Reading Jack Maggs

This is sort of a new/old story, but mostly it’s just a story.  Or two actually, both set in Passau.  We’ve been in Passau twice.  The first time, in 1996, was on a ride from Prague to Paris, a trip I kept a journal of and have published before.  The second, in 1999, was on a tour that began in Krakow and I think was originally meant to end in Budapest, but ended up in Salzburg instead.  I’ve never written up this tour for some reason, but maybe one day I’ll pull a few photos out of storage and make a stab at it.

There are two stories from Passau I like to think back on, both involving remarkable coincidences..  The first was about the hotel we stayed in on the first tour, which sadly I didn’t take a photo of .  We had a second story room in the hotel, and the hallway ceiling was low and crossed by yet lower wooden beams.  On our first trip to our room I didn’t notice the low clearance in time and brained myself.  Why is this one of my favorite memories?  Three years later when we revisited Passau we stayed in the same hotel – which I didn’t realize at the time until I brained myself once again.  Same hotel, same beam – I’m certain of it.

The featured photo is from our second tour.  We’re at the Passau train station, waiting for the train to Innsbruck.  We’re taking the train because Rachael has a bad cold and we’re giving it a rest.  While we wait for departure she’s reading the novel Jack Maggs by Pete Carey, one of our favorite authors at the time.  This is in the pre-Kindle days, when we had to carry a small library of books with us, enough to last us for a month.  One of our planning tasks in those days was to find a set of paperbacks that we both wanted to read, to conserve on space and weight.

Jack Maggs was an excellent choice, and an engrossing read.  Unfortunately, Rachael left it on the bench when we boarded the train.  She was well into it, and was devastated when she discovered she’d left it behind. There was no way that we would find a replacement for it until we returned to the States.

Partway to Munich, I looked across the aisle and noticed that the man next to me was reading a book.  Looking again, I was amazed to see that he was reading a Jack Maggs!  What are the odds? And then, I noticed that he was holding it upside down, Trump/bible style.  I interrupted him to ask him about it, but he was Italian and spoke no English at all.  So why would a man who can’t read English be reading the English edition of Jack Maggs, and holding it upside down?  I pantomimed that I thought it was ours, and he smiled and handed it over.

A remarkable coincidence that he picked up our book, boarded the train with it, and walked through four passenger cars to sit down at the vacant seat next to me.  And a remarkable coincidence that both times we visited Passau we by chance stayed in the same hotel, and probably the same room. It really makes me want to visit Passau again to see what happens next.

This is just a placeholder for now. I’ll add a real description when I get more time.

5 response to "Reading Jack Maggs"

  1. By: gregblood Posted: June 13, 2020

    Now THAT is a great story. I can just picture the Italian guy holding the book upside down while doing everything he could not to burst into all-out laughter before you noticed what he was up to.

    If you go to Passau again, please be careful. A brain can only take so much abuse.

    • By: Scooter Posted: June 13, 2020

      Rachael just read this, and reminded me that I misremembered the story. She didn’t forget the book at the train station. Partway to Innsbruck, the train split off several cars – probably in Munich. We were sitting in the wrong half of the train, and had to hurry to collect our belongings and move to a different car. In the excitement. Rachael forgot the book. The Italian had to move too, and apparently picked up the book on the way to his new seat.

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