Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

Life in Kiel

A Tuesday Afternoon Scene

Alternate title: Watch Your Fucking Words

It had been raining on and off all day, intermittent hail storms peppering the city, and heavy grey clouds steamrolling any patch of blue sky that dared show its face for longer than three minutes. We had tried to take a walk after lunch, when a little sun suddenly appeared, but had to turn back ten minutes later. The sky had darkened swiftly and as the rain began to fall, my phone flashed the urgent message  from a weather-watching SG, ‘GET INSIDE’. We got inside as the hail began bouncing. I held hope it would all clear up by the time I needed to catch a bus to a class, but that little flame was spat on by the Baltic Weather Gods, and out into utter misery I trotted, umbrella only just withstanding the wind.

The bus stop was shelter to some six or so people with plenty of room for one or two more, but I stayed outside under my umbrella. I folded only when the wind threatened to start playing games, games that always end in some sort of mortifying wrestle with snapping spokes and flying fabric and a resulting useless umbrella. Into the shelter I ducked, umbrella closed. It sprung open a little as I made myself as compact as possible near the corner, and brushed the legs of a man standing with this back to me. He turned around and gave me a look of displeasure. I duly murmured entschuldigung and took a seat. Moments later, he turned back around, face pinched, and told me I had made his pants wet. I said sorry, again, and he resumed standing with his back to me until he felt once more compelled to turn around. This time he said, with significant volume, ‘bitch.’ (Now, it has been a while since I have been called a bitch. In fact, the last time I recall being called a bitch was years ago, standing by an ATM, when I struck an old woman as deserving of the title. It really is a most offensive word.)  I shrugged, as if being called a bitch was a daily happening, and didn’t respond. His bus was approaching and clearly he had more energy to expend on the entire situation than I did.

As his bus crested the hill, he began rustling his own, pastel, umbrella. I knew precisely what he was going to do, and as the bus pulled to a stop, his face gleaming with a sense of retributive justice, he opened his umbrella in my face and shook it all over me. I sighed. He was, truth be told, so utterly disbelieving that my umbrella had brushed his legs, he seemed bodily consumed by it. Spoiling for the most pointless fight with a woman half his age, although admittedly twice his size.

‘What the fuck is your problem?’ It slipped out, with an extra Australian twang. Fuck the German, my displeasure is always better expressed auf Englisch. 

His eyes bulged. Still carried by the momentum of the moving queue to board the bus, he screeched, also auf Englisch, ‘the FUCK is YOUR PROBLEM? THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM?’

In these situations, it is always a bit tricky to hit the right balance of rueful and unbothered. There is a bus full of people staring at you, a bus queue privy to an unconventional, if one-sided, conversation of which you are the object. It wasn’t like his ravings could be passed off as those of a loon, directed at nobody in particular. I was the only person left in the bus stop and he was very clearly addressing me. So I did what anyone else would do, and dug around in my pocket for my phone, shaking my head slightly as if to say, ‘I don’t know either, guys’ to those spectating.


Oh well that’s rich, I thought, opening Whatsapp.


How wasn’t he on the bus by now?


I looked up. He was on the bus, just hanging out the yet-to-be-closed doors.


The doors closed and the bus pulled away. I called home.

‘You are not going to believe what just happened.’


  1. Silke

    20 May, 2015 at 11:15 am

    That’s just plain awful, Liv!
    What a pathetic, sad man. He was probably just disappointed in himself for forgetting the mandatory “Regenhose”.

    Hope the rest of your afternoon went more smoothly : )

    1. Liv

      20 May, 2015 at 11:17 am

      Haaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahaha yesssss … if he was wearing appropriate clothes, his bloody pants would have stayed dry!

  2. Hubertus Koebke

    20 May, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Sorry for my rude country men (?) – even as German Expat, living now 18 years overseas I have to confess that on my few home leaves which gets now more and more seldom I noticed that the people get more and more rude. Might be the weather, Merkels politics or Global warning, no idea.
    Sorry again, we are not all like this!

    1. Erika Kolmsee

      20 May, 2015 at 12:05 pm

      That’s simply horrible! Maybe he was on drugs?

      1. Liv

        23 May, 2015 at 2:42 pm

        I think he was … a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

    2. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Oh no no no! Do NOT apologise – this was absolutely not a ‘German’ experience. In fact it was quite out of the ordinary! The only time I can ever complain about German ‘rudeness’ is occaaaaaasionally in the customer service department. But this guy? This guy could have been from anywhere in the world.

  3. No Apathy Allowed

    20 May, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Aw man, sorry you had to go through that! Some people are just ticking time bombs waiting to blow up at any little thing. If it hadn’t been you, it certainly would have been someone who cut in front of him in the queue or something similar. Sigh.

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      Aaaabsolutely – there was always going to be someone that afternoon who made his pants wet with their umbrella!

  4. anmarno

    20 May, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Whoa! Somebody obviously just waiting for an opportunity to lash out, dying to “sein Mütchen kühlen”, if I remember the expression correctly. Well, you made his day. Hubertus, stuff like that hasn’t got anything to do with being German, you find people like that everywhere. There really is no need for apologizing on behalf of a country, get over yourself.
    I was roared at out of the blue by the local butcher girl who had been doing the catering for our monthly artshowcase, in public, in her father’s shop, for ruining her day off and not paying enough.
    Sometimes people just crack up, for whatever reasons in their lives, often making matters worse for themselves and at least a very unpleasant spectacle of themselves.

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      How dare you not pay enough/ruin her day! But you are right – the unpleasant spectacle is always made of themselves.

  5. Hemborgwife

    20 May, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    What a horrible experience! I also have once or twice just not been able to handle people and burst out in English.

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Sometimes aggressive German suits a situation, sometimes good old fashioned English does!

  6. James Andrea

    20 May, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Yeah, could have been anywhere…and it’s good he was taking the bus or it would have been road-rage. Some times it’s just a bad day, the straw-that-breaks-the-back of a person feeling cumulatively oppressed by others/situations…but then, some people are just humps.

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      It was rain/bus-rage and me and my umbrella walked right into it! Love the expression ‘humps’.

  7. Jim Holder

    20 May, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Good for you, Liv! You gave that a**hole what he deserved! I’ll bet he was shaking for the rest of the day! Maybe he even “wet” his own pants!

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Hahahahaha, that would have been just desserts!

  8. Eric

    20 May, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Yeesh, some people. After his oh-so-pithy parting remarks on the bus steps, I think I would have been just overwhelmingly tempted to grab him by the collar and throw him on the wet ground. I know violence doesn’t solve anything, but sometimes it feels so good (at least imagining it does). Good for you for keeping cool at least.

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      I had visions of a ridiculous scene unfolding wherein we shook our umbrellas in each other’s faces until someone intervened.

  9. Brigitte

    20 May, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    Liebe Liv,
    Dieser Mann ist eindeutig ein Pigdog (hoert sich auch besser auf English an) und ein Idiot.
    Dir schlage ich einen Sturmregenschirm vor. Ich hab einen und der funktioniert wirklich. Z.B. dieser von Karstadt
    Carry on!

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Hahahaha gibt es ‘Schweinhund’ auf Deutsch???

  10. Martina O'Neill

    21 May, 2015 at 8:31 am

    I’m truly sorry for this horrific experience dear Liv. The guy obviously was letting his anger out, and if it wasn’t, I believe it would’ve been someone else. Let it go.

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Absolutely – I brushed his Hose at the wrong time. He was going to let it all out regardless of when and on whom!

  11. shirley Clark

    21 May, 2015 at 8:37 am

    brilliant scene…wish I was there……can just imagine it…it would have been so different if he hadn’t been old and shrivelled!!!
    it would have been like being screamed at by a large grasshopper!!!
    also he had to turn around and face the bus after having hurled expletives at a young woman sitting alone in a bus stop

    you won that one Loops!!!

  12. Isa

    22 May, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Oh my God. Words fail me. What is wrong with people? What a total arsehole. His life must be soooooo bad. Stupid individual. And there’s me thinking being told off for cycling around in the dark without working lights was bad enough.

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Hahahahaha, he was obviously having a VERY bad day.

  13. Shanna

    23 May, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    To be honest, I probably would have reacted in the same way….I mean you brushed his leg with your umbrella. In the last 5 years in Germany, I have NEVER been treated that way by anyone, German or otherwise. Sorry that had to happen to you!

    1. Liv

      23 May, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      Me neither – it was absolutely not a ‘German experience’ for lack of a better term. Completely and utterly out of the ordinary!

  14. cloudsinmelbs

    26 May, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Such a miserable man. I feel sorry for him. Thank God you just had to deal with him for a few minutes. Just imagine: he has to cope with himself his entire life!!

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