Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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On Rails

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When glimpsing across the web you happen to see people mention ‘Ruby on Rails’ everywhere these days. It seems to be some new programming hype. One that’s mentioned so frequently that I thought I should at least know what it is. And there was a video on their web site, claiming to explain just that. Somehow that video couldn’t even stream and then turned out to be a horrible mess of someone talking too quickly and clicking around all the time without really telling you what was going on except that it’s all very easy and quick. So I skipped that. In fact, I’m quite happy to use the expression ‘on rails’ to refer exclusively to things related to the railway system.

For some reason I don’t like driving cars and much prefer going by train or by plane. Not only is it more comfortable – well, on trains at least – but you can also move around and read, write or sleep.

My newspaper reading on the train today included: The divide in Germany not being a West/East but rather a North/South one, no real surprise there but it is reflected in election results as well; How Dresden could become one of the big centres for chip production with AMD producing there mostly; Robbie Williams called a meat-iPod after his record release frenzy in Berlin last weekend; and telling Apple off for the lack of cross compatibility between their various versions of iPods, computers and software. In addition to that there was a special section on the history of the madness that is the Mercedes S-class. How it started off for the rich, how the middle class caught up, how Helmut Kohl’s Merc was the perfect fat and heavy car for him, and how those cars are even more ridiculously expensive and boastful these days so the very rich can ‘distinguish’ themselves…

One part of this form of public travel are of course railway stations and airports. And while time spent at them feels mostly like wasted time, they’re mostly neither pretty nor comfortable and you usually aren’t there by choice, I still quite like those locations. In part this may be due to the fact that I am not there for ‘business’ affairs. Which means that I’m paying for my fare myself but I’ll actually be enjoying the place I’m going to. Unlike most of the people you meet at airports, say.

But I also like to see all the different people passing, the strange mixes of crappy food and news outlets they have at railway stations (or their slightly more elaborate cousins at airports) and so on. When travelling these days I am always tempted to take photos at the stations. I even have my camera right there in my backpack. But I usually don’t go ahead and do it. I’d think it’d be strange if other people started taking photos of something as mundane as a railway station. So I gather it’d look rather strange if I started taking photos there. People might even be offended if they’d happen to be on a photo.

So, no photos. I started thinking about this when having a sausage while changing trains in Hannover ten minutes ago. It was ten o’clock, I hadn’t had dinner and I won’t arrive before midnight. A good time to have a snack. But the food choices at the station aren’t all that great. Sure, there are usually outlets of Burger King or McDonalds. But while I loved them when I was little, I haven’t eaten there for ages. At some stage appreciation was replaced by scepticism towards underpaying American fast food chains and their mediocre products. But a few years ago that was replaced by disgust simply because these places are smelly. I first noticed that while living in England (where I had to walk past a McDonalds on my way to the bus stop every day and where, on a visit to London, after getting lost, I managed to figure out that I must be rather close to a big road again because of the horrible fast food smell), but I just can’t ignore it since. Walking past one of those places with their bad smell, will usually put me off and trigger thoughts of having the taste of rancid grease in my mouth which usually follows eating their food. Not exactly attractive.

So I end up having to find something else. I was first attracted by the idea of Subway. Sure, they’re and evil chain as well, but having nice baguettes sounded like a good alternative. And that thought lasted… all the way until I actually ate such a sandwich. Which I’d describe as an incredibly overpriced soggy mess. Nope, not good at all. Which is particularly sad as I am quite fond of both proper French baguette sandwiches and nice soft British sandwiches. But Subway seem to try to avoid either of those approaches.

With a bit of time you can usually find a kebab shop or something, but what they offer may be too much and those close to the stations often seem to be quite bad and leaving a bad taste in your mouth just as the fast food chains do. So, in the end I can also eat a Bratwurst. I don’t particularly like it. It’s probably as unhealthy as all the other options. But it’s not that much food and may even be a bit cheaper. We’re living in Bratwurst country after all.

October 15, 2005, 2:00

Tagged as travel.

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