The Daughter preyed on the Wi-Fi all through the Czech Republic. Then, when we crossed the German border, it was no more. In an instant, it vanished, and she slept until we rolled into Berlin.
‘How long will it take us to get to the apartment Dad?’
‘About 20-minutes,’ I said, hauling our bags up the stairs. ‘The S-Bahn is three levels up and we have a few stops to the apartment.’
‘You mean we’re not calling an Uber?’ she exclaimed.
‘No. The S-Bahn takes us to Frankfurter Allee and from there the apartment is a 5-minute walk.’
‘Argh, but I’m tired and hungry.’
‘What’s new? The train will get us there before the Uber. Now come. You bought the ticket, take the ride.’
‘Actually, you bought the tickets. I just have to take the ride.’
‘God, I feel sorry for the poor bastard who ends up married to you.’
We caught the S-Bahn to Frankfurter Allee where our host pointed us in the direction of a burger joint. Burgerwehr offered a wide variety of vegan options and some interesting choices.
‘Are you sure there is no meat in the Satan burger?’ I asked the woman behind the counter.
‘Zere is a vegan option. We make it wit zeitan.’
‘But she is vegan, she doesn’t eat meat. Not even Devil meat.’
‘No zeitan is wheat meat,’ said the woman.
‘Okay, we’ll take two vegan Satan burgers,’ I said
‘Daughter if you’ve ever had the inclination to say grace, this is the time,’ I said handing her the burger. … and the Daughter was happy.
‘I’m too hungry for grace.’… and the Daughter was happy.
‘Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you when your head starts spinning on your shoulders.’
The Daughter bit into the possessed burger … and the Daughter was happy.
The burger raised her spirits, but she needed sleep. I took her home, and she rested. The next morning we ate breakfast at Kaffee Karamell, then I went to work and left her to her own devices. I returned to find her surrounded by chocolate wrappers. She had tried to fight them off, she explained, but they were too powerful.
I had to get her out of the apartment. That burger had apparently taken hold of her mind.
‘Come Daughter, we’re going for a walk,’ I said.
We followed the road parallel to the river Spree, through an old industrial section where the buildings were plastered with street art … like the rest of Berlin.
The trip to Berlin should have been an educational experience. An opportunity for the Daughter to learn about a wall that divided a nation. Erected in the dead of night on August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was the defining symbol of the Cold War for 30 years. A barrier separating families and a reminder of the darkness future generations must avoid. But like most fifteen-year-olds, she was more interested in shopping malls, Wi-Fi and Buddha Bowls.
When I ponder the madness of the news today, I can’t help wonder why we haven’t learnt for our madness. The nineties brought an air of hope. The Berlin Wall had fallen, the Iron Curtain lifted, and Apartheid ended. Sure Bush was waging war in the Gulf, but when aren’t the Americans waging war! There was the possibility that God’s own prototypes. High powered mutants never even considered for mass production. Might actually learn to survive … no, I forgot about the genocide in Rwanda. The nineties were just a diabolical. There seems no end to our madness; aircraft into buildings, talk of erecting walls and buffoons at nuclear buttons. Apparently, the intelligence module was never inserted into this batch of prototypes.
I digress … back to the Daughter.
I found a soldier. A friendly guy with a stamp. I asked him to explain the finer points of Berlin’s history to the Daughter. As he stamped her passport; entry from the US side; entry from the British side; entry from the French side, the restrictions on the East Germans … she listened, she smiled, she posed, then she asked when we’d be eating.
‘Dad, how many stamps do I have in my passport now?’
‘We aren’t here to collect stamps. We’re here so that you can learn something about past atrocities.’
‘I know Dad, but how many stamps have I got?’
‘Seven! Can we get more at Checkpoint Charlie?’
‘No, you have them all already.’
‘Can we get food now?’
‘Daughter, take this seriously, or you’ll land up like these two displaced Aussies. Horsing around on the sidewalk for cents.’
‘But I’m hungry,’ growled the Daughter.
‘Okay, I give up. We’ll find the subway and go to Prater Beer Garten. You’re driving me to drink.’
‘Look, they have a button for your favourite band.’
‘Press it and let’s see where it takes us.’
‘To a concert, maybe?’
‘To the platform, likely.’
‘Ein Weissbier, bitte,’ I said to the man behind the counter. ‘And can you make a non-alcoholic Radler beer?’
‘Ja, we have Jever. Less than one percent alcohol. Perfect for the pregnant women.’
‘Pregnant! Listen, you crazy Kraut, she’s only fifteen years old. If she hears you say that she’s likely to beat you with that Bretzel you gave her.’
‘Sorry, I meant no offence. I just assumed..’
‘None taken, but you should probably invest in a pair of glasses. In your line of work you want to tell the difference between a pregnant woman and a child in a puffy jacket.’
Her hunger satisfied, the Daughters next physiological need triggered. Wi-Fi is essential to her survival. We left the Prater and the Daughter followed the red steps toward connectivity.
And there was free Wi-Fi. And the Daughter was happy.
The next morning, before the birds had begun to sing, we boarded a flight home. The Daughter slept while I found entertainment listening to the flight attendants …
‘You are from Bucharest?’ said the Italian.
‘No, two hours east of Bucharest?’ said the Romanian.
‘I’ve heard the girls in Romania are beautiful,’ said the Italian.
‘Yes, but it’s money or the girls. My friend, there are four or five women to each man, but without a salary… What about the girls in Italy?’
‘The women in Italy are gorgeous, especially the ones from the south. They know how to take care of themselves … how to dress nice, to look hot.’
‘What about the German girls?’ said the Czech hostess.
‘No, the girls in Germany aren’t good looking,’ said the Italian. ‘They don’t take care of themselves.’
‘Here she comes again,’ said the Czech girl.
‘We better look busy before she moans at us again,’ said the Romanian. ‘I’ll collect rubbish and block her.’
He pushed the garbage trolley up the aisle toward the flight deck, blocking the path of the head stewardess. The other two attendants sat down behind me, started counting stock and resumed their conversation.
‘I don’t know why the Irish take these jobs,’ said the Czech girl. ‘They aren’t fit for this kind of work. They drink too much and then can’t get up, and they get fired.’
‘Yes, for us we don’t have an option,’ said the Italian. ‘We have no work in our country. and have to put up with this shit.’
‘I don’t know why the Irish even bother to take these jobs,’ said the girl.
The head stewardess had slipped past the Romanian and was coming toward us with absolute determination.
‘Why aren’t you buckled up?’ said the head stewardess. ‘Didn’t you see the emergency landing signal from the Captain.’
Emergency landing! What the fuck is going on? I thought to myself.
She walked back toward the flight deck and picked up the intercom phone. Here it comes, we’re fucked. Should I wake the Daughter up? No, let her sleep through this madness.
But the Captain cut her off before she had a chance to speak.
‘Crew, ten minutes to landing,’ he said in a perfectly calm voice.
The head stewardess sat down and buckled herself up. The Italian and the Czech continued faffing around behind me, and the Romanian was nowhere to be seen. The landing gear opened and locked. The plane landed. The Daughter woke.
‘I’m hungry,’ she said, looking at me through sleepy eyes.