Oisín dropped me off at the station, with plenty of time to buy tickets and get on the train. After driving through Germany all day, I was glad to be getting home to Prague in a few more hours before work tomorrow.
I was only a little concerned because I had to change trains in Dresden Central station, but no big deal, nine minutes should be enough. I remembered, from arriving there on Friday, it would only be 1 stop to go back. The flaxen helmet haired lady at the desk had nodded her head when I asked if it is one stop to the centre station. By now, you’d think I may have investigated whether she understood my English.
So, with normal confidence, I got on the train going toward the centre of Dresden. After the one stop (I thought) it took to get there, I got off along with about half the people in the same car that I was in.
Only after getting off, and the train sped away, did I realized there were only 4 train platforms. It didn’t seem right at all, but the one I was supposed to board was platform 6 so I went over to it and looked at the destination sign; to Gorlitz at 21:24.
Hmm, shit fuck- no way!! Right and left, I looked around frantically. There were no other people on the platform. But there were people on platform two, across the track.
Feeling a little desperate, I started running. Don’t know why, maybe because I had been sitting in a car for nearly seven hours to get there after a weekend in Amsterdam. Whatever the reason, I knew I didn’t want to try to chase people down for a phone again and Oisín had to work tomorrow and I definitely didn’t want to spend more money on another ticket in the morning.
I saw some men in uniforms coming down the stairs of the entrance and ran toward them. This time, smiling (as opposed to crying), and showing them a ticket. I said, “I think I missed my train.”
They looked at me like I was a little crazy. “I got off at the wrong stop, maybe?”
“Ah,” the younger one said. He took my ticket and looked at it. “Sheizer!” He pointed to my ticket and conferred in German with the older man.
“Your train in ten minutes.” He held up the ticket, “main station!”
That’s what I was afraid of. I looked at the ticket with incredulous confusion on my face. “No!” I threw my hands in the air, “one sop, she said” I gesticulated like a hysterical female, “one stop?”
I can be very dramatic, sometimes, mostly when the alternatives are unacceptable. Either calling an already tired friend or waiting for the three am bus to Dresden? Neither one seemed viable, so I explored the third option- again- damsel (or potential crazy woman) in distress.
I furrowed my brows and repeated in a shallow whispery voice with the dawning awakening of a born again Christian, “two stops.” I held up my fingers. Slapping my hand against my forehead, I waved my ticket and implored the two men, “what should I do?”
“We drive,” said the older man. He nodded and the younger man nodded his head and mumbled in agreement.
We started walking toward the exit. They conferred again in German as we all walked out quickly to the jeep. It had lights on top and the shadowy silhouette of an old bronco SUV. I climbed in the back seat which was not locked and felt strangely comforted by the familiar radios and police gadgets on the dashboard.
It did cross my mind, as it always does in situations like this that these guys might not be what they seemed. I am not familiar with regulations or station uniforms especially in old eastern block countries. Although Dresden was a rich communist country behind the iron curtain, its rules and customs were still foreign to me.
We pealed out of the parking lot much faster than I expected. I slid a little ways down the seat in the back. I kind of prefer to stay unlatched in an unfamiliar situation, but decided not to worry, they didn’t wear seatbelts either.
We sped through a construction area along the side of the road. It was bumpy and headed on a straight path toward rows of narrow buildings that looked more like a regular street block. We drove madly through the unpaved lot and reached the narrow rows of buildings. Industrial areas always look a little intimidating at night. I really hoped these guys were cops, not thugs. What does it matter anayway, still not sure who I felt safer with in the states, at least the mafia has a code of honor… I really hadn’t thought very hard about jumping into their vehicle. I narrowed my eyes, trying to make out their uniforms in the darkness.
Finally, we made a sharp left onto a road with traffic. A ways ahead I could see the outline of the Main train station emerge from the lights as we zoomed through the street around other traffic. Suddenly the light up ahead changed to red. There were no cars in front of us.
The younger man, who was driving, started to break. “Scheizer!”
The older fellow, in the passenger seat, reached up and flipped on the lights. I could see the reflection of the bright colors reflected on the road outside my window. I watched the cars on either side of the street we were about to cross grind to a halt. He floored it.
“Danke,” I said with a huge smile on my face.
“Bitte,” the older officer nodded at me and smiled back.
We went down a side road with red signs everywhere toward the main station. Around some loading docks and pulled up to the main entrance in about three seconds. I grabbed my bags and had my ticket clenched in my hand. As soon as we stopped, I jerked the door open and hopped out. The police man in the passenger seat rolled down the window. “Go fast.” No need to tell me.
I nodded and smiled again, “bitte sheine!”
“Danke. Plat form three.” He waved me away, “go straight, then up!”
“OK!” I started running, turned and waved again, “bye!”
I really started running then. I had no idea how many minutes I had left but I knew it wasn’t very many. The side I entered started with 18. I could see the stairs across the lobby. I ran. Saw platform 6. I could hear the whistle blowing. I saw one open door and went straight through it. Not a second too soon. As soon as I dropped my bags on the floor and started unwinding my scarf to catch my breath the doors slammed shut and we started moving. I moved to the first empty berth and spread myself out. Fuck, I hope it’s the right train. I didn’t even look at anything.
As if in answer to my question, the conductor came along.
I still had my ticket crumpled in my hand. I handed it to him, trying to straighten it out a bit.
He took it and read it, nodded and punched it. “Danke shein. Dekuju. Thank you.”
“Prosím.” I don’t think I had ever been happier to know I was headed back to the Czech Republic. The ride back was nice. Pohodička.