I have no intention to transform this blog into a tirade of hate against Europe. It’s pretty fair to say that I love most things European, be it German books, Czech beer, Norwegian mountains, and all those other cliches I’d prefer not to bore you with now. That said, there is something truly evil and wrong about its ticket inspectors and I find myself willing them to be force fed those badges that they brandish so proudly, as if this single object validated their entire existence.
This outburst is somewhat substantiated by today’s news story in Spiegel Online of how this poor 16 year old girl got kicked off a train, late a night and in minus 18 degrees, for forgetting her student ID. Even though said ticket inspector knew full well that the girl did not have to pay the full fee, having dealt with the “upstanding citizen” in the past, the spineless excuse for a human being still had her ejected. The inspector said she was “just fulfilling her duty”, which was obviously not the best quote to give to the German press. I wonder if the Daily
Mail will jump on this story tomorrow – I can just picture their reporter now, desperately googling the name Julia Reischl in hope that it’s Jewish.
As you can probably gather, I’ve had my fair share of ticket inspector blues. In London (please don’t take this as an attempt to pretend London has the superior transport system, I know TFL is terrible), you have barriers, i.e. there is a machine obstructing unpaid passage, as opposed to some deluded civil servant hiding away on a train.
Berlin has no such barriers, meaning its entire underground system is a massive playground where rude inspectors pounce on passengers who were silly enough to try their luck. I don’t like that they are supposed to “blend in” with the crowd, that they time their inspections just as the door slams shut, and that if you can’t pay up immediately or don’t have your ID on you, they are obliged to call the police. I also don’t like how if you pretend you don’t speak German and couldn’t understand the ticket machine, they insult you loudly in their own tongue. All of this isn’t particularly condusive to a pleasant, paranoia free, “let’s love the establishment” atmosphere.
And don’t get me started on the Paris Metro staff.
P.S. I duly note that there must be some nice ticket inspectors out there, I just haven’t met them yet.
The original Spiegel Online article in German:
A news account on the subject in English: http://www.thelocal.de/national/20100129-24897.html