Muddling my way through Berlin's public transport network in the quest for UKG
It was a Friday night in February, well past midnight, and I was setting out to meet some friends at a club . The city had been blessed with unusually mild weather, and as I walked to my favorite neighborhood Späti (a.k.a. "Spätkauf," the kiosks/convenience stores that are open late and located throughout the city,) I relished in the joy of wearing a light jacket. My choice of beverage wasn't even a choice, but in fact more of a reflex: Club Mate and a small bottle of vodka. If you haven't been to Berlin before, the carbonated, caffeinated mate drink which is ubiquitous here may very well be unfamiliar; I only know of one establishment in NYC that sells it (and of course at a markup of 300%.) It has a distinctive flavor; a high caffeine to sugar/calorie ratio; and mixes well with a number of liquors. It is the unofficial drink of staying up late in Berlin.
Although the vodka-Mate run is an integral part of my going out ritual, I soon regretted stopping at the Späti. When I walked to the tram stop across the street, a tram was pulling away and the time clock overhead indicated that the next one wouldn't leave for 33 minutes. I groaned audibly, turning on my heel to go back the way I came and walk to the other tram line around the corner. The news at this stop was even worse: 46 minutes until the next tram. It felt like a bad joke. I pulled my phone out of my pocket, replacing it with the small bottle of vodka that I'd been holding in my hand, and opened up Google Maps to look for an alternate route. Even though I'd been to the club once before, I wasn't sure how to get there without first taking a tram to one of two U-Bahn stations, and then transferring from there.
This is the moment when a raindrop fell on my face. Then another, on the screen of my iPhone, as my attempt to locate the club via search failed. The 3G symbol was there, but the liftle grey petals next to it spun and spun and spun, to no avail. Could I walk to the U-Bahn and travel that way? Or maybe I could catch an S-Bahn train? Both were ten minutes away, so not far, but I had no idea if either one could actually get me to my destination without requiring three transfers. I was pretty panicked about the whole situation at this point. It seemed foolish to try to call my friends, who I suspected had already arrived at the club and wouldn't hear their phones ring anyway. There weren't enough people walking by on the street either, so I couldn't ask anyone for directions. There was nothing more I could do than guess and hope for the best. I cracked open the bottle of Club Mate and took several large swigs, in the hopes that its caffeine content might give me a burst of energy and a newfound sense of innate direction, and I headed towards the closet U-Bahn station.
I stood on the crowded platform, anxious about whether I would make it to the club at a reasonable hour, annoyed at the large throng of people standing nearby and chatting much too loudly in English. Naturally, I seized the opportunity to bust out the in-ear headphones which were sitting snugly in my pocket, and I fired up some techno to drown out the unwelcome noise. In my haste and confusion of navigating, I had momentarily forgotten about the vodka that I had just purchased, and hastily emptied it into the Club Mate bottle, sloshing a bit onto the platform as the train approached the station. "It's so late," I thought, groaning again, but this time internally. The loud Americans took up a third of the subway car, and a bunch were sitting on each other's laps, giggling loudly. I leaned against the door, turning up the volume on my phone even higher, and reapplied lipstick while looking at my reflection in the opposite window. Thank whatever god I don't believe in for the easy-to-read plans of the subway lines posted near the roof of the car, because I soon figured out where I would need to transfer trains, and could happily sip my drink at a leisurely pace through the rest of the short journey.
When I finally came up from underground and saw the club up the street, I chuckled, marveling at my own unfamiliarity with the city, wondering when I might know it well enough to live completely without the aid of Google Maps.
Bonus content: the song I was listening to when I got on the subway, Keep The Other Things Out (Petar Dundov Remix) - Hunter/Game