There is a peculiar sense of palpable despair that fills the train car when the conductor approaches and the passenger cannot find his ticket. It is strangely similar to watching the needle on the gas gauge hover slightly below the empty line as you drive into the twilight. And since I like to consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of the awkward, annoying, and uncomfortable, I have chosen to misplace my train ticket on multiple occasions.
One particularly poignant example of this despair came on a train to Nuremberg, Germany. A group of us from my college soccer team had traveled over during the World Cup and were making the rounds, creating a general ruckus with our special cocktail of enthusiasm and niavete. One night we decided to hop on the train to see where the famous World War II trials had been held. On the return journey the conductor passed through our cabin requesting to see everyone’s tickets.
I reached into my pocket but felt nothing but pocket lint clinging to a handful of hopelessness. I searched every pocket, in the seat cushions, everywhere I could think of, but found nothing. The conductor stood and waited, probably tapping his shoe and glancing at his expensive time piece. But I couldn’t tell for sure since I was wrapped up like a blanket in my own panic.
Finally the conductor looked at one of my teammates and rattled off something in German. My friend merely nodded and said, “Yah”. With that the conductor turned on his heels and continued down the aisle asking for tickets.
“Thanks! I have no idea where my ticket went and I had no idea you spoke German! What did he say to you?”
“I have no idea. I don’t speak German.”
Well, I guess sometimes you just have to fake it…or not lose your train ticket.