It was 1996, not long after I arrived in Germany I went for a hike with my friend Helga. I took my bike by train to meet her with the plan to ride 25 km back to Frankfurt. Much of it was downhill so it would be an easy ride.

After our walk, I went to the front of the train station where I had locked my bike securely to a metal pole. I put the key in to unlock the lock and NO, the key will not go in. It was a Kryptonite lock designed to stand up to abuse and tampering. It seems that somehow, the inner tumbler of the lock got off a bit and the little notch that must line up with the outer notch was misaligned. The key would not go in. After an hour of trying, breaking a screwdriver and my sunglasses (broke getting stepped on by a drunk), two taxi drivers trying then giving up without luck. I began to lose hope. I started having visions of a very expensive locksmith coming to cut this lock and the cost of another lock. Mostly in desperation and having limited funds, I suggest to Helga that we call the police.

Another 40 minutes later the police show up, one male (normal looking), one female (punk hair cut, brown with blond streaks) wearing a bulletproof vest with pockets for pen, paper, and keys. I smile as the male police begins to poke at the lock with his Swiss army knife, the woman getting all the information that German police always get, like name, address, and passport. After 10 minutes and many unsuccessful noises by the man, I suggest that they shoot the lock off. The woman laughs, I am relieved, the man is still trying. 

Then for the third or fourth time, he changes the tool on his Swiss army knife and begins filing away at the little tab on the key that won’t go in because the two notches will not line up. I think this just might work, after all, if the lock will go in, it should work. He files the tab all the way down flat, carefully, sees how to best line up the lock and key. After what seemed like a couple of minutes, he sticks the key in, turns, and the lock comes off. 

WOW. Everything changed. No expensive locksmith. No replacing the lock. No more standing outside the train station trying to break into my own lock. I told the policeman I was very impressed with his effort, perseverance and finding a creative solution to the problem. He smiled and for the first time spoke to me in English. It was now quite late, so I jumped on the next train which came in 5 minutes, (they only run once an hour on holidays – and it was a holiday), and rode the train back towards town. Decided to get off 3 stops early to get a short bike ride before arriving home. The German people continue to surprise me, in many delightful ways. 

I have other positive experiences with German police and citizens. Overall, I am impressed and enjoy the human way they interact. It is such a contrast to the way police in America often behave. It becomes clear how important it is to treat each other with respect. It produces wonderful results.

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