Going round on Oranienplatz

 

 

The Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg is famous for the annual mayday clashes with police, but it's a busy place throughout the year. Yellow double store busses meet there for a chat at the huge bus stop in the center, and an endless line of cars crawls through the small surrounding streets in the search for parking space. At the northeast corner there's the entrance to a supermarket, once set on fire on mayday and never rebuild. If you follow this road and just before you reach the café “Kuchen Kaiser” – the purveyor to the imperial court in 1900 – you stumble right into a small crowd of young people, presumably Turks, waiting on a sidewalk.

It's the entrance to a driving school mainly used by young Turks. Because of their higher level of unemployment, Turkish classes for traffic theory are held during daytime. On the full hour, a red Volkswagen stops in front of the entrance door. A hairdresser with blond moustache and short cut afro get's out, opens the door and helps the driver out, mostly a young Turkish lady. He's a driving teacher and the girl is his learner. Unfortunately he doesn't speak any Turkish. He uses gestures that mark either a compliment or helplessness and desperation, and he mainly uses his remarkable eyebrows for it. Young guys he gives a high five, or, if they failed too much, he's raising his hand as if he wants to slap their face, but yes: He's kidding.

There's a box of Cigarettes waiting in his pocket, a lighter in the other. Oh what a relief. He watches the tree tops, the birds flying, the growling busses passing by and then – he sees his next learner. All of a sudden his cigarette tastes like shit. He drops it, puts the foot on it and takes a deep sigh. One minute later he's sitting at the copilot's seat again, door window down, and drumming with his finger tips against the door from the outside. He has to! He would explode otherwise! The young man has moved the drivers seat to the front and chokes the enginge for – how many times now? In the first years in his job, he used to mock about mistakes of learners when he met colleagues in a pub. Now it's just nerve wrecking. But look: The enginge is running, and the teacher stops drumming, but keeps his fingers in drumming position and yeees, he was right, the boy choked it again. The drumming started again at a higher tempo. Ten minutes later the car has moved forward with moves like a drunken camel, ad finally got out of sight.

Other cars appear, Turkish fathers bring new learners. Among them immaculate Turkish girls, wrapped in white cloth, walking upright like pencils. Dad gives commands, points with his finger. The daughters smile like white doves ascending into the blue sky on an innocent sunday morning. But as soon as he gets out of sight, they change their facial expressions completely. The girls pour a cigarette out of her baby handbag, and there is always an offensive made up Turkish girl with high heels to give her light. A short smile, at the end we're all sisters, aren't we?

The teachers wife runs the office. You can tell from her face that she has seen it all. The first thing she does when a young Turk signs in for education, is noting his daddy's pohne number. It always works! These boys would dance on tables if she'd let them! New learners stand in line and while they're waiting, the guys check the girls. They're not used to it, they overdo it, and the girls roll their eyes and try to ignore them.

“Turkish language class?”, the driver school lady asks.

All boys say: “Of course!”

Then she asks the girls.

“German”, they say, and the boys start calling them names. It's the best way to get rid of the chatting of the boys!

When the girls leave the school, their daddies are already waiting in their cars with serious faces. The daughters have switched into harmless white flowers again, but the Daddies check if everything is in the right place and send angry smiles to the boys. And their is the teacher's car again, standing in line a few meters before the entrance door. He gives the learner a signal not to use the horn – he cannot do much wrong standing in line because… – “No!”, the teacher shouts, and hits the roof top through the open window: He choked the engine out of nothing! The teacher's mood is down at the bottom and he seriously is considering suicide as a way to get out of this situation.

“You mind if I smoke?”, he asks in despair.

“No…”, the learner says.

“Are you sure?”

“Absoluteley!”, the learner says.

Now their's a smile on the teachers face – a small one, like one single beam of sunlight on a rainy day. And now the lesson's over. The teacher says “Good bye” – and another turn of the wheel begins. It's like a merry go round without anybody being really merry, like all things in the world – the world itself, too – go round because it is comfortable to move in circles, saves effort and the outcome is predictable. Breaking out is for heroes in Hollywood movies, not for you, not for me, not for the driving teacher in Kreuzberg, who will repeat his going round hour after hour until he get's out of the car and says the magic word: “Feierabend!” Others will repeat and take their coat and head home. Their's no direct translation into English, and I cannot deliver a circumscription niw for exactly the same reason: “Feierabend!” See you next time.

 

 

 

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