My rail jour­neys always resem­ble an odys­sey, non-stop, to Bizarro World. This will be a report on one of tho­se wan­de­rings. 

Summer has come, holi­day time has begun and we are drawn to the sta­ti­ons and their trains like moths to the fire. We would all like to dash, without any inci­dent, at the ICE’s top speed to our vaca­ti­on rela­xa­ti­on. Alas, some unlu­cky indi­vi­du­als are not gran­ted this wish — and I am one of tho­se tra­vel­lers in catt­le class who are per­ma­nent­ly down on their luck. Too clo­se for com­fort, I’ll be stan­ding cram­med in the slo­west trains. if they move at all, and I’ll be obser­ving my fel­low pas­sen­gers’ deodo­rant figh­t­ing an uphill batt­le against the bro­ken air-con. I’ll always end up having just that much or litt­le delay that it won’t qua­li­fy for a refund. Among tho­se tra­vel­ling with me, the­re are bound to be at least fif­teen cry­ing babies and todd­lers, two hen or steg par­ties with a pen­chant for chee­sy songs, and one baw­ling school class on their gra­dua­ti­on trip. 

My trip begins with a 100 metres sprint on plat­form 8, whe­re my train is rea­dy for boar­ding. Even from a distance I can tell that even fif­teen minu­tes befo­re depar­tu­re I have arri­ved too late for a seat. So while I am approa­ching the train I am alrea­dy having my doubts if I can secu­re at least a stan­ding spot. There is one for­tu­n­a­te­ly, right in front of the obli­ga­to­ry defec­ti­ve door (on the left in the direc­tion of tra­vel). To my reg­ret as a pen­ny pin­cher, of cour­se this spot cos­ts just the same as one of the cove­ted seats. 

Next to me the­re are two more women in their mid-twen­ties from Leipzig. And the train would just fill up more and more. By now, peop­le crack jokes of the type “At least we can’t fall over” and I start envy­ing packed sar­di­nes for their spa­cious can. Alas, that’s how it is, and by the time the train is lea­ving, things have beco­me even worse than you may ima­gi­ne now. But that man who is just too cheer­ful for the situa­ti­on does have a point: no domi­no effect could pos­si­b­ly occur. 

Needless to say, it is get­ting hot­ter, too. At an oppor­tu­ne moment I have final­ly mana­ged to take off my coat with the bare mini­mum of elbow room. From the bro­ken door, I can enjoy the dis­trac­tion of the land­s­cape just for a few minu­tes befo­re the glass is fog­ging up. But the ride through the hell of bleak pro­spects has only just begun. 

Bit by bit, the group of stan­ders is forming a com­mu­ni­ty, until we are so den­se­ly packed that we must lea­ve some fel­low tra­vel­lers behind on the platform. 

At any rate, I am still lucky. I stand at the edge in a cor­ner by the door so I can recli­ne during short win­dows of oppor­tu­ni­ty. The two twen­ty­so­me­things next to me sit on their ruck­sacks, talk about toking in flat-share kit­chens, and keep their hands firm­ly on a pet car­ri­er the size of a beer cra­te, com­ple­te­ly wrap­ped in tape. 

I pon­der what one would trans­port in this man­ner. Here is a selec­tion of my ide­as: the Holy Grail (obtru­si­ve­ly unob­tru­si­ve), drugs, a spi­der or a simi­lar­ly craw­ling bug that might other­wi­se escape through the ven­ti­la­ti­on holes, ano­t­her slight­ly smal­ler pet fad­car­ri­er fol­lo­wed by ano­t­her slight­ly smal­ler pet car­ri­er fol­lo­wed by yet ano­t­her even smal­ler pet car­ri­er (I rea­li­se I got slight­ly car­ri­ed away the­re) or it may well be a new fad, popu­la­ri­sed by influ­en­cers with mil­li­ons of followers. 

While I am bea­ting my brains out, I must have sta­red a litt­le too much, for the two owners of the mys­te­rious box sta­re back. Our ques­tio­ning eyes meet. All three of us feel some­what found out. We don’t know how to deal with this situa­ti­on until one of them final­ly starts tal­king and reve­als the mys­te­ry of what is hid­den in the box. 

Inside the­re is Ingo. Ingo is 14 years old. Or rather, Ingo was 14 years old. Because Ingo is the dead flat share cat of the two ladies. One of them had brought him from her place into the flat share. He lived the­re for around four years until the cat god cal­led him home, to cat heaven. 

Now what I’d real­ly like to know is why the two ladies took a cat cada­ver with them in a more than crow­ded train. 

They tell me of their mis­si­on that has tur­ned this part of the train into a hear­se. Ingo is embar­king on his last jour­ney. He will be buried at his birth­place, the farm and paren­tal home of one of them, some­whe­re in the sou­thern­most cor­ner of Bavaria. The who­le fami­ly will be pre­sent. It is not sup­po­sed to be a mour­ning for Ingo, but a cele­bra­ti­on of his life. 

The fun­e­ral ser­vice has alrea­dy been plan­ned down to the smal­lest detail. Everybody will wear Ingo’s favou­rite colour, a light shade of pink. To this day I have no idea how they figu­red that out. At the very least it should­n’t be black. There will be emo­tio­nal fun­e­ral spee­ches and a sli­de­show accom­pa­nied by his favou­rite song, “Who Let the Dogs Out”. Again, I am unsu­re how this has been estab­lis­hed. But as my con­ver­sa­ti­on part­ners were alrea­dy in tears, I pre­fer­red not to dig any deeper. Ingo will be lowe­red to the ground in the family’s gar­den, in a small, woo­den cof­fin built by her grand­pa. The pall­bea­rers will be her two bro­thers who have got an Ingo style hair­cut just for this occa­si­on. (I got to see pic­tures of Ingo and the bro­thers and I must admit they could have been triplets.) 

Prior to that, the cof­fin will be ope­ned so the who­le con­gre­ga­ti­on can bid fare­well and see their Ingo one last time. 

As soon as the cat has been lowe­red to the hole in the ground of the fami­ly gar­den, ever­yo­ne may, much like in anci­ent Egypt, toss on gifts as well as a sho­vel of cat lit­ter (unli­ke in anci­ent Egypt). 

After the hole has been back­fil­led and all the tears have been dried, the place will be mar­ked with a lar­ger-than-life sculp­tu­re of Ingo car­ved out of stone. Next on the sche­du­le is the fun­e­ral tea, at which they will ser­ve savou­ries and fin­ger food the­med for the occa­si­on. Of cour­se, Ingo’s favou­rite dish is a must: hedge­hog-shaped ground pork with extra oni­on. And final­ly, they will erect a shri­ne in his honor at the spot whe­re Ingo would enjoy dozing in the sun so much. 

At the end of this long and emo­tio­nal sto­ry, we’­re about to arri­ve at Hof. That’s my desti­na­ti­on and a lay­o­ver for Ingo and his entou­ra­ge. So I’ve spent three to four hours next to Ingo’s lifeless body in a taped-up pet car­ri­er until it’s time to get off or chan­ge. Now I’ve beco­me an invol­un­ta­ry mem­ber of the body trans­port team, too, and get to lift Ingo’s remains over the step of the train door. I feel hono­u­red and think, “Ingo and me would have got­ten along very well.” 

When the time has come to say good­bye, they ask me if I don’t want to come along to the cere­mo­ny after all, but I poli­te­ly decli­ne. I real­ly did­n’t know him all that well. Besides, I’ve got not­hing in light pink. 

Text: Michelle Erhardt
Translation: Konrad Dieterich 

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Benachrichtige mich bei

Diese Website verwendet Akismet, um Spam zu reduzieren. Erfahre mehr darüber, wie deine Kommentardaten verarbeitet werden.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments