Ex Bibliotheca

The life and times of Zack Weinberg.

Tuesday, 18 November 2003

# 1:10 PM (GMT)

Sure 'nuff I missed the connection in Heathrow, so here I am sitting on my bum for the next four hours. Oh well. There's a rambunctious two-year-old running around the waiting area.

A random thought while I'm sitting here: As mentioned earlier, it would seem that everyone smokes all the time in Germany. More accurately, smoking is allowed almost everywhere, and substantially more people do smoke (although perhaps still an absolute minority of residents). Somking is a problem for people around the smoker, in a way that drinking alcohol is not; this makes it different from other recreational drugs. There must be a less antisocial way for people to get a hit of nicotine. I wonder if it would work to brew tea from tobacco leaves? I have heard of someone making tobacco soufflé, so the idea is not totally hopeless. My guess is that different varieties of tobacco plant would have to be developed, so the tea wouldn't taste vile, but otherwise it would work.

# 7:30 AM (GMT+1)

Writing this on the plane from Berlin to Düsseldorf, where I change for Heathrow, where I change again for New York. I'm kind of worried about missing the plane in Heathrow; the connection time is really tight. But they did let me check my suitcase all the way to New York, so at least I don't have to deal with baggage claim twice.

Berlin's Tegel airport has a novel (or perhaps extremely old) approach to the security perimeter. Each gate has its own check-in desk, security checkpoint, and waiting area. You can't go from one waiting area to another without going out and back through security again. All the shops are on the "insecure" side of the perimeter. This does require more staffing than the conventional approach, but it also makes the lines shorter and I think it's more secure, too.

Last night we went out to dinner with Dara's assistant director, Anke, and then for drinks with some of Anke's friends. A good time was had by all, even if I did insist on going home early so as to get up at the crack of dawn today to get to the airport.

A curio: Ticketing for the Berlin U-bahn is on the honor system. You're expected to buy a ticket from one of the friendly yellow ticket machines, timestamp it with one of the friendly yellow timestamp machines (most of the ticket options are good for a certain time after being stamped — the separation is so you can buy tickets in advance), and then carry it with you. But there is no gate preventing you from getting on the train without a ticket. There are supposedly plainclothes police who will make random checks and slap you with a hefty fine if you haven't got a ticket, but I did not see this happen all the time I was in town.

What I did see, though, was an ad campaign being run by the U-bahn operator (BVG) to try to shame people into buying tickets. These ads refer over and over to "Schwarzfahrers", which is the idiom for fare evaders. But the literal translation into English is "Black Riders." So the mental image I kept having was a plainclothes policeman staring down a Nazgûl and demanding to see its U-bahn ticket.