Alexander Kluge

A Dangerous

the through-passages between the carriages on the st. moritz express hark back to an older style of train construction. A tunnel of material with concertina-like folds bounds the space joining the two cars. Two iron plates, something like the footbridge across a mountain stream, in motion as the train moves, form the floor.

An old lady is being helped along by a nurse or relative. She has to cross this precarious zone. The helper supports the bony elderly woman with one hand, and with the other she firmly holds back the automatic door, because the old lady cannot cross over the footbridge before the automatic doors, which separate the carriages from the passage, will close again. So four hands, the old woman’s and the helper’s, fit over various grips and door handles, trying to find a balance for unsteady bodies.

At this moment the train is entering a curve, and the floor plates move toward one another, and the elderly lady falls in such a way that she is lying across the plates with her head against the quivering concertina wall. Her hands reach for the plates: they will be crushed when the plates swivel once again at the end of the curve. The nurse or relative, a corpulent person, steady as long as she is on her own two feet, stumbles over the old lady, is herself trying to find a hold. Behind them the ticket-collector calling out: Get back! Careful there!

The skin covering the old lady’s bones is thin. When it tears it takes months to heal. That’s true of chest, neck, hands, legs, and arms. Kneeling down the helper tries to pull up the fearfully grabbing woman, who has fallen so unluckily, onto her own soft body. She will then try to lever them both upright. Meanwhile the floor plates, like the pincers of a crustacean, are moving closer and apart in accordance with the motion of the train.

Unfortunately the door to the next carriage, (for reasons known only to the builders of trains of earlier days) has an iron spur on its lower edge. This strikes the old lady’s shin, opening a wound. The pain causes her to release the iron floor plate, the underside of which appears so dangerous. If the metal sheets move across one another then finger or a hand reaching down can easily be lost. At this moment the helper succeeds in lifting herself and the elderly a woman from a crouching position into a vertical one.

Now all that’s needed is for an angel or the ticket collector to open the door to the next carriage, because with both arms the helper is holding the old lady up against herself in a tunnel which is swaying as if on the high seas. The fat woman absorbs the jolts. No ticket collector, no angel there, when after all the ticket collector is behind her, holding open the door to the carriage to the rear. It occurs to him to grab the helper’s back, but he is too embarrassed to grip a female firmly.

The elderly lady evidently possesses an unbridled will to survive. Accumulated in all her earlier years. Held up by the helper, she frees one hand, and exerting all her energies succeeds in operating the door mechanism. She has luck and resourcefulness on her side. Some kind of law of leverage, which she applies, helps her to open the door. The door handles are not really designed to respond to the weak energies of the elderly lady. Thus three human beings move into the next car, and step by step reach a steady wall.

This is a first-class carriage, says the helper or relative. We don’t have tickets for that. It doesn’t matter, says the ticket collector.