Archive for July, 2011
The Swiss Alps, in addition to their natural beauty have become a sort of tourist haven for extreme sports over the last decade or so. While I didn’t have it in me to try skydiving, canyoning or rafting this time around, a leisurely parachute ride with Lucas seemed like a great way to experience a bit of extreme sport. Little did I know that paragliding wasn’t all slow-paced — Lucas threw in a few tricks in the middle to get my heart racing.
(Special thanks to Outdoor Interlaken for giving me a great deal on paragliding.)
In my job, arriving to our destination is always stressful. We provide transport but not accommodation to our passengers, and even though we drop off at a hostel, only about half of my passengers end up staying there. They all need help finding to their hostel/the nearest cashpoint/the toilet, so it ends up a busy few minutes that I’m happy to reach the end of.
That’s why is was such a shock to the system the other day in Berlin when one of my passengers approached me twenty minutes after I’d clocked out for the day. She was older, around sixty years old. Although I’d spent the day on the bus chatting with her and finding her to be quite cheerful, now tears were streamed down her face as she sat next to me. She tried but couldn’t get the words out. Something terrible had happened.
Only twenty minutes before I had sent her to the Berlin’s Hackeshermarkt S-bahn station, and now she had returned. Between sobs she explained to me what had happened in Morse-code-style strings of phrases as she tried to contain her emotions. “I bought my ticket…and he just…jumped in front of…” she interrupted herself with more sobs.
After some coaxing I discovered the horrible truth: After purchasing her train ticket, this woman had the misfortune of witnessing a man right beside her fling himself in front of a passing train. In shock and unsure of what to do, she returned to the only person she knew in Berlin: Me. I helped her find closer accommodation and get a taxi there, but I couldn’t help but feel a certain amount of hopelessness. Nothing I could say would erase this terrible memory from her brain.
As the week has gone by, I haven’t been able to erase the memory of an event I never witnessed from my brain, either.
I can’t help but feel anything but anger toward physically healthy people who kill themselves. In one violent act they transfer their life turmoil to everyone around them — people they don’t even know. How could this (presumably) German man know that an Australian woman would see him in his final moments on earth; That she would return to her home, halfway across the world, scarred by that fleeting moment when he threw his body into oblivion? How could he know that that Australian would go tell her American tour guide, who would take this painful memory around Europe and back to North America with him?
A few hours later, I went to the Hackeshermarkt S-bahn stop where it all happened. The world had moved on, the station was open and people were jumping on, not in front of, the train, totally unaware of the traumatic event that had happened just a few hours earlier. As the train pulled away, the only sign that remained was a large patch of white powder covering the remnants of a bloodstain on the tracks below. I should feel sadness and remorse for this recently deceased person that I have never met, but instead all I can feel is anger.