Ada Abroad: Living and Working in Germany

An online journal recording two years spent as a Fulbright/Pedagogical Exchange Service Teaching Assistant at secondary schools in Germany. (2003-2004 I was in a village near Bautzen; 2004-2005 I will be in Nordrhein-Westfalen.)

Location: Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

I'm an American living in Germany, working as a foreign language assistant at a secondary school. Future plans: getting my Ph.D. (probably in Germanic Linguistics), becoming a professor, living an ethical and meaningful life.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Emergency Rooster

I had an interesting day last Friday.

After suffering a seizure at work, I called off my planned interview with the Sorbian teacher and went home to nap until the burning sensation at the back of my head subsided.

I woke up at 12:55 pm and realized that if I did without my lunch, I just might be able to make the 1:24 bus to Bautzen. After hurriedly making myself presentable, I put on my trench coat, grabbed my new suede handbag, and scurried across the street to the bus stop. Once there, I did my best to ignore the herd of remedial pupils surrounding me, cursing, smoking, and spitting on the ground.

The kids pushed their way onto the bus ahead of me, and by the time I boarded, my usual seat was occupied by a slight ninth-grader with owlish glasses. So I sat down in the nearest available free space, directly opposite the exit door.

There was a button above the door, labeled “Nothahn.”

This made me laugh out loud.

A Hahn is a rooster. An Ausgang is an exit, and since a Notausgang is an emergency exit, then logically speaking, a Nothahn would be an emergency rooster.

“At the Upper Lusatian Regional Transit Authority, your safety is our business. That’s why each and every one of our buses is equipped with an Emergency Rooster for your protection.”

While I realized that most likely that the word Hahn simply had more than one meaning, the idea of an Emergency Rooster captured my imagination. I pictured him sitting in a little wooden box above the exit door, his crested head and feathered white breast poking out of a hole. He crowed periodically and squawked whenever the bus hit an unexpected bump.

As I pondered the Emergency Rooster, who I conceived of as being of the same breed as Foghorn Leghorn from Looney Tunes, it occurred to me that the concept had a flaw: it implied that there was already another rooster on the bus, and that the Emergency Rooster’s purpose was to serve as a back-up in case the first rooster failed.

While I have never claimed to be an expert on agriculture, I do know that you don’t really need (or want) more than one rooster. A single cockerel is sufficient to sexually assault an entire barnyard full of hens and supply your poultry operation with plenty of fuzzy, yellow chicks destined to become layers, broilers, or fryers. Besides, if you have more than one rooster, they try to kill each other. This is where “cock fighting” comes from.

To prevent the Emergency Rooster from becoming aggressive toward the Primary Rooster, who I decided would most likely be kept at the front of the bus, right next to the driver, both fowl would have to wear little blindfolds.

I was considering what function a rooster might serve on a bus—crowing to wake the driver if he fell asleep at the wheel? servicing any hens that passengers from rural villages happened to bring on board with them?—when my bus arrived at Bautzen’s central bus station. Bidding farewell to the Nothahn button, I climbed off.

The bus had just pulled away when I realized that my bag was still on the seat opposite the Emergency Rooster. And not just my bag, but also my passport, my credit cards, my house key, and the change I would need to ride back to my village or place a frantic phone call to one of my coworkers. My ankle is not yet up to chasing down a city bus, so instead I half-ran, half-limped into the ticket-selling area and explained my problem to the man at the desk. He sent me upstairs, to another man sitting at another desk, this time with a switchboard.

“I have left my purse on the bus, the one from Milkel to Bautzen. She is of leather—no, suede—and is violet in color.”
“Take a seat, ma’am,” he said (in German, of course).
The switchboard operator phoned the private company responsible for the rooster-equipped bus while I silently prayed that none of the remedial students had seen my bag on the seat and run off with it.

After several agonizing minutes, my bus pulled back into the bus station. The switchboard operator ran down to meet the driver and returned carrying a burgundy suede handbag. I was relieved—even more so after I confirmed that my passport and wallet were still there, and that no stray feathers had gotten caught in the zipper.

Blessing the switchboard operator, I left the bus station and spent what proved to be a mediocre afternoon in town. Another bus brought me back to my village early that evening. This one didn’t have a Nothahn. Oh, well. I supposed that keeping poultry on public transportation isn’t a very Teutonic idea, anyway—it sounds like something you’re more likely to run into in, say, Botswana, or maybe Albania. But I did wonder about the possibility of training chickens to alert passengers that they were about to disembark without their personal belongings…

By the way, Hahn can also mean “trigger” or “switch.” I looked it up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrienne, your imagination is very unique. Glad you got everything back intact. Hope you took your passport out of your purse! Mom

5:55 PM  
Blogger christina said...

haha...this was an entertaining entry!

1:27 AM  
Blogger Ada said...

Glad you liked it!

I´ll remove my passport soon. It keeps slipping my mind.

10:41 AM  

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