD, the other is afraid of the right-wingers, the third weighs up between disgust, dismay and “clear rejection.” Who bandies about the cheapest phrase? My goodness, what a hollow, almost endless ringing of words.
I briefly consider blowing up the cozy circle and throwing in something like “why, shit, the AfD is awesome,” but that would be a) childish, and b) a lie.
Time passes at a snail’s pace. A little later, a large family sits down in the compartment opposite, six of them on four seats. They immediately unpack food. It smells good – that’s what I think. From the fact that no German is spoken opposite, my ladies conclude that no German is understood either. They think it stinks. They find it impossible. They think that the woman’s looking at us as if she hates our little circle because we’re not wearing headscarves. The thoughtful one says she doesn’t find “headscarves bad in themselves,” but wants “everyone” to decide for themselves about them. Everyone nods.
The other one: “In Gelsenkirchen, where I live, in many streets you have the impression you’re in the Middle East.” The third: “Same in Cologne.” “Yes, or look at Stuttgart.” – “Or Nuremberg.” Word fragments: horrible, where is this supposed to end, look what they're eating, it's sick, it's nothing but garlic! “I'm for tolerance, but I'll never get used to anything like that!”
Then comes the inevitable, like a scene from an indoctrination film for junior high: One of the headscarfed women notices the glances and offers some of the little balls, “do you want to try?” All the AfD-haters refuse, two of them even with their gaze turned away.
I reach out, thank her, but unfortunately I can't return the favor. Two sets of raised eyebrows, only the ponderer says with a seemingly understanding smile and head askew: “I’d just be worried that it’d be too spicy for me.” By the way, today, and in this country, women's suffrage has been in existence for 99.9 years.
Extracts from the original online diary here (01/Nov/2018) at sezession.de translated and republished with permission from Ellen Kositza.