Thursday, October 2, 2008


The following post was written the afternoon of October 1st, my first day in Bonn:

So, a few weeks ago I made a poor choice. I purchased new towels from the coolest new store in Cincinnati: Ikea. The towels were pleasant sparkling Crest toothpaste blue. I packed them into my rolling suitcase and trucked them to Germany. About a week later, I took a shower and realized I was covered in blue fuzz and my hands had a slightly bluish tinge. Apparently I should have washed the things a couple of times before putting them to work.

I took the object that was threatening to turn me into a slightly downbeat Grover to the shower. I blasted it with hot water and slung it against the wall and twirled it around itself trying to get the running dye to come out and the extra fuzzies to fall off the fabric.

Satisfied it had received a de-bluing beating, I hung it over my door in my dormitory and left it to dry. When I came back, I was greeted by the grisly aftermath of a Smurf homicide. A blue puddle had formed across my room, the residual, stubborn dye left in the towel making my room look like Babe’s stable after a hard night out with Paul Bunyan.

The subsequent six weeks were spent periodically scrubbing this spot, usually with hot water. I didn’t have a soap abrasive enough to really get the blue out of the rubberized linoleum on the floor.

Today the Hausfrau came to my room to check the place out. I scrubbed the desk and stove burners as best I could without investing in cleaning equipment of any kind. She frowned as she scanned the floor, noticing my blue blob. “Was ist das?” Damn.

She ended up keeping my security deposit because she isn’t sure how much it will cost to get the stain out. She’ll send me the difference if it’s less then the 100 Euro we anted up. It wasn’t a great way to start the day. This is way I’m not an Ikea fan right now.

After signing the necessary paperwork I rolled down the hill to catch my train to Bonn. It was starting to drizzle. At the Frankfurt main terminal I found out my train was delayed by ten minutes. Not a huge problem except I wasn’t sure if my connection to Bonn would work out. Normally train delays and plane delays don’t really get under my skin. I can’t do anything to make them go away so what’s the point of wasting energy stressing? But I had a meeting with my International Tutor, Natalie before 3:00. After then she had to be somewhere. I wasn’t sure what would happen if I missed her. She had e-mailed saying she had my key. I had her number, but somehow didn’t feel like waiting in the lobby of a dorm on the outskirts of Bonn for Natalie to rescue me after her 3:30 appointment. Plus it was raining.

I made my connection, I arrived shortly before 3:30. We then waited outside an office on the ground floor of the dorm I was assigned. A harried woman was working with an entire family and it took a while. I was suddenly very embarrassed of my German, but was reluctant to cheat and use English to chat with Natalie while we waited. Instead we just opted for awkward silence.

Finally the office cleared and the older woman popped out her head to tell me that I was not in the system. I showed her my e-mail stating that yes, I was in the system and even had a room number. She shuffled papers and mused. I started to wonder if I should start asking about hotel rates in the area.

She finally acquiesced, handing me a set of keys while demanding I get back to her before noon the next day with my housing contract. She also told me that I may need to move rooms as a result of this snafu. So now my stuffed luggage waits in apprehension of tomorrow. The day still wasn’t going well. It was still raining.

I dropped my stuff off and ran back to the city transit to get back into town. I had arranged to meet Dr. Martin as soon as I got checked in and I was running a bit later than I expected. It’s never good to be late to an appointment with a German. I wasn’t in his office, but there was a not on the door saying he was in a seminar room, the same one he teaches in. Maybe he was getting stuff together for classes next week. I knocked on the door and cracked it open. Right in the middle of a seminar. Hello department, remember me? I’m the kid that barged into the room the other day!

I started to turn around and Dr. Martin beckoned me in. Okay. I was in the right place. The seminar turned out to be a lecture on the California vacation two of the grad students took over the break. They had pictures of La Brae and Yosemite. With the pictures I could get the gist of what was going on and felt a bit more confident in my German. But only a bit. I knew my introduction was coming and I might be required to introduce myself auf Deutsch, something I have been taught to handle, but speaking in German to a group of people I’ll be seeing for the next year was a bit frightening. It was still raining.

I made it through the introduction. I received my key and got to see my office for the year. Things were going well. I grabbed my rolling suitcase of stuff that I’d left in Dr. Martin’s office and went back to the dorm. In the train station instead of an escalator, there was a slopped moving sidewalk hundreds of wet feet had slickened the thing up. I stepped onto it and my bag started to take off. I tried to stop its momentum. Instead, it started mine. I was jerked forward, and losing my footing I went down hard on my tailbone. The woman behind me made sure I was okay and told me the ramp can be slick (I think). I assume outside it was still raining.

The Germans have a word: Schadenfreude. I first learned it from the musical Avenue Q. It literally means “The shame of someone else.” It’s the satisfaction you take in seeing someone else screw up. I don’t think what I told you is really a tale of woe. I think it’s Schadenfreude. I know things will perk up. I know tomorrow I’ll get everything sorted out. I just wanted to let you know I had one of those days. I hope you didn’t and can enjoy my misfortune. But, maybe you had one, too. Take comfort in the shared experience. I should let you know that it stopped raining.

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