On winning at life (or at least on the train)

April 24th.

I had a train to catch this afternoon and I caught it.

The end.

🙂

***

The truth is, as usual, somewhat lengthier and involves a confrontation with a couple of officious ticket collectors, but I still won. And winning is what it’s all about, right?

***

Take 2.

I had a train to catch this afternoon. The sort of long distance train that you book in advance to make the journey affordable. The sort that you shouldn’t really miss because getting the next one is not just an unnecessary nuisance, it’s a really expensive unnecessary nuisance (and in this case would probably also mean getting in really late and not being fit for tomorrow’s meeting).

That meant leaving work early and catching two other local trains to get to the station. I started looking at train timetables a few days ago. I checked again this morning and decided on a connection that left me quite a lot of contingency time (more orderly people would probably have left double..)

I occasionally have an urge to be more organised. Part of that involved spending the Easter we finding the bottom of my washing baskets so that I would have a wardrobe full of clean, dry clothes to choose from. It didn’t stretch as far as actually packing..

I got involved in a late-night discussion instead of packing and had to pack this morning instead. By the time I’d agonised over the weather and what I was going to wear when, and watered all the plants, I ended up leaving ridiculously late.

Anyway.

I got to the station and remembered that I needed a ticket for the journey to work but didn’t think about what I was doing and bought a ticket for the whole of Berlin instead of just the area I need.

Doh.

The tickets are valid for travel in one direction for up to 2 hours. You can get off the train as often as you like during those hours, but you can’t go back in the direction you came from.

Work lies almost directly between my house and the station I was leaving from later. If I left work a few minutes earlier than I’d planned, I could get to the station using the same ticket I’d come in with. I figured it was a lucky mistake after all.

Whee!

***

As is probably obvious to anyone who either knows me or has read more than three of my posts, I left work a couple of minutes later than I should have done. I got to the station half a minute or so later than the train should have left.

Bummer.

There are trains scheduled every 10 minutes, so it wasn’t really a problem

I say ‘should have left’, because it turned out it was running late so it arrived before the next timetabled train.

Wheee!

In a different universe I would have got to the station without further incident.. However. This isn’t that universe. This is the universe where “maximal nerve-wracking” is my automatic setting.

In this universe the ticket controller got on the train at the exact moment the time on my ticket ran out.

Bummer.

By the time he got to me.. “Your ticket ran out 4 minutes ago”

“Oh…”

“Where are you getting off?”

“Uh..here.” I pointed at the next station. I wasn’t planning to get off there, but it seemed like a good idea to not be on a train with an invalid ticket at the same time as the controller. (Not having a valid ticket in Germany carries a 60€ fine). From that station the trains go approximately every 3 minutes, so it shouldn’t matter too much if I waited for the next one. Especially seeing as the train-timetable-app said the next train was running a few minutes late…

“Ok.” (That’s the abrieviated version. He was very grumpy but jobsworthily pleased to have someone to rant at).

He watched as I got off the train..

..and then got off too.

He sat on the bench with his controller friend and looked as if he was content to stay for the duration.

Hmm.

Bummer.

I was only three stops away from where I wanted/needed to be, two from where I needed to change, but there was no chance I could walk there and still catch my train.

I went back to the ticket controllers.

“I’m sorry, I made a mistake. I wasn’t supposed to get off here after all. I need Other Station instead. Can I get the next train with this ticket? It’s only two stops… Please?”

They weren’t very happy, but they did rather dourly allow me to get on the next train.

Whee!

More accurately, they made sure I knew just how much I wasn’t allowed to use tickets past their use-by time, then escorted me onto the next train and watched me to make sure I got out where I said I would…

I luckily had to change platforms to change trains, and they got back on the train to check the tickets in a different wagon, so they didn’t see the last 3 and half minutes of my illicit journey.

Whee!

I arrived exactly 15 minutes before the train left, exactly as instructed by the ticket :).

Whee!

There were major building works at the long-distance station. And rather confusing signposts. And I was trying to catch a train that doesn’t exist on the timetable, rather like the Hogwarts Express, except that I didn’t know which platform to aim for.

Bummer.

My ticket said check the boards and the board said check your ticket.

Sigh.

I found the right platform by chance and after going up and down escalators more or less at random and checking all the platform displays. Some of which said check the display..

Whee? I guess..

When the train arrived it was full and the thermostat was broken

Bummer.

But I was on the right train train at the right time and I did get a seat and there were openable windows and we all got there safely.

Whee!

And that was the end of another successful travelling day.

***

(Yup, I’m off gallavanting again – there are meetings tomorrow and Friday that I want to go to, followed by people I want to visit for the weekend)

On being on time by mistake

Most people (I think, probably) arrive on time because they plan to. They have a fairly realistic idea of how long it takes to get somewhere and what they have to do on each side of the journey and they plan accordingly, leaving a buffer for emergencies or unexpected events.

I, on the other hand, have a knack for underestimating how long things take, for not planning for anything like checking my pockets for the umpteenth time or going back to pick up my coat, and for not even thinking about unforseen circumstances, let alone leaving a buffer for them. I get drawn into long conversations 5 minutes before I’m due to set out and struggle to extract myself. I’m good at finding things which really need doing, right before I go anywhere. Like noticing that the plants need watering, or remembering that I wanted to bring something for someone and just have to find it..

As a result I am very often late. Or if not late, then only just on time.

Sometimes though, my lack of planning works in my favour. Sometimes I forget what time I’m supposed to be there. Or remember the wrong time. And then I surprise everyone (and myself) by arriving early. In this particular case 15 minutes before the meeting started, which meant that rather than dashing in at the last minute or sneaking in through the back door and hoping no-one notices or at least isn’t too disturbed by my entrance, I had enough time to say hi to people, go to the toilet, find a seat, get all my papers etc out of my bag and spread over the table, have a drink and sit back to wait for the speaker to commence his speech. No rush. No sneaking. No exasperated sighs. No rolled eyes.

I could get used to that.

I mean, I probably won’t. But I could.

(About a meeting on the 20th April)

On sleeping through seminars

It seems as soon as I enter a lecture theatre I fall asleep..

At the very latest when they turn on the beamer and start talking.

It’s not quite full on sleeping, just dozing off and waking up a few seconds later when my head jolts back up, but it’s frustrating to be completely incapable of listening to someone talk about their research for 40 minutes without falling asleep.

The room wasn’t too warm or too cold, and neither too light nor too dark. The topics were interesting and complicated and the speakers were anything but monotone.

I think I might have a bigger sleep-deficit than I’d imagined..

***

Anyone got any good ideas for staying awake?

On the magic in the middle

It doesn’t appear to make any sense.

None of it.

And yet, afterwards, you can look back and see all the paths and patterns and logical consequences.

And it’s kind of beautiful. And strange. And magical.

***

***

I’m not there yet, not at the patterns and consequences stage, but I am at a place where I can stand and take some breaths without fighting to keep my head above water.

I got a lot done in the last week and a half.

Despite, or possibly because of, all the frustration and rain and aching muscles and late nights and long(ish) journeys and complicated German grammar and broken things.

* I have a new bed (which I carried across town)

* I looked at a new old car and decided it was too broken to buy

* I have a new mattress

* I rearranged my room (to accommodate the bed)

* I’ve got to know a neighbour (a bit)

* I read my water meter and my radiators and handed in the numbers. Before the deadline

* I cycled something like 70km and walked a bit too

* I fought the trains with a bike and won, overall and on balance

* I saw parts of the city I would probably never otherwise have visited

* I met people who made me question my prejudice (sparkly clean floor and still welcoming towards dripping wet and muddy strangers)

* I have new skis

* I talked to the people at the garage about my car. By myself. Without anyone ‘super-knowledgable-about-cars” to talk about the ‘complicated things’ for me

* I spent a couple of hours reading (doesn’t happen nearly regularly enough)

* I sorted out my aquarium (water change, rescued 2 shrimp from the filter and pruned plants), and cleaned xDB’s aquarium filters (my fish..)

* I was contacted by someone who might be the dog’s original owner (yet to find out the exact connection)

* I had some fantastic late night online conversations with a friend I don’t see anywhere near often enough

* I taught myself and my after-school-help kid what adjectival attributes are (and genitive and prepositional ones)

* I started sorting through my enormous postcard-and-magazine-clippings box, ready to start decorating my room

* I rowed every day (on the machine), and got an all time personal best

* I have my old stereo back (almost)

* And the best part: some one really important to me got back in touch after several months – lots of good conversations (had, and hopefully to come)

And all that on top of working and keeping myself alive (washing (myself and my clothes), cooking, eating, washing up, sleeping…all the usual stuff)

***

Later:

I wrote the above yesterday lunchtime. I meant to come home, add the picture and press post.

I didn’t, partly because I got home later than expected – I worked until 6 and walked back with my stereo – and partly because I was so amazed/shocked/speechless about an email I received when I got home that I completely forgot about the post.

I’m not going to say what the email said, yet, except that it has to do with my miniature glass company and it’s very very cool news.

Yesterday was a very good day.

***

I feel like I’m still in the middle, but I can see the vaguest semblance of a path out. And right now, in the middle of all my chaos, I think life is pretty damn great 🙂

Jimmy Eat World – The Middle (screenshot of a YouTube video)

On swapping stereos when the music stops – in practice

This is the new one:

And this is mine:

Both freshly dusted with the airgun:

And wiped down with a damp rag.

This is the beginning of a good day 🙂

(Also of note but not worthy of a separate post: I achieved a personal best on the rowing machine, remembered to put the rubbish out for the dustbin, I’ve been at work 2hours already and it’s not even 9am yet! 🙂 So far, today has been a success..)

On swapping stereos when the music stops

I took the dud stereo to work with me today (by train, after bringing my bike to the bike-workshop ;)) so I could swap it back with the seller for a working replacement after work.

Read that sentence again. What stands out most? Work work work!

And it does! Nothing broken, nothing dropped, nothing lost or soaked or dismantled. In fact nothing to laugh at at all…*

The new stereo is very dull, but it works (!!! Whee!!!) and it was pretty cool that the guy was willing to exchange it, and that he even had a second one for sale at all.

I’m going to take it to work tomorrow and swap it for my original one (because that one’s programmable and has a remote, and is properly mine!).

And when I get home with it, and the world stops making me dizzy, I will sit back and enjoy the music 🙂 ..

…and then clear up the chaos that ignoring my house for a few days has let ensue.

* Albert and the lion

On the difference between days

Yesterday I mended the tip-ex mouse, helped the secretary with some tricky stuff on her computer and maybe taught a year 8 kid some maths (“maybe” because I’m not sure how much stuck.). I feel those are 3 good uses of a day.

Today I have nothing of note to mention. I assume I must have done something because I’ve been awake for many hours. When I try to remember my achievements, all I can think of are the things I still haven’t done yet. Things that need doing, things I could have done earlier, things I should probably be doing right now instead of writing this.

Funny how different days can be. Or at least one’s attitude towards them.

On socialising

It was the Christmas party at work today.

3 ½ social interactions and a couple of plates of buffet food later and it’s time to curl up in a ball under the duvet.

I still feel the evening was a success, I just need to hide for a while and recharge :).

On peppers in November

(posted on the 1st, but somehow got stuck in the works)

One of my customers brought me a chili-pepper plant today. He wanted to thank me for getting his glass stuff finished so quickly. I didn’t actually have very much to do with his glass, my colleague did 95% of the work, but I do appreciate the pepper. (And obviously my 5% was the most important 5% ;))

Look at how pretty it is!

Talking of peppers, someone told me it’s November today… Apparently that means something to some people..

On days without news

Usually, the radio goes on when my colleague gets to work, and goes off when I leave. He can’t stand adverts, so we listen to ‘Deutschland Radio’ and ‘Deutschland Radio Kultur’  which generally makes for a good mixture of news and interesting information about a huge range of topics. Anything from book reviews to current scientific research to new films to phone-ins about illnesses to the latest in-depth reports about bombings or shootings or fires or whatever’s going on in the world, generally including interviews with multiple important, knowledgeable people.

Usually, I quite enjoy the mixture. There are obviously topics I’m not that interested in, but none of the programs run longer than 90 minutes, lots of them only 10 minutes or so.

Usually, we talk about what we’ve heard. I have a million background questions, and my colleague has a lot of excess knowledge.

This week, I am alone in the workshop.

I haven’t turned the radio on once. I’m playing CDs and enjoying letting my thoughts do their own thing, rather than be directed by the radio. Enya doesn’t have lyrics you need to listen to, sometimes not even any you can listen to accidentally. For someone who generally pays more attention to lyrics than the music, it’s quite nice to tune them out. To tune out all the words. There are so many words. All the time. The world is full of words.

When I think about it, it’s weird not knowing what’s happening, but on balance, I don’t miss the constant input.

At least this week.

Next week my colleague comes back, and the radio will go back on.

In the meantime, I’m going to sail away from it all.

🙂