I have a cycling jacket which I wear when I go cycling.
I have a coat which I wear when I go anywhere (outside) without my bike.
If I am likely to be going anywhere after cycling, or cycling when I get somewhere, I wear one and take the other one with me.
Today, I cycled to work, worked, walked to the station and caught a train to where my driving instructor picked me up. I came straight home after my driving lesson.
Guess which coat I was wearing when I got home this evening?
Guess which coat I put my house key in when I set out this morning?
Bonus points if you also guess who was out and who was asleep when I rung their respective phones and doorbells.
I luckily have a
<Ok. Life is crazier than I could make it up. I got to here in my write-up before Unexpected Things happened. I’ll go back to telling the story in the right order tho..>
I luckily have another set of neighbours who don’t have a copy of my key, but DO have a big sofa. L was in and still awake when I phoned (around 9:30pm I guess).
“Yeah, no problem, come in! I’ll find you a duvet.. Do you want anything to eat? What happened?”
Within very few minutes I had a huge sofa, a blanket, a duvet and half a million cushions.
And it was warm and dry and I didn’t have to go back to work to get my key (which would have been my backup option).
And I could finally go to the toilet 🙂
L finished unloading the dishwasher and fed her animals and we yakked for a bit and watched the dog for a bit before it was time for bed (or sofa).
Instead of instantly falling asleep (which my body wanted), I started writing (because obviously the world needs to know about how I lock myself out..) and then this happened:
L knocks on the door and comes back into the sitting room.. “Jess? I’m really sorry about this.. E (her boyfriend) just phoned. He’s bringing a guy from work home for the night and I don’t think there’s enough room on the sofa for both of you…”
Oh. Well that’s great, I guess I’ll go back to work after all….
“…but I phoned the landlord and he was on his way over anyway so I asked him for your key..”
Uh.. What..? He wasn’t there earlier.. But cool! Am I asleep? Did he really just give you my key?!
“..I’m really sorry to wake you up and bother you..normally you would be really welcome to stay..I didn’t know anything about this guy coming over until just now..I’ll put your key on the table and let you get dressed..”
And that’s how I came to be sleeping in my own bed after all.
I had a train to catch this afternoon and I caught it.
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?
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 weekend 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By the time he got to me.. “Your ticket ran out 4 minutes ago”
“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.
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.
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.
I arrived exactly 15 minutes before the train left, exactly as instructed by the ticket :).
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.
My ticket said check the boards and the board said check your ticket.
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
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.
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)
I was on my way home from a holiday in France and Spain, staying in the AirBnB for the second time. The owner had let me leave my bike there for the Spanish part of the trip.
Reading through this post, I remember the day, the feelings, the sunlight. After a minute or so, I know it continues with buying posh pastries at a patisserie and having to rush back to the station afterwards; going a different way, and getting frustrated about my inability to go the same way twice, but loving the feeling of riding the hill down to the station. I don’t remember these moments after the post finishes quite as well as I remember the written moments. I’m not sure if the writing or the reading is more responsible for the memories. Whichever it is, I’m grateful to my past self for writing, even if she didn’t finish describing the day.
Sometimes days go by coated in the same emotion, painted on slowly, coat for coat, and stripped off just as slowly, layer for layer. Or painted over, with paint that’s just a bit too thin to cover up the colour before.
Sometimes, like today, I can’t keep up with what I’m feeling as it changes so fast – like it’s been left to a kid just learning what the fill button does on paint programs. Click! Red. Click! Green. Click! Yellow. Click! Pink. And on and on.
I woke up and winced. My shoulder was complaining about lugging my backpack and a shopping bag around for the last few days. A reminder that I really need to learn how to pack lighter – having a bike to carry the load leads to forgetting how much you can comfortably carry when you leave the bike behind.
The French train ticket app continued to refuse to spit out a reasonable itinerary. Ne pas possible it jeers. I know it’s possible. At least. I think I do. I want it to be true enough not to believe that it isn’t. After almost an hour of switching between train app, map app and overnight stay app I decide to wing it. I can’t deal with the complexity. Especially at early o’clock.
The shower is cold. There’s a dial to choose the temperature, I twist it, pleading with it to let me have warmth before my feet freeze. My hand says the water’s warming up well before the rest of my body agrees. The shower head is transparent and full of beads in many colours – I admire the way the water makes them spin, before closing my eyes to both the water and to the sunlight cascading into the bathroom, flooding everything. Not even the shower curtain can protect the floor from the sun.
I stand half-dressed in the almost familiar bedroom, holding my knee and trying not to howl. I’ve just walked into the bedstead. Again. For what feels like the hundredth time but is probably only the sixth or seventh. Familiar obviously isn’t familiar enough. As if two nights is ever going to be enough for real familiarity.
The trains I thought about getting last night leave the station as I retrieve my paniers and start the never-ending job of packing all my things into the bags which may or may not have shrunk in the last week.
The conversation flows easily, naturally, as I make tea in a kitchen that’s beginning to feel like I belong. We talk about big things, little things, things that matter, things that probably don’t to anyone else. I use a french keyboard to type my email address on a phone that doesn’t belong to me and which my hand doesn’t recognise, and laugh when it comes out wrong. I delete it and start again. I rejoice when I discover that the word I found in a printer manual and chose for my email address all those years ago is phonetically the same as the almost obsolete local language for “what is this?”. I am suddenly back in another friend’s kitchen after a water fight. I’m wearing borrowed clothes and warming up damply as my friend hangs my wet clothes on the line in front of the Aga. “What is this thing anyway?!”. It seems wrap-around skirts aren’t as easy to recognise when they’re unwrapped. It’s a good memory, from a time I don’t want to go back to, except for maybe for a few moments of that afternoon. As far as I can remember the really good moments were few and far between. It’s funny how the memories of some moments hardly fade at all and yet whole months can vanish into the past, not to be missed or remembered.
We stand in front of the garage, her on the steps, me next to my bike, attaching the bag I bought for the handle bar onto the crossbar – the only place it has a chance of fitting. I could squeeze it into my backpack but I like having my ticket on view behind the clear plastic. I can never remember times or platforms – checking is easier if you don’t have to unpack first.
We’ve already hugged goodbye, she’s just waiting for me to finish and leave. “Can I take a photo?” she asks in her soft French accent. “Klar” I reply, German my immediate response when faced with Foreign. I correct myself, “yes, of course.” I needn’t have bothered, she’s already on her way back up the stairs.
She reappears with a pale pink Polaroid camera – bought for taking pictures of and for her guests. The picture is taken before I register what’s going on. It seems she hasn’t had a guest in a while though, the film doesn’t develop instantly. “Hmph. It must be old” she mutters, shaking the tiny sheet of paper. She sticks it between her teeth and takes another picture, and this time I’m better prepared, my bike is at a different angle, I’m smiling. The second picture develops as slowly as the first. We stand together and laugh as we shake one each, willing the picture out of the white nothingness. Faint lines appear. I’m aparating. J’apparate*. My pronunciation is hideous but it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters on the pavement by the garage. The sun is shining and the world is shining back. There’s no rush to leave. The trains will wait. If they’re willing to take me with my bike at all. Failing that, there’ll be more trains. There won’t be more of this moment. I soak it in. Delight in my own apparition. Take photos of the photos. She holds them in one hand so I have a hand free to zoom in on my phone. When I think she’s not looking I notice that the camera is shaking in her other hand. “Take another one” she commands, “so you have a series.” I take another one. Then another.
Suddenly she hands me a photo. “This one’s for you.” It’s the first one. I would have preferred the other one but I reprimand myself – you weren’t going to have either until 20 seconds ago. “Can I pack it away or do I have to wait until it finishes developing?” I try to work out where I’m going to put it. “No. It needs the sun – you must carry it like this” she places the photo back between her teeth and pedals with her hands. We laugh again.
Then she’s gone. Poncho flying. The goodbye hanging in the air longer than she takes to reach the top of the steps and her conservatory.
I tuck the photo in front of the stack of used tickets although I have no idea if the sun can work its magic through the plastic. I swing my leg over the bar and set off.
Barely 20m later I stop. I haven’t set my bike computer yet. I really can forget anything. I take a picture of the house since I’m still there.
A crossroads. I have no idea where I am so I follow the signs to the station. A few km later I realise that I am somewhere I’ve never been before. I start berating myself for my lack of navigation skills but stop when I see the church on the hill.
I park my bike on the side of the road to take a picture. I wouldn’t have got nearly as good a view from the road I meant to be on. I am so lucky to have such good weather and not so many cars on the road…. And of course to have let the road lead me to the view.
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)
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 🙂
I wear odd socks. Odd, as in not matching, rather than intrinsically odd.
Sometimes they’re brightly coloured, sometimes dark, sometimes stripy, sometimes spotty, sometimes plain, sometimes patterned, sometimes with pictures. Sometimes they’re thick, sometimes thin, sometimes long sometimes short, sometimes in-between. Sometimes they’re boring socks, sometimes they’re just socks, not in need of a description.
Sometimes someone mentions them, mostly they don’t. If they do, they mostly only notice that they don’t match.
I notice other people’s socks occasionally, mostly if they aren’t wearing shoes. Sometimes I comment on them.
“Hey! [Those are] cool socks!” Smile. End of conversation.
What I have never done, is ask if I can wear them.
No one’s ever asked if they could wear mine either. If they had, I would have thought they were very very strange.
I have to admit that I’ve also never offered..
If someone told me I have nice socks, I would say thanks and probably move on to something more exciting. If I thought they were really interested I might say something like: “Yeah, I thought they were pretty cool too, I found them in a market in….blahblahblah..”
“Those are nice socks!”
“Thanks! Want to try them on?”
is not a conversation I’ve ever thought about having. Not in a million years.
Yesterday, while waiting at the airport, I flicked through a magazine.
Apparently, according to the magazine,
“Hey! You’re wearing nice socks, can I try them on?”
made it onto the list of top 3 chat up lines for the next season.
Apparently that’s a thing.
I don’t claim to be an expert on chat up lines, I didn’t even know there was a list, but even assuming one exists, asking to wear someone else’s socks would never have occurred to me as a candidate, never mind one of the winners.
I have no idea how they choose what lands on it. Have they been compiled, thought up, tested? Do people write in with what worked for them?? Are there contests?
Several hours later I still can’t imagine a situation where that would be a good thing to say.
It’s entirely possible I’m missing the innuendo or a reference to something else because I miss a lot of references.
But I’m curious:
Is it me, or is the whole idea really really weird?
Do people really want to wear other people’s socks? Especially when the other person’s been wearing them..
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).
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 😉
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 🙂
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..
I went out for coffee with a guy from school and his wife today. I’d borrowed some books for him and he was returning them now that school’s over. It was too cold to stand outside the library for long so we decided to find a café. Most cafés don’t appreciate cards, so I went to find an atm while they went to find a suitable café. By the time I joined them, they’d already chosen a table and ordered.
Turns out you can’t go up to the till and add to an existing order, no, that would be too simple. Instead you have to go through a rigmarole involving going to the cake counter to choose a cake, getting a piece of paper with a number instead of a piece of actual cake, going back to the table, giving the paper to the waitress when she comes to take your drink-order, then waiting for her to bring whatever you ordered. You can’t go to the waitress, you can’t get your own drink, you can’t carry your own cake.
Life is complicated. I knew that. I also know that I don’t go out very much ans haven’t had much practice at placing orders in posh cafés. I didn’t know how complicated simple things like ordering cake could be. I also didn’t realise that it’s normal for a slice of cake and a cup of hot chocolate to set you back more than 10€.
In the end my friend from school paid for all of us to say thanks for the books. With the money I didn’t spend in the café, I bought approximately 3 months worth of fish food and 18 plants for my house and balcony, and still got change back. That seems to be a much better way to spend money, even though I really enjoyed meeting up with them and appreciated having a place to sit out of the cold.
There was a festival in my town today. A whole street full of small market stalls in celebration of local root vegetables (!!). The butcher sold special sausages and other people sold various other things. I had a hot one when I arrived, and planned to buy a packet of raw sausages to take home, once I’d been round the rest of the market stalls. By the time I got back to the butcher’s stall, I was out of money. When I asked whether they’d continue selling them during the next week the saleslady said they’d freeze and sell whatever was left after the market, but wouldn’t be making any more until next year. Then she asked where I lived. I told her and she wrote a number on the back of a business card and handed it to me. The butcher is apparently based a couple of towns away, but the saleslady’s mother lives on my street. She’ll leave a packet here when she packs up, and I should phone her to arrange a collection time…
According to a worn out proverb/saying/phrase, an Englishman’s home is his castle.
This English girl has a new Castle 🙂 🙂 🙂
I don’t have a moat, or even a pond*, but I do have a balcony (and a cellar). And 60 square metres of floor all to myself. (Wheeeeeeee!)
I signed the papers on Tuesday, got the keys on Friday, and have been gradually collecting furniture to put in it. (That’s a future post in it’s own right).
I haven’t moved yet. The landlord has a few things he needs to change/mend/work on first, and since I had 2 exams at the weekend (yet another future post) and still need to sort out an electricity company, and wash the floor, and pick up some more shelves and a bed, and move all of my things, I can’t see that it’s a problem. After 3 1/2 years (or 4 depending on how you’re counting) I reckon a week here or there is mostly irrelevant.
* another post – there are so many things to write out of my head…
Hallo luffly peoples, I am going to try catching up on all your posts and comments and what-have-yous soon. Life’s a bit crazy at the moment, but I’m planning to have a more relaxed summer 🙂
Okay, so it was nothing like a Roxette song, but it was an adventure. There’s not much more freeing than packing your stuff into the back of your own car and driving into the sunset. And there’s not much more grown up than realising when you are really really tired and should stop to sleep instead of charging on towards a goal regardless of all danger..
Lorries, even sleeping lorries, are loud. Lorries full of animals are cruel at the best of times, but are especially cruel when they have to travel so far that there are overnight stops. Those animals are [understandably] even louder than the refrigerator lorries.
The rain, when it falls, is loud. The choice between fresh air and a wet car is difficult to make while half asleep.
The seats are only so long. I’m a fairly short person and my car is fairly big, but my feet spent a lot of the night trying to find something to rest on/against.
The sun comes up on its own terms. There are no curtains in a car. You can’t choose when to turn the lights on. You get what the weather fairy gives you.
There are many things which could be considered suboptimal.
But. None of them cancels out the sense of adventure and the feeling of being alive. In fact they add to it.
My younger self spent many (MANY) hours sitting on benches in various parks and town squares, eating icecream. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends, sometimes (and probably most often) with my siblings.
This was such a common occurrence, that we each kept an emergency spoon in our bags or wallets.
Yesterday I found myself alone in a new town, with a couple of hours to kill. It was incredibly warm, I had my luggage with me so I couldn’t do much easy sight seeing, and to be honest, I really couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere or do anything. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to spend time doing.
On the other hand, I hadn’t drunk anything since early in the morning, and dehydration isn’t fun.
I walked from the train station to the nearest supermarket and looked at all the ice creams on offer. Then I remembered that I no longer carry my spoon with me.
It’s been years since I had opportunity to use it… That was extraordinarily upsetting. I don’t know how I let such an integral part of my identity slide so far without even realising it.
In the end, I bought a packet of mini-milks. They have wooden sticks and taste like walking home from school as a little kid.
That was an adequate substitute, but I intend to find my spoon when I get back, and put it back in its rightful place in my purse.
Ability to choose.
At least some things.
As much as I hate to admit it, I quite like Ronan Keating’s “Life is a roller coaster” song. I don’t agree with him though. I think it’s more like a pinball machine.
Until a couple of weeks ago, I’d only ever played pinball on the computer, or on a board so old it actually had pins (=nails) in.
Then I went to a national pinball convention. I lost track of how many different machines I played on/with, but it was “many”.
I even had a go at the “classic” tournament. Classic because it features older machines. I wasn’t very good, but I also wasn’t the very worst (by quite a long way), so I was chuffed, considering that it was my very tournament on my very first day of practise.
On a roller coaster, you get into your seat at the beginning and “just have to ride it” until you get off at the other end. You have absolutely no control over what happens in between. Okay, you can control some of your reaction. You can probably choose to scream or throw your hands in the air or close your eyes….or not. You probably can’t choose whether or not to throw up afterwards. You certainly can’t choose the direction or when to stop or change speed.
Pinball is different.
Granted, there is a lot of chance involved, (pinball machines were even banned in the past because they were considered purely based on luck), and there are things you can’t control, like what the bumpers do when you hit them, what lights up when you go past, what the noises sound like, how many points you get for various sequences.
On the other hand, because you control the flippers, there’s also a lot of input potential. You have to choose to do something with that potential, and it helps to have the skill to achieve the desired effect (like getting the ball to go up the ramp or into one of the holes), but it’s there. If you don’t do anything, the ball does its thing briefly, then falls through the gap between the flippers and you die.
If you do manage to catch/hit the ball, you prolong that life. That gives you the next chance and the next and the next.
Sometimes, reaching a certain number of points, or activating certain areas creates something like a safety net. Even if you would normally die, you don’t, you get a new ball instead and can carry on playing. Even if you don’t achieve those bonus lives, you still have 2 further chances, or 4 depending on the machine. You can aim for things, learn what happens if you hit and if you miss. Sometimes you aim for the ramp and land in a hole. Sometimes landing in the hole is bad, sometimes it takes you to a different level where you unlock new possibilities. Sometimes you can die on that level, sometimes it catapults you back onto the first level with new energy and extra points, lives or abilities. Sometimes, regardless of skill and determination, the ball will suddenly take up nosediving and head down between the flippers without any warning, and with no chance to stop it.
Occasionally you get into a ‘Dauerschleife’, a routine of going round and round and round the same route: Flipper, bumper, bumper, light, flipper, bumper, bumper, light. To get out, you have to change something. Anything. Different angle, different strength, different timing. Sometimes that’s risky, sometimes it just feels risky. Sometimes the new ‘route’ is chaotic, sometimes it leads to a new Dauerschleife, sometimes it’s not exactly chaotic, but is continuously changing. That’s the most common. Change.
Occasionally, doing the same thing twice results in different outcomes, depending on what you did previously.
Occasionally you get bonus balls to be played at the same time, each whizzing round the board on its own mission, forcing you to split your concentration or risk losing both.
Talking of missions, some boards have a story line, a list of things to do, or collect, or hit. Some are less structured, preferring to offer differing musical notes, like a bell tower, or multiple colours – a kaleidoscope* of rainbow lights.
If you watch other people playing, you see an array of different styles and attitudes. Some tighten their muscles, stand gripping the edges of the machine, hoping somehow they can influence the course of the ball, or the reaction of the bumpers, with their tension. Others are relaxed, hardly concentrating, at least not noticeably. Some players laugh with the players next to them, some ignore everything around them. Some try to rock the machine, nudging it just enough to minimally change the angles of the board, the bumpers, the rebound, and steer the ball where they want it to go. Ohers go crazy, yelling and screaming and whooping and jumping…or kicking the machine.
In the end, no matter how you play, every ball ends up back in the box. Some live short intensive lives, some live long boring lives. The rest lead their lives somewhere in between.
Every player dies eventually. Some just live longer, or more happily, or more excitingly than others.
I figure life is more like a pinball machine than a roller coaster. What do you think? What would you compare life to instead?