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Fear of the last exit TIME ONLINE

How is the Corona outbreak changing Germany? Our reporter Henning Sußebach describes that in the series “From Another Country”. Which places he still gets to, with whom he can talk (if the recommendations of the Robert Koch Institute are adhered to) is less due to him than to the circumstances. This crisis is also new to journalists; hardly anyone has experience – every citizen is a layperson as well as an expert. If you would like to inform our reporter of the consequences of the Corona outbreak and what is happening in your area, write to him: [email protected].

There are scenes that could be better described in a film than in a reportage. This is one of them – you have to imagine it from a bird’s eye view: It is afternoon in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, wind turbines cast long shadows, as two trucks approach the Recknitz-Niederung rest area on Autobahn 19. One comes from the north, one from the south. Almost at the same time, both drivers put the turn signal on each side of the motorway, change to the exit lane, brake and finally roll out in a parking bay.

Viewed from above, it could be seen that the rest area is almost a mirror image, that both men parked their trucks in almost exactly opposite positions, that they happen to be sitting in identical Scania brand tractors. Both armored with 450 hp, both rulers over a 40-tonner, two truck drivers in times of Corona, traveling on a traffic artery that was not only Berlin and Rostock connects, but the south and the north of Europe.

Two men with the same job, the same car, in the same place: Michael Preissler, 43, from Sassnitz on Rügen. And Josef Beneš, 52, from Benátky nad Jizerou in Czech Republic. Surely they would have a lot to tell each other. But they will not meet, since there are four lanes between them and a median with sparse spring green.

What have both experienced in the past few days? And what do you have in the next few?

On the side of the motorway that heads north, Michael Preissler says from the window of his tractor that he has loaded cardboard for a brewery. He was on his way to Denmark. After unloading, on the way back, he should originally have been driving steel to Germany, but the steel mill no longer produces. He still did not know whether his freight forwarder would order him home or whether he would have to stay in Scandinavia and wait for freight. There is no longer any freight, says Preissler.

On the side of the highway that leads south, Josef Beneš says from the window of his tractor that he is coming out Finland. He brings tools to the Czech Republic, home. He left four days ago, north of the Arctic Circle, in the snow, at sub-zero temperatures. It was only eight hours to his hometown Benátky, but who could say that for sure? He did not know when he would cross the border behind Dresden. You bet.

On the freeway side that leads north, Michael Preissler says it left his family with a shitty feeling four days ago. Unfortunately, he couldn’t call it that, because it wasn’t the time for departures, not even for a truck driver like him. Parents everywhere lock themselves up with their children – but he leaves the house, that feels wrong. It is similar to his wife, because it is not the time for contacts, but she works in the mobile nursing service, often as the last human reference point of her clients, a lot on the go and indispensable. The two children, two girls, would be looked after in an emergency shelter. To be systemically relevant at the moment also means that as a family you occasionally come at a time when others are coming together.

On the side of the highway that leads south, Josef Beneš says that it may sound strange, but with every kilometer he approaches home, his soul gets heavier. In Finland the world was still far away, he saw reindeer and aurora, but the bad news came over the phone. His wife works for Skoda, in a logistics center for spare parts. Today she learned that she shouldn’t come tomorrow. He is returning to a foreign country, says Josef Beneš. He was only gone for twelve days.

On the freeway side that heads north, Michael Preissler says that drivers like him are celebrated in the media as heroes, as those who maintain the flow of goods. He was waved through everywhere and sometimes even applauded. But he was afraid that he would soon be the one who got the virus all over Europe distribute. A savior as a threat. Some companies where he loads or unloads no longer let him go to their toilets. With luck, there’s a Dixie toilet somewhere. The last time he took a shower at home, says Preissler. Four days ago.

At the Recknitz-Niederung rest area, the showers on both sides of the motorway are closed, the kitchens closed, and shelves empty. Fluttering tapes mark narrow paths to the cash registers, where there are still drinks, cigarettes and, with luck, a bockwurst. The service staff is on short-time work, the remaining waitresses put coffee on the counter and withdraw. Only then can customers take it.

On the side of the highway that leads south, Josef Beneš says that there is a refrigerator in his cab and that he also has a gas stove with him. In a few hours he would warm up dumplings, his last.

On the freeway side that leads north, Michael Preissler says that he will have Soljanka in a can.

On the side of the freeway that leads south, Josef Beneš says that his company has informed him that there is no work for him either. Not in the next few days, not in the next few weeks, not for a very long time. He would park his car in Benátky, go home and not know if it was a reason for joy or despair.

On the freeway side that heads north, Michael Preissler says that his eldest daughter’s birthday is at the end of March. You will be nine. This time he would probably be at home, a far-away father close by, freshly showered and still worried about being infected somewhere. There will be no celebration for the girl, the child’s birthday has been canceled. The grandparents will put a gift in the garage in the morning and wave from the sidewalk.

That is what the two men on both sides of the highway have to report quickly from their tractors. Then Michael Preissler opens his window on one side of the A 19, as Josef Beneš will do on the other side of the A 19 a little later. Two men behind reflecting windows, two lonely people in times of isolation. Their trucks vibrate as they start the engines, their faces wiggle behind trembling glass, and a film would show a bird’s eye view of two trucks driving onto the highway in the opposite direction.

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