“Is this seat taken?”
I looked up and saw it was an elderly man asking. “No, it’s not,” I replied. “On Sunday afternoons you have to be quick, if you want to get a seat, these trains are very popular with the commuters.” I added, “Most people seem to take the train all the way to Nuremberg, so it’s not very likely that many seats will become available once they’re taken.”
That’s how our conversation started. He nodded, saying that he was going to Nuremberg. I replied that I was getting off at Ingolstadt, and that I was going to a small town near Donauwörth.
At my mention of Donauwörth, the old man told me that he didn’t have pleasant memories of the town. During the war, he was there with his mother and brother, staying at a relative’s house, and when the bombs came, their relatives told them they didn’t have to worry. Nothing had ever happened to them. But their mother insisted that they seek shelter, and after the air raids had subsided, they left their shelter to find that the house had been hit by a bomb. That luckily they had listened to their mother.
From the war and national socialism we got to talking about how today’s youth was growing up to studying at university. Usually I am not chatty with strangers, in fact I like being left alone, but I really enjoyed talking to this old man.
After a while, as our conversation had come to an end, I got out my Kindle, and he asked me about it. He wanted to know whether I liked it, and I told him that I did. I had been critical of e-readers for a while but then decided to get a Kindle and that I was very happy with that decision. I explained to him how it worked, how you could order books for it. We started talking about our mutual love for reading, and about the internet, and about how useful it was as an information resource, how it made research so much easier for university students.
After 45 minutes, we came to my stop and we said goodbye.
It was a genuinely nice conversation. It made me realize how little contact I had with people his generation, how little I knew about people his age growing up during the war, and about how, soon, there would no longer be anyone alive to remember and share their experiences from the war.
This post is part of a writing project called The Scintilla Project.