I ride the subway nearly everywhere I go in Berlin. I like riding the subway because it makes me feel like I’m in Harry Potter and hey y’all where’s Platform 9 3/4 oh that’s right I’m a Muggle so nevermind. Also, I get to practice my pronunciation of German names by repeating after the robot announcer every time he or she calls out the upcoming train station. I’ve mastered almost all the names I’ve encountered thus far, except for “Bellevue,” which I know is a French name but I swear it sounds like “Beargroon” when the announcer says it in German.
The subway system in Berlin is essentially the same as ones in the other big cities I’ve been in, with one big exception: they don’t check your ticket before you get on the train. In London you have to swipe your card or feed your ticket into a machine every time you enter and exit the train station. In other places I’ve been to I don’t remember how they do it but they sure as a hoot-and-a-holler check every time. But in Berlin they’re just like, “Hey, yeah, we trust you. Just be responsible and buy your ticket and get it stamped by the stampy machine every time and nobody gets hurt.”
You might imagine that I was confused by this payment method, so a few weeks ago I asked my sub-letter what the deal was. She explained that it is indeed mostly an honor system, but that these people called the Ticket Enforcers are always hiding in the shadows of the trains, and occasionally they’ll jump out and catch you if you don’t have a stamped ticket, arrest you, and make you serve a five-month sentence as a street performer.
I then concluded that this subway payment method is doomed to failure, because you can’t just expect people to give you money if you aren’t going to directly ask them to give you money and make sure they give you money before you give them your subway services. I also concluded that since I’ve only seen these mythical Ticket Enforcers one time on a bus at three in the morn and never on a train that probably they are just figments of the collective unconscious. And therefore I decided that not buying a ticket a few times would be no big deal.
So today I ventured out towards the train station and thought to myself, “Ah, yes, another day that the Ticket Enforcers will not exist. I wonder what they look like, anyway?” I shambled onto the U2 line and wedged myself in near the doorway because it was rush hour and there were a whole lotta people crammed inside that tiny train cabin. And in my peripheral vision I halfway noticed some dude standing across the way from me looking inconspicuous and quite crammed inside that tiny train cabin.
Then the train started, and the Ticket Enforcers sprang out of the collective unconscious and into real life. Of course Inconspicuous and Quite Crammed Lad was one of the Ticket Enforcers. He pulled out an official Ticket Enforcer ID badge and official Ticket Enforcer ticket-writing contraption from beneath his dragon-like scales and shouted loudly in German, “Hey y’all! Errbody show me yer tickets, and Lode help yeh if yeh ain’t got one!”
Now at this point, I hope you’re wondering what happened to me.
Well of course I bought a seven-day pass on Monday, silly. So I drew my ticket-sword out of my ticket-sword sheath and slayed the evil Ticket Enforcer’s ticket-writing contraption. And everyone else in the tiny train cabin had their tickets too, so I still don’t know what really happens to the fools who live their lives above the Ticket-Enforcing law.