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We could only shrug and shake our heads. I figured if he spoke any English he would have used it by then.

Finally, exasperated and angry, he reached through the window toward my head. But the hand bypassed my left ear and grasped the shoulder harness hanging by the door post. He gave the strap two hard jerks and the dawn came up like thunder out of Magdeburg. I had forgotten to refasten my seat belt leaving the checkpoint.

The rest was easy. The cop wanted 10 West German marks, and he wanted them immediately. He was careful to give us a receipt, I buckled up, and we were on our way.

Between 1980 and 1989, we made that drive numerous times, and since then have visited Berlin frequently, but the city has never looked better than it did it at the end of that first drive.