Deutschland Diaries volume 2: Pop Quiz

June 2007

Pop quiz: What do you do if you lock yourself out of your room in southern Germany, where you arrived nine days ago, and:

  • You’re pretty highly strung even in ideal situations
  • All the instructions for what to do in this situation are in German
  • You don’t SPEAK German yet
  • It’s 2:00 on a Sunday afternoon
  • The Hausmeister is in the mountains and won’t be back until 8:00 PM at the earliest
  • Your total food intake for the day has been one piece of bread and half an apple
  • You forgot to take your allergy pills and your allergies are unbelievably bad in Germany
  • You haven’t been sleeping well because you’re in a new environment (so, like, you’re COMPLETELY exhausted and for the past three hours all you’ve wanted to do in the word is go home, eat, take your allergy pills, and sleep for a long time)
  • You know three people in the entire city
  • The numbers in your phone for these people are incorrect
  • You’re also locked out of the room that has the phone book
  • You try to call the Hausmeister and instead a woman answers the phone and because of your limited German and her limited English it takes you nearly five minutes to discover that she is, in fact, NOT the Hausmeister, which means you’ve written the number down wrong
  • When this frustrating call ends, you find that you’re down to almost zero on your phone card
  • A mentally unbalanced man approaches you in the park when you’re CLEARLY in no shape to talk to anyone and then yells at you because you neither speak German nor have a cigarette lighter
  • You’re wearing very cute but very painful and impractical shoes with two-inch heels
  • The pavement consists of four-inch square stones with big gaps between each stone (see item re: impractical shoes with heels)
  • You finally manage to get in touch with a friend, who tells you that you can come to his house
  • You find his apartment building on a map, and it should take you less than 10 minutes to get there, but because the map bears absolutely no relation to the streets it’s supposed to represent you walk for 45 minutes before you find it (this is quite unpleasant; see again item re: impractical shoes with heels)
  • Once you find his apartment building, you pull on the door handle but the door doesn’t open, leaving you standing in front of the entry in total despair for about three minutes before it occurs to you that you could try PUSHING the door (whereupon it opens)
  • When you get to your friend’s apartment, your friend’s staggeringly unhelpful visiting friend smugly informs you that no landlord in Germany will open a tenant’s door (whereupon you lose it for a second and say to him “You can be quiet anytime now” and your friend says “That wasn’t very polite”)
  • When your friend calls the Hausmeister (because you miraculously remember the number, having seen it in the elevator exactly once [but not even knowing that was the Hausmeister’s number]), you find out that you’re not technically supposed to live in your room because you haven’t signed any kind of lease and you’re not a student, so the Hausmeister is suspicious and may not let you in (he asks if you have your passport, and you reply “Yes—IN MY ROOM”)


You cry. A lot. Then you cry some more. Then you sit on a park bench and stare dully at the grass until aforementioned Mentally Unbalanced Smoking Man Incident. Then you wonder why the he[ck] you can’t handle trivial problems like this and you feel guilty and you cry some more. Then you stop by McDonald’s (which is normally against your principles, but this institution’s two undeniable advantages are that a) it’s actually OPEN and b) it has public restrooms), and then you eat your ice cream outside on a bench, too exhausted to cry.

But then, you finally arrive at the apartment of the Eighth Wonder of the World (your friend UI), who calls the Hausmeister for you, takes you home, and talks the Hausmeister into opening your door (at first the Hausmeister is still suspicious, despite seeing your messy, tear-stained, utterly wretched condition, but he eventually relents and then seems to feel bad for being initially crusty). The Hausmeister opens your door and then makes a copy of your passport. At 9:30 PM, 7.5 hours after the ordeal began, you finally go to your room, manage somehow to change into your pajamas, and then collapse, grateful that at least, for the first time in several days, it didn’t rain.

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