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.

๐Ÿ™‚

***

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 60โ‚ฌ 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 driving several tonnes of memories across Germany with no brakes

Wrote most some of this during the breaks in Friday’s adventure. I originally wanted to write about each step of the journey as it happened, but sometimes it was more important to participate than observe so I missed some lots of bits out, or wrote fragments instead of sentences. I thought about posting as was, but I had some time to kill on the flight and wanted to make it more readable so I’ve chopped and changed and added as necessary..

***

13:00 – motorway services carpark (where I bought my coffee)

S and I arranged to meet at the rental office at 8. I missed the train I wanted to catch so by the time I arrived she’d already sorted everything out and was raring to go – the helpers were booked to arrive soon and she had a couple of things she wanted to sort out before they turned up. All I had to do was hand over my driving licence (they gave it back afterwards)) and pick up the keys and then we could go.

***

The van is huuuuuge!! And has the turning circle of a block of flats. (Or at least a middle sized house). The place we borrowed it from has a lamppost directly next to the exit. Guess who dented the van before they’d even driven 200m….

Ho hum. We luckily have a good insurance policy.

Then we got a tiny bit lost on the way to S’s house so the helpers had to wait for us and S had to work round them.

They worked quickly and we were on the road half an hour earlier than we’d planned despite everything.

And now we’re on the first loobreak.

It’s windy and there are roadworks and it’s looking like rain, but there are no traffic jams (yet).

Wheeee!!

***

15:00 ish – Supermarket logistics centre carpark.

We’ve stopped because we have no brakes. Or at least dodgy brakes. Or not enough brakes. Or something.

We were driving along a motorway, minding our own business when the dashboard suddenly lit up like a rather monotonous Christmas tree (or a traffic light party).

I had no idea what some of the symbols and abbreviations meant, but some of them were red and I know red lights mean you should stop. The display screen told us to consult the handbook, but I didn’t fancy reading while driving and I’m against my dashboard telling me anything while I’m on the motorway, so we took the next exit and stopped in a logistics centre carpark.

According to the display and the guide to dashboard lights, we have no ESP, no ABS, no ASR, no hill holder…. Nuffink.

We consulted the handbook.
The handbook was almost entirely useless – it basically told us that a) it was something to do with the brakes and b) we should consult someone knowledgeable.

That we had no brakes can’t be quite true because I did bring it to a halt.

S is on the phone to the rental company to find out what to do next.

I used the time to smuggle my way into the logistics centre to use their loo. (If you don’t close the main door properly behind you, there will be someone who uses opportunity to follow you into the building..).

Life is never boring…

(Also, it didn’t just rain after we set off again earlier, it feels more accurate to say the sky fell down).

***

16:15 ish – still in the logistics carpark

A repair man is apparently on his way.. he is supposed to be here by 5… We originally wanted to be at the new house by then. That was honestly unlikely to happen, but we could have probably made it for just after 6. No chance of that now.

***

16:50 – still not going anywhere

I wrote: “New loo – lorry driver shed – renovation and lots of dust”

This was good. I walked up to the gatemen at the edge of the lorry park and asked if I could use the loo. They said they didn’t have one and they couldn’t let me onto the grounds to get to the main building. I asked where I should go instead, and they pointed me in the general direction of a garage. When I asked how far away that was and said I was on foot because my car had broken down, they admitted that they did indeed have a working toilet but that it was very dirty due to the renovation work going on. I was welcome to use it if I didn’t mind the rubble.

It was very rubbley, but still a lot better than a lot of motorway loos ๐Ÿ˜‰

***

19:00 ish – van repair workshop

The repair man arrived (at the carpark) at 17:something-late.. He’d got caught in a motorway closure and resulting traffic jams, and a journey that should have taken just under half an hour took him almost two.

He was friendly and helpful and thorough and unplugged things and tested things and checked things with a computer.

It turned out that something to do with the ABS/rear brakes was broken. I could either sign something to say that I was personally responsible for any accident that occurred on the rest of the journey, or we could get it repaired before continuing Essenwards. We were already so late that the unpacking helpers would be gone when we arrived, and I really didn’t want to be responsible for any more accidents, so we decided to get it repaired.

He couldn’t repair anything in the carpark in the dark, so we followed him back to the workshop.. slowly and carefully.

We now have a drinks machine with free cocoa/coffee/water and a couple of sofas to play with ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m going to sleep for a bit while they work on the van.

***

Midnight – at S’s parents’ house.

We got in, alive and well at 23:15 ish.

The last entry was as I was trying to sleep at the workshop…

No such luck. Or more luck, depending on how you look at it. Just as I was getting close to sleeping, they came back and said we could go – everything was mended :).

We drove the last 270something km in approximately 4 hours (including refuelling and getting lost in a car park). That’s incredibly slow for German motorways, but I’m a wimp and it was windy and I didn’t want to overtake all the lorries. I’m not good at overtaking on a good day in my car. On a crazy day like today in a 20something foot van, with less than enough sleep, I was even more reluctant than usual.. It’s amazing how much wind you don’t notice in a car..

S’s parents waited up for us, and we had soup as a kind of midnight snack while we recounted the days events.

***

I think, on balance, we did really well, considering, even if we could theoretically have done better..

On self-sabotage and sandwiches

[Mostly written on] Friday morning, 7:00 ish – on a train. 

*Yawn*

I’m driving a friend across Germany today. (Friday). She’s moving house and I offered to drive the moving van for her.

I’m setting out from Berlin (North East Germany). Her new house is near Essen (West Germany), I am going to a party (the late-night/early-morning kind) in Stuttgart (South Germany) on Saturday evening and I need to be in England on Monday evening. There’s no realistically viable way to go from Stuttgart to Berlin before I fly towards England, so I’m flying directly from Stuttgart. That means packing everything for all 3 trips into one small suitcase. The kind you can take on a plane as handluggage. The kind that takes more thought to pack than the kind you put in the hold.

I have been known to enter my house, pack a suitcase and leave within half an hour. That was a long time ago and I am quite out of practice. I am also exhausted from everything else going on. I decided last week (/whenever I got back and booked the new flights, I have no track of time at the moment) I needed to leave myself longer than usual to pack and get myself ready and to sleep. The sleep part was especially important because I’ve never driven a removal van before.

That was the plan. The reality was a little bit different.

***

Yesterday evening (Thursday) I worked later than planned because I got in to work later than planned. I got there so late because I woke up so late, and I woke up so late because I was up so late the night before (Wednesday), working on a present for one of the people I’m going to see in Stuttgart. I didn’t get it finished because I ran out of time and so won’t be able to give it to her this visit. That means the evening wasn’t used effectively. Or at least not in the most effective way.

Whatever.

Back to yesterday evening.

I worked until I’d clocked up the minimum hours needed to count as a day.

Just as I wanted to go home I remembered that I hadn’t printed my boarding card(s) yet so I stopped to do that.

Just as I was finally locking up the workshop, my friend (the one who’s moving) phoned to ask if I could make her some lunch for the journey because she’d left later than planned and wasn’t going to get to a shop before they all shut.

Ok. No problem – I was going to make myself lunch anyway. She doesn’t eat what I’d been thinking of taking, so I went shopping on the way home.

Once I got home (several โ‚ฌ later – shopping hungry is never really recommended..) I did the following:

  • Washing – all the things from my last trip which I needed for the next one (had to run the machine twice because I forgot the washing powder the first time). Hung it all out, rethought and draped some of the thicker clothing on the radiators to dry
  • Reheated/finished baking breadbuns (you can buy them half baked. That way they’re fresh when you want to eat then) and made sarnies (posh ones with ham and cheese and tomato puree and miniature bell peppers and basil leaves)
  • Decorated and cooked 2 [frozen] pizzas, ate 1, chopped and packed the other one
  • Washed and/or chopped and packed many carrots, apples, tomatoes, peppers, a kohl rabi, and a fennel (given the choice, S eats more like a rabbit than any other person I know ;))
  • Packed my suitcase (except for the clothes which were still drying)
  • Packed all the lunch things (fruit&veg box, sandwiches, pizza, apples, satsumas, bananas, biscuits, chocolate raisins, …) plus 4 bottles of water into a huge carrier bag. It was a picnic to do Ratty proud*
  • Did the washing up
  • Tidied the kitchen so I wouldn’t be embarrassed by my landlord feeding my fish.

I got loads done, but it took longer than I expected (quelle surprise) so I went to bed later than expected (not late by my standards, but not nearly as early as intended). And even though I was exhausted, it took me ages to get to sleep. That really was surprising – usually I sleep as soon as I’m horizontal.. like one of those dolls with the weighted eyes.

***

My colleague says there are days when gravity is stronger than other days. Today is one of those days: First I couldn’t get out of bed. Second I couldn’t carry the lunch bag.

I found a backpack for the water bottles and waddled down the stairs, laden much like a Sherpa, only much less fit/strong/capable. I dragged and lugged my suitcase and picnic bag towards the train station, stopping every few hundred metres to change hands.

***

The first train I managed to catch left almost 20 minutes later than the one I intended to catch. That coincides almost exactly with the 20 minutes I spent lying in bed not getting up. Funny really.

***

I’m now tireder than I ought to be for a drive across the country, despite the fact that I’ve known about it for a while and also aimed to get enough sleep. It seems I’m my own best saboteur…

..but at least we have a good packed lunch! ๐Ÿ™‚



* see: Wind-in-the-Willows

On the eve of a new year

Hello people ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope all your Christmases were fantastic, and wish you a brilliant last night of 2016, whatever you choose to do with it.

I’ve just got back to Berlin and am already at the second ‘party’ of the evening so I’m going to put my phone away and be marginally sociable…

I’ll leave you with a picture of a tree we drove past this morning:

Isn’t it pretty?!

The whole world was white for most of the way across Germany

On surviving organisational failure

This is one of those posts that started life as an email in my rough draft folder and has been added to at irregular intervals since then. I’m going to tart it up a bit and post it so that it gets to see some of the world. The rough draft folder is a bit stuffy.

I thought about ignoring it, but it was too close to finished to throw away, certainly a lot closer than others, and it would be a shame to waste a good story about me winning against the “anti-organisation-field”… The original title was “On coins and organisation” but I have no idea what the coins bit was going to be about so I changed it… ๐Ÿ™‚

[written on a train in July 2013]

“If life was an exam and there were points awarded for organisation, I would have failed. Not the ‘just short of an A’ line of fail that isn’t really one at all, nor the ‘oh well, I can make up the points on creativity’ sort, not even ‘at least I scraped through with an E’.

Nada. I would have so few points that I’d get a Z. Someone might even have to invent a new alphabet.

Whatever. I seem to have been blessed with an angel whose only purpose in my life is to rush about getting the world to work around/despite the anti-organisation field I generate.

You want an example? How long have you got? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Take today.

I have the day off work. I have the day off work because I polished my finger last week and it still hasn’t healed yet. I have to visit the doctor (because of said finger), and I have to catch a train at 12:40 to get me to a-village-nearly-6-hours-away at the same time as my boyfriend. The doctors close at 12 and the bus leaves on the hour and then every 20 minutes.

The plan was to wake up, have breakfast, pack, tidy the place up and get on the bus at 11:20. That would have given me enough time for there to be a queue at the doctor’s, several red lights and a bunch of slow people in front of me…….”

[Written later July 2013 and slightly edited in early 2014 in an unsuccessful effort to get the post out]

“… and that’s as far as I got before I couldn’t take typing on my phone any more.

This is how I might have continued (and even if it isn’t, it’s how I’m going to continue today):

…The reality looked a little different.

I missed the bus at 11:20, and also the one at 11:40.

I only just caught the one at 12:00 by running up the hill and hurling myself at the bus driver.

Naja, running is a euphemism.

I was wearing a backpack and a handbag, carrying a wicker basket and dragging a suitcase behind me – thankfully one with decent wheels.. That doesn’t leave much scope for running up a hill.

I left my house in a state of general dereliction.

I’d been off work for a week and had chosen to split my time between reading, dancing, visiting people and doing the hyper-focus stuff I don’t usually do. Things like getting the black gunk out of the washing powder drawer in the washing machine with a toothbrush. Things like finally getting my receipts in order and updating my spreadsheet (not so much filling it in as changing some functions and adding a new totals page). While I’m sure it’s good to take life slowly sometimes, it probably wasn’t the best use of my time. Whatever. I hadn’t done the things I ought to have done. Things like packing, washing up or sweeping the floor. (Also things like writing the new school stuff onto cards, working on my Glass Thing Theory Project, drawing my masterpiece…)

When it occurred to me that I was leaving in a couple of hours I panicked. When I panic I am less able to function than usual. I had a shower. I faffed about looking for clothes to wear on the train. I looked for my shoes. An hour before I was supposed to leave, I decided it would be a good idea to get my suitcase out. I threw things at it for 10 minutes and then went to check my email and start reading a blogpost someone’d sent me. Once I’d started I was stuck for a good 20 minutes. Ignoring the problem makes it go away, right?

Wrong.

When I finally remembered I’d actually been doing something else, I had less than half an hour to be on the bus. I threw some more stuff at my suitcase and gave up. My house was a wreck, I was a wreck, I hadn’t packed, I was going to miss the bus and get to the doctors after they closed and then have to wait until after their lunch break and miss the train andmaybenotevengetANYtrainthatdayandmessupR’splansandmakehimhatemeandmaybehe’salreadyannoyedandmyhouseisamessandIcan’tpackorwashuporleaveontimeand…

At this point I think I managed to pull myself together and tell myself that sitting there wasn’t even going to give me the chance to make it to the bus stop. I continued on throwing stuff at my suitcase. Obviously it didn’t all fit, what with me going to a wedding an’ all. My makeup bag was bigger than my wash-kit usually is. I also hadn’t made the final decision about which shoes to wear so I had to pack them all. I went to get my backpack.

About then, the bus left. I figured I could get the next one and carried on.

As I was hoisting my backpack onto my shoulder I remembered that I was supposed to be working for a week (after the wedding) and that having snuck into work in the middle of the night to get my tools and goggles, it would be remarkably dumb to leave them behind.

I put my backpack down and tried to imagine where there might be enough space for delicate pointy graphite things. Graphite is wonderful stuff, but stupidly brittle.”

[added later – Sept 2015 – Two years on, my memory isn’t sure of the details, but the main events are still amazingly clear :)]

“There most definitely wasn’t room for them. I left my backpack and suitcase on the landing and looked for a suitable bag for my tools. My stash of bags lived in a wicker shopping basket. While I rummaged through them, looking for one without holes and with both handles intact, I decided the basket would be better than any of the bags, and it was stabile enough to withstand being bashed and still protect my tools. I emptied it onto the floor and took it to my room where I took a T-shirt out of my cupboard, ignoring the clothes which fell out in the process, bundled the tools in (carefully, but hurriedly) and rushed out of the house, picking up my backpack and suitcase on the way past.

I got to the door and remembered I’d been holding my buspass when I’d had to go back in, and that I wasn’t holding it anymore. I left the suitcase and basket in the hall, went back up stairs (still wearing the backpack), unlocked my flat (knocking a couple of shoes off the shelf with my backpack), picked up the buspass, relocked the flat and came back down the stairs.

The neighbour’s daughter was standing outside when I finally made it out of the house. She was 4 or 5 and for some reason she really really loved me. Enough to want to tell me all about everything every time she saw me anyway. I only got out of a long winded conversation about something complicated like rabbits, because she was supposed to be going somewhere too.

I half ran, half walked up the hill and caught the 12:00 bus. Just. I think it might have been a couple of minutes late but I don’t remember.

I got to the doctor’s somewhere between 12:10 and 12:15, totally out of breath, and on the verge of crying. They closed at 12:00 and have until 13:30 lunchbreak.ย I had to be on a pre-booked train at 12:40. The next train (which I would have to pay for again) would leave at 13:40 which was impossible to catch, if I was allowed into the practice at 13:30. The one after that left at 14:40 but wouldn’t be in time for the last connecting train to the place I wanted to get to. I was a bit stuffed. However. Whatever else happened, I had to be seen by the doctor at some point during the day. If you’re on sickleave because of work-related accidents, you’re not allowed to travel out of the town you live in.ย To make sure you don’t go gallevanting while you’re supposed to be recouperating, they make you go and see them every couple of days, even if it isn’t really necessary. If you don’t go, there’s big trouble with all kinds of autorities. I was on the way to a wedding, and would have taken the afternoon off work anyway, even if I hadn’t been off sick, but I wasn’t officially allowed to go anywhere until I was given the all-clear by the doctor.

Luckily, someone came out and I got in before the door shut behind them ๐Ÿ™‚ I left my suitcase and the basket in the foyer and went into the waiting area. The nurses behind the desk knew me, and knew I only needed the bandage changing, so they smiled and pointed me towards the nearest free room instead of kicking me out or making me wait until after lunch. They unwrapped my finger and made small talk until the doctor came in, glanced at my finger, pronounced it “healing well” and went out again. My finger was bandaged back up quickly and I was out of the practice by 12:25.

On a usual day – walking, with no luggage – it takes me 11-13 minutes to get between the doctors and the train station, depending on traffic lights and how many people get kicks out of standing in my way. On this day, the lights were on my side, and there weren’t enough people out, for them to really be in the way. I probably bashed some old people with my basket on my way past, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t knock anyone over :).

I was at the station at 12:38, and collapsed onto the train 30 seconds before it closed the doors to leave.

And then I remembered how to breathe.

(I also thought of the state of my house, and the craziness of my morning, and how unfit I was and how stupid the whole situation was and … yeah, I cried too.. and wrote the first part of the post :))”