July 19, 2004

Weird Stuff First (Psycho On The Bus)

The beginning of our English/Irish vacation wasn't too encouraging: to get to Hamburg Airport, we decided (okay, I decided) to take the "Airport Express" service offered by Hamburg public transit: you ride to the Ohlsdorf U-Bahn/S-Bahn station, and then ride the Airport Express bus from the train station to the airport.

Simple enough -- only when we walked out of the Ohlsdorf station, we found an already-full Airport Express bus holding at the bus stop, with an additional crowd of rapt spectators surrounding it. The holdup was readily apparent; the bus driver was physically holding back a struggling, screaming man at the front of the bus.

The driver had the bus doors closed so the man couldn't get out, and was standing across the aisle, so that the man couldn't move past the front of the bus towards the other passengers. The man wanted to get out as much as the bus driver wanted to keep him there -- screaming "Let me OUT!!! Let me OUT!!! LET ME OUT, you f**ker!!" He tried to push past the bus driver down the aisle. When that didn't work, he started kicking the front doors of the bus, hard -- hard enough that I was waiting for the glass to break. The bus driver tried to get him in a bear hug, which prompted the man to try to dive across him for the door-open button. As they struggled over that, the people on the bus -- and it was packed -- began inching farther and farther towards the back of the bus, away from the commotion. Finally a couple of people used the emergency-exit knobs to open the bus's middle and rear doors, and people started to flee the bus.

Finally, after darting for the door-open button again and again, Crazy Screaming Guy finally succeeded in opening the front doors. He twisted out of the bus driver's grip and ducked outside; the bus driver closed the doors, having now made a snap decision to keep him out. Crazy Screaming Guy then stood outside the bus and began taunting the bus driver. "You A**HOLE!!! You're a TOTAL ASS!!!!" After having his fill of that, CSG began walking down the street away from the bus, pausing now and then to turn around and fix the bus driver with a suitably hateful gaze.

After a little while, CSG reached into his jacket pocket and, with a look of total horror, brought an empty hand back out again. He rushed back to the bus and started beating on the windshield, now shrieking at the bus driver. "You A**SHOLE!!!! My HANDY!!!! Give me back my HANDY!!!!!" Oops-- while having a psychotic screaming wrestling match with the bus driver, CSG had dropped his cellphone on the floor of the bus! All of us who'd previously been regarding CSG as some kind of vague threat now started snickering. You moron -- after all that, you expect the bus driver to just hand your phone back to you? The bus driver found the phone, picked it up, and stood there with it, staring out at an ever-more-hysterical CSG as he beat on the outside of the bus. "MY HANDY!!!! MY HANDY!!!!! *GIVE* *ME* *BACK* *MY* *HANDY*!!!!!!"

(Note for the reader: Cellular phones are called "handys" in Germany.)

At that point, if I were the bus driver, I'd have dropped the phone out of the window and quickly driven over it -- but eventually it was passed down the aisle among the remaining passengers to the back of the bus, where it was tossed out a door to CSG. CSG caught the phone, began to walk away, and then turned, ran back into the bus, and sat down on the rearmost seat!

The bus moved a little distance (with the rear doors wide open -- apparently if you open them by the emergency exit, they can't be closed normally). Us spectators, along with the refugees from the bus, went to the next bus in line. Its driver was now sufficiently convinced that things had gotten weird enough that it was okay to deviate from the schedule; he opened the doors and let us in.

Unfortunately, the first bus was blocking a single-lane portion of the road away from the station. Our bus was psycho-free, but we still had to wait until the police arrived and pulled CSG out of the back of the first bus. The first bus then moved ahead enough so that it could get off the road. As we pulled past, we could see a policewoman with a notebook boarding the bus, looking ready to obtain statements from anyone unfortunate enough to still be aboard (and everybody aboard stewing with a "why me?" look on their face); the bus driver walked a policeman around the outside of the bus, gesticulating excitedly towards damage no doubt apparent only to other bus enthusiasts.

To a man, those of us on the second bus were thinking "there but for the grace of God go I ..." It seemed a less-than-auspicious way to start a vacation. We never did find out what happened in the first place to make the bus driver hold the guy back; refugees from the first bus were chattering into their cell phones about being delayed due to a crazy man on their bus, but that's all the detail we got ...

Good thing we left the house earlier than usual!

Posted by Kevin at July 19, 2004 11:32 PM