I was sitting in bed listening to music when a loud BANG against the window scared the bejesus out of me. I hopped out of bed and stood tensed, listening. Should I open the door and risk getting hit with something as soon as I did? I peered out of a small window near the door. No one in sight. Then, on the other side of the wagon I opened the window and stuck my head out to listen. Still no sound.
I gathered my courage and swing open the door. Nothing hit it. I went outside and examined the ground around the window. Someone had thrown a rock. I walked up the hedge bordering the wagenplatz until I saw a group of four kids on the other side. They didn’t see me, and walked back down the hedge in the direction of my wagon. I walked with them, watching their four vague forms through the small spaces between leaves. They didn’t throw anything more and after a few minutes returned to the back corner of the platz.
Often there are Turkish wedding parties in the building behind the platz. Usually these events aren’t particularly bothersome. They play music and dance for a while and are finished and gone by 11 or 12. It’s a relief in comparison to the Thursday night techno and/or reggae parties held there during the university semester, and which have a tendency to lead to confrontations between us and the door men over keeping the god damn door shut so we can get some sleep. But during these parties there are almost always little gangs of children running around. Usually they are harmless, mildly annoying, but they have never done any serious damage.
I found several of my platz-mates and told them about the kids and the rocks. The kids were still hanging around the back corner and even braved approaching the back entrance to look at the chickens. I slung an axe over my shoulder and stared them down from down the path. They left. I wish I had yelled at them then. I need to do a better job cultivating my public image (crazy lady with an axe).
Several hours later I was in bed again, reading, listening to music, and getting ready to go to sleep. Then: another crash. The sound of glass shattering. A shriek.
I pulled on pants and boots, grabbed my polo mallet and went from wagon to wagon examining windows. They’d shattered the beautiful old green glass (made of the bottoms of bottles smelted together a million years ago) window in the guest wagon.
Natasha and Liam had almost been near enough to grab them, but only almost. They’d already been over to the party, and an older man had insisted that there was no way that it was children from their party. Right. So it was the kids from the other party? At one of the construction sites surrounding us on all sides?
We thought about calling the police, but wanted to try to talk to the people at the party one more time. Three of us returned, and this time several young men acted like they were going to help us. I identified the kids form earlier, sitting on the stage across the room. They looked about 12 years old, 14 at the very oldest. The young men passed the story on in a chain that spread throughout the party until a man with short brown hair in a gray suit came over. I hated him instantly. He oozed chauvinistic, self-importance. He acted like he was in charge, suggested we discuss the issue outside so as not to disturb the party.
The three of us led the way and fifteen men followed, spilling out of the door behind us and surrounding us. One of the men was the size of at least four of the others put together. We had show, up to find the children’s parents and get contact information so we could replace the window that guests from their party broke, and we, two small women and one man, need to be surrounded by fifteen men? Fucking macho, intimidation bullshit. I was already getting shaky from the angry adrenaline running through my body.
Gray Suit called the kids out. First only one came. “Who has been throwing stones?”
“Bohat.” I was actually surprised at his willingness to betray his friends. Then again maybe there was no Bohat.
A smaller child, maybe 6 or 7 years old followed. “It was Bohat,” he repeated. “I threw some stones too.” They were nonchalant, as if they were completely unaware that throwing rocks at windows was pretty generally thought of as socially unacceptable. The other two had conveniently disappeared.
The kids ran back inside and Gray Suit turned back to us. “Their parents aren’t here, so you’re going to need to talk to the organizer of the party.” I found it hard to believe that these little fuckers had come to the wedding without a parent, or that there was no one there responsible for them. “But the organizer is busy right now. This is a wedding. If you come back in an hour you can talk to him.” So his power trip had been an act. Either he wasn’t really important to this party in any way, or he was and he was covering up for his friends’ children.
I don’t know why, but we agreed to come back in an hour. Back in the kitchen we immediately regretted it. “How much do you want to bet that when we go back there all the people we spoke to are gone and no one knows what we are talking about?” I watched the back door of the party and as soon as they had turned off the music and started to fold up tables and stack chairs we returned.
“I’m not leaving until we have cash in our hands,” I said as we walked back to the party, this time with more people. I hoped that we weren’t going to have to call the police, who may or may not have actually improved the situation. Fucking police. I have no problem with calling them in a situation which cannot be solved in another way, but the police usually don’t bother helping people like us (squatters, punks, people who are poor, etc). At the very worst, we knew how to contact the group that rents out the building and could get a hold of the organizer’s address. But there was still a window to replace in the meantime.
Most of the guests were gone when we arrived. We approached Gray Suit. Suddenly he didn’t know any of the kids involved, though he had acted like he knew them previously. Several older men standing around him gave us dirty looks and told us they didn’t see what we thought they could do about the situation. “Why don’t you just call the police then?” one spat at me.
“I’d be happy to,” I spat back. “We just figured it might be easier to solve this between us. But if what you want is for the police to come here, and for us all to stand around until we’ve all given our statements and sorted this out legally, then that’s fine with me.” He walked away.
Gray Suit, we said, you told us to come back in an hour to talk to the organizer, so we’re here to talk to him, where is he? “Fine, he said,” smirking. He pointed to a woman in a ruffled blue princess dress; the bride. Previously he had told us we needed to wait to talk to a man (his German was good; I do not think his mistake was a language deficiency, though I briefly considered the possibility). It was clear that he was fucking with us, hoping we would feel too guilty about annoying the bride on her wedding day.
We approached her and were intercepted by her father, who brushed us off and sent his other daughter to get rid of us. All of the older men looked at us as if they couldn’t understand what we were upset about. I wondered how they would have reacted if one of our children had thrown a rock through a window in one of their homes. I wondered how they would have reacted if the children’s rock had injured someone. Luckily the person living in the guest wagon had been out that night.
The bride’s sister didn’t approach us with one bit of sympathy, but immediately started to explain why there was no way that she could be expected to help us. She didn’t know all the people at the party, she said. “You don’t know the people at your sister’s wedding? Didn’t you invite them yourselves?” I asked her. “That just strikes me as being pretty unlikely. Either way I assume there are hundreds of pictures from the night, so it shouldn’t be a problem to identity the kids.” I pointed at Gray Suit and another man who had been outside for the children’s admittance. “Besides, those two were outside when the kids admitted to throwing the rocks. They can also identify them.”
“If you wanted to solve this you should have come immediately and stayed until there was a solution. That is what I would have done. At this point I can’t help you. How should I know which children did this? I can’t be held responsible for what the guests of my party do.”
We did come immediately, we told her, but out of politeness followed Gray Suit’s suggestion to come back at the end of the event so as not to disturb the celebrating family. We had wanted to be polite, but, Karlsson said, not to worry, we’ll never make that mistake again. And by the way, we told her, we regularly put on events with hundreds of guests and yes, it was the case that the organizer of an event is responsible for the actions of the party guests if those actions involve, say, damaging the neighborhood. I recall being at many events were organizers asked the guests to be especially respectful of the neighborhood because they didn’t want to be prevented from organizing further events.
Bride’s Sister still didn’t see how she could help us. She suggested we call the police. She told us she couldn’t understand why we hadn’t called the police in the first place. We told her we’d be glad to if that was what she wanted. We told her we thought that it might be more pleasant to solve the problem ourselves, together. We told her that it would also be no problem to get payment for the window out of their deposit from the renters, if she would prefer that solution. But apparently it had all been a bluff; she didn’t want to deal with the police or lawyers later, she just wanted us to give up and leave.
An older woman had approached the group when we’d first started talking with Bride’s Sister. She examined the piece of the broken window that we’d brought with us to prove that there had been a window broken at all. She didn’t seem to speak German, but held the bit of glass out to Bride’s Sister and looked concerned. They talked for a few minutes in Turkish. She seemed to be the only one at the entire party who thought that kids breaking a neighbor’s antique window was a bad thing, and one that someone needed to take responsibility for.
She and Bride’s Sister discussed something in Turkish, and finally Bride’s Sister told us they would pay us the hundred euros we’d estimated we’d need to replace the window if we signed something saying we would not take any further legal recourse. We eventually agreed. It was the old woman who gave us the money. She seemed to have good intentions, but it seemed that Bride’s Sister had only agreed to give us the money to get rid of us.
The adrenaline finally started to leave my body as we walked back home. “I just don’t understand some people’s understanding of responsibility,” I told Camera. “It’s like responsibility is just this abstract concept that doesn’t have anything to do with reality. When it comes down to it they’d rather be forced by the ‘justice’ system to take responsibility for and within their community than to act of their own accord.”
I wondered how kids who grew up thinking it was acceptable to throw rocks through the windows of people’s homes would turn out as adults. I thought about the 12 years olds who stabbed two friends of mine on a Mainzer bus last week because my friends had told them what they thought about the 12 year olds hassling a woman on the street. Some days its hard not to lose hope for a different world.