How a simple ›thank you‹ can make your day. »Things that should be a matter of course« – series. Part one.
Today is one of those days when I am using the German Railways all-country ticket (Deutsche Bahn Quer Durchs Land Ticket.) It is pretty cheap at 42 Euros, it lets you travel all over the country starting a 9 a.m. and ending at 3 a.m. the next day. From what I have tried out in recent years I can tell you that you stand a good chance to making it from the Alps right up to some North Sea island if you are tough enough.
The less exciting part is its restriction on short distance trains so no ICE, no IC or EC. By comparison: Travelling from Berlin to Cologne can take something like short of five hours on an ICE or well over nine if you take this very ticket. Well, it’s cheap so they do have to save on something.
Another fun thing about it is that it does not really take those nine hours to get from Berlin to Cologne. You will have to change trains pretty often (understandably) – it ranges from changing from four up to six times (or even worse, if it is pretty late at night.) In order not to miss any connecting trains and to be on the really, really safe side here you will have breaks of up to fourty minutes at any given station. If it were not for them you could cut things down to about seven hours but then – why buy expensive long-distance train tickets?
You may be wondering: »Is this actually going somewhere?« Yes, it is. Hang on a second.
With every stop there is about half an hour of free time in some of Germany’s most horrible train stations, i.e. Deutsche Bahn (DB) shopping malls. I am not against shopping but the quality of the products provided and the prices really are train station style – and with places like Magdeburg, Braunschweig or Bielefeld it is not as if were dying to spend my time doing anything financially awkward. (Okay, if you ever get to Frankfurt or Leipzig, man, THAT’s something different but I digress…)
Today at Braunschweig the train came in on time (kudos to that!) and I had 38 full minutes to procrastinate or do something useful. I opted for the latter, went up to the lady at the information counter and asked for the location of a pretty well-known German discounter (trading globally as well) because I had set my mind on buying these netbook-connecting-to-the-net-thingies (usb stick with dial-up connection) as I can no longer be bothered not being able to work on one of those regional trains. She told me where to go, the bus lines available, how much time I would have to spend on this and off I went. Bought a ticket at the Braunschweig public transport counter (2,15 € that is for a 90 minutes trip return), jumped on the bus M11 and rushed off to ›Kastanienallee‹ where I easily found the discounter aforementioned. Got in, bought the thing, returned to the central railway station ahead of time and set my mind on installing the darn thing. That is another story and it may soon be told …
Anyway, I had a couple of minutes left at the station so I went up to the self-same lady at the information counter. As I assumed she might not remember me helping out hundreds of different customers a day I reminded her of the fact that she kindly enough told me where to find the four-letter-company (an attempt at a crappy German-English joke ) and thanked her for it. Not with flowery, poetic words but a pretty simple ›thank you very much for your help. It is highly appreciated.‹
Her face lightened up, she broke into a smile and was obviously at a loss for words. She stammered a ›thank you very much‹, obviously surprised and pleased that a customer would actually come up to her and thank her for a service she is being paid for.
In recent years (growing a beard and older) I have very often encountered people and lived through situations when I was baffled to the extent of shock that some things my parents taught me when I was a kid sometimes seem to get lost on the generations (or just on some people who happen to be morons but who knows) and one of those things was to be polite.
The true writer that I am I would love to quote one of my many forewords (*cough*) saying: »Anything you may find fault with is totally my responsibility. The other buggers at the publishing house didn’t really read this, anyway, but there you are« – so if I ever happen to misbehave in your presence it would be my very own fault and not attributable to my parents.
»Wie es in den Wald hineinschallt, so schallt es heraus.« A very nice German saying meaning: ›we reap what we sow.‹ A simple ›thank you‹ does not have to be said, especially if the person rendering a service is being paid for it – but it has never hurt a single human being in our planet’s history (yes, I am willing to go that far!) to actually say the words, if only as a part of our daily rituals.
Now, I do not know this particular lady at Braunschweig central railway station and I will, in all probability, never see her again in my whole life. But it does make me feel good knowing that I, if only for a couple of seconds until the next ungrateful bastard of a customer came along, made her smile and happy about doing her job.
Her reaction truly amazed me (and it does so every time this happens to me) as I consider this kind of behaviour as a matter of course. It does not cost me anything, except for a couple of seconds of my very own time. Time I am always willing to spend if the outcome so obviously is worth the effort.
What about you guys?
Next on the series: ›Flushing the toilet the right way‹ – or ›Don’t touch your neighbour’s cheesecake without permission.‹ Or anything more reasonable.
Picture: RE. Etienne Rheindahlen / pixelio.de.