24 September 2006

Public displays of affection

For our second day in Hamburg, rothko had arranged a German scrapbooking meetup. We got the bus into Harburg, then got onto the S-bahn to head into the city at around noon.

Just after we boarded the train, a young couple got on. I’d guess that they were in their 20s. He had short dark hair and looked as if he’d been awake for a couple of days; a slight sheen of sweat, disheveled clothes and a good dose of stubble. She was thin and tall, with red-streaked dark hair and various piercings. She was also clearly extremely drunk.

He sat down facing the same direction as us, one row ahead in the carriage. She swayed uneasily after him, dropped her bag on the seat in front of him along with a bottle of unspecified liquor, and then sat astride him, facing us. As the train started moving they began making out. After a few minutes she struggled with her belt and jeans for a while, and before long it was clear to everyone in the carriage that they were having sex.

Two men sitting across from the couple yelled at them, but it was clear that they weren’t going to be dissuaded. The young woman told them it was a free sex education lesson, and they should shut up and learn something. A Muslim woman got on the train with her child, went to sit down, and quickly decided to find a seat somewhere else.

I wasn’t really bothered by their antics, but the stench of alcohol was rather more unpleasant. There was also the whole question of how one should react in this kind of social situation; I don’t think Miss Manners has ever really addressed it. On the one hand, anyone having sex in a crowded train is probably looking for attention, and doesn’t really have any grounds for complaint if people decide to look at them; on the other hand, you never know how a person will react to an audience, especially a drunk person.

I decided to imagine that nothing remotely interesting or out of the ordinary was going on. I looked out the window at the interesting industrial docklands scenery, and read the information notices on the far wall of the carriage.

Sie fahren heute
mit Wagen
4593

After a few more minutes she decided to give her boyfriend a blow job instead. This at least meant I wasn’t face to face with her and there was no risk of eye contact, and once she had her mouth full the alcohol fumes dissipated somewhat. When the train stopped at the next station, the two guys diagonally opposite us, who had been diligently trying to have a serious conversation, gave in and moved to the next carriage.

I started wondering if S-Bahn Hamburg would get any letters of complaint, and how frequent an occurrence this kind of thing was in a city with more than its fair share of drunken sailors and women of negotiable virtue. I wondered if they had informational posters I had missed.

Sie ficken heute
auf Wagen
4593

The train continued on its journey. The young woman decided upright was generally a better option, though clearly not particularly easy for her given her level of intoxication. Suddenly she noticed that the train was stopped at a station, and the name of the station filtered through the layers of booze. There was an amusing flurry of drunken panic accompanied by muttered curses as she grabbed her baggage and bottle and they both staggered out before the doors could close. As she left she announced that sex education lessons were over for the day.

She stood on the platform trying to rearrange her underwear and pull up her jeans with one hand; her boyfriend had rather unchivalrously wandered off a short distance. As she stood there looking tired and confused after the mad dash from the train, it was rather like a scene from Run Lola Run might have gone if Lola had been on an all night vodka bender. I was sorely tempted to try and grab a photo, but she was still looking in our direction.

After a few moments the doors closed and the train glided off into normality.

© mathew 2017