On taking leave of the one armed sweeper

I moved into this flat almost exactly 3 years ago. In that time I have walked to and from my workshop/the train station something like a thousand times.

A one-armed man lives on route and seems to spend a large portion of his life outside sweeping. It doesn’t seem to matter much what he sweeps; snow, dust, leaves, cigarette stubs, he’s just always out there on the pavement. Unless that is, he’s kneeling in the garden planting rows of identical, perfect plants. Pansies in winter, primroses in summer. They’re the most evenly positioned plants I’ve ever seen, and the most regularly watered. I’m sure they bloom longer than anyone else’s too, though, so it must be working.

I don’t know when we started nodding as we passed, or greeting each other, but it was probably just after I moved in.

Anyway. I haven’t seen him in ages, being as how I’ve been in Berlin so often and working so much overtime. This morning he gave me the widest grin and said, “Good morning!! Where are you? So long no seeing!!” in his broken German. I explained that I’d been away and that I was moving soon. We shook hands and he wished me all the best.

As I walked the rest of the way to work, I thought about how I knew practically nothing about him, and yet he’d cheered me up on so many occasions, just by existing. There’s something ridiculous about feeling sorry for yourself when you see a smiling one-armed man clear a path through the snow more quickly than you can walk along it…

I hope he carries on with the sweeping and planting for a long time.

I’ll miss him.

On fireworks and busfares

I went to watch the advent fireworks in my town just now. They went off at 11pm. I caught the bus down and was there just in time to glance around the bargainboxes in MediaMarkt (late-night-opening tonight) and make my way to the square.

The fireworks were spectacular in the sense that all fireworks are spectacular, but not in the way some shows are just breathtakingly astounding. I could probably have seen them from my house – I live on a hill and have a pretty good view of the town – but if someone’s going to sponsor them, I think showing up is the least one can do. Besides I didn’t want to miss them, just supposing I couldn’t see them from here.

As I was waiting for the bus back home, a slightly drunken elderly gentleman joined me at the bus stop. He peered at me and announced that he’d seen me before. I hadn’t really looked at him until then, but when I did, he did indeed seem familiar. There ensued a short pause followed by a bout of questioning while we figured out the connection. He shares an allotment with a guy who works in the same building as one of the people who used to work for someone who spends a lot of time sitting in my workshop. At some point during the summer I had been invited to a barbecue party in the allotment and had presumably seen him there. What was that about less than 7 connections to anyone?

About then the bus came. I had my buspass with me this time so I just got on and sat down, expecting the half-stranger to do the same. He got on, but the busdriver wouldn’t let him pay with a 50€ note. So I bought him a bus ticket. :).

At some point (assuming he remembers once he’s got home and slept and sober), he’s going to give the money to the guy he shares an allotment with……