(Another one from the drafts folder)
“I hate satnags
And running out of fuel
And hotel receptionists who have to show you how the lights work in your room
And not finding anywhere to park
And people who don’t put signs up to let you know where you’re going
And the lack of house numbers
And people who hold fish meetings in poodle club houses”
That’s what I wrote to my brother the other evening. Can you tell that I was stressed?
If I unravel the strings a bit, it’s obvious that I can’t honestly even blame any of the things on the list for my stress either. I am just really really bad at planning things. Or possibly passable at making plans and rubbish at carrying them out.
I wanted to listen to a talk about catfish.
It was being given by an expert/fanatic in Hamburg, at least 3 hours away from where I work. It was on a Thursday evening and I try not to drive when tired, meaning I needed to take holiday for the Friday, and pay for accommodation for Thursday night. I don’t have holiday or money to spare, and I should probably have stayed at home because my brother was coming to visit and I wanted/needed to prepare for him.
I decided to go anyway.
It was a spontaneous decision, one I didn’t really have time for, but one I made and stuck to regardless. My pre-birthday present to myself. There’s time to be vernünftig when I’m old, and luckily my brother isn’t fussy about things like unwashed floors or unmade beds.
On the evening before the day of the talk I came home late from work (still catching up with my hours of school-induced undertime) and tried to sort my house out. I could have started that earlier in the week but I didn’t, I made a mess in my kitchen and on the balcony instead. I could have ignored the hours I need to catch up with and gone home earlier but I didn’t. I could have tidied more quickly and distracted myself with the shrimp babies less often. But I didn’t and did, respectively.
By the time the place was starting to look presentable it was midnight and I was tired. I went directly to bed instead of going via the shower.
I didn’t shower the next morning either, because it was almost freezing outside and I’d had to park million miles away so the workmen could build a new road outside my house, and also because I’d woken up later than I’d planned.
I didn’t fill my water bottles for work because I hadn’t left time for the filter to do its thing and my tap water tastes horrible. I didn’t stop to buy anything to drink on the way because I was already late. Despite not showering and not filling my bottles.
Once at work, nothing I tried making turned out the way I wanted it to**. My hand cramped which only made things worse. The kind of cramp which makes you cry. I was aiming to set off at 2pm, but I didn’t want to leave before I’d had some kind of success, even if only minimal, so I didn’t get on the road until nearly 3. Google had said it would take 3 hours so I was still within my time budget. (Or so I thought.)
It took me over an hour to get across Berlin in nose-to-tail traffic. If I’d known, I could have taken a different route, but I didn’t know. I checked Google for distance and driving time a couple of days in advance, but I didn’t check for congestion before setting out and my satnav doesn’t communicate with traffic information.
The rest of the journey was long but uninteresting, except for having to stop for fuel on the way. The bloke at the petrol station laughed at me because I forgot to look at the number of my pump before I went in to pay… ?
When I reached the last junction I had to choose where to go first – hall or hotel.
I’d chosen a hotel approximately 10-15 minutes drive away from the hall the talk was going to be held in. It was already gone half past 6 and the talk was due to start at 7pm, with an open-ended question and answer session afterwards. I figured I was unlikely to make it to the talk on time if I checked into the hotel first, but just as unlikely to make it back to the hotel before the reception closed at 10pm. Sleeping in my car sounded like a bad idea in November. I looked at the clock, sighed and headed towards the hotel instead of straight to the hall.
I almost drove straight past the hotel but saw the sign at the last moment and parked on the pavement a couple of hundred metres away. It took me a while to find the front door (curiously situated at the back of the house) and even longer to check in.
The receptionist was in the middle of printing and folding a million pages of menus. She couldn’t check me in until she could print my paperwork, and she couldn’t do that until the printer had finished printing the menus….
At some point I was shown the key. I couldn’t have it, though, until I’d been shown the box to put it in upon departure, as well as the carpark, the rest of the grounds, the breakfast hall, the toilets and my room, including a demonstration of each light and every cupboard.
Since when is that normal?!
To give the receptionist her due, she was very lovely (and possibly very bored), and on any other day, I would have probably been more grateful for the tour. In this case I could only just about remember to say thank you when she was finished.
I should probably have left as soon as she finished telling me about how to close the bedroom door properly, but someone had unfortunately put a mirror up in my room and I hadn’t managed to avoid it.
I looked a complete mess. It appeared that a shower was more a necessity than a luxury… (Especially the part where I had to be content with using the hotel’s shower gel instead of shampoo because I’d left my washkit in my car).
I was tired and I hadn’t eaten and I’d already missed the beginning of the talk when I finally set off towards the hall, but I had at least found a stray bottle of water in the boot of my car (from a previous shopping trip) so I was less at risk of dehydration thirsty than when I’d set off.
The 10 minute trip from the hotel to the hall took me over half an hour and involved swearing in multiple languages. My satnag and I rarely agree on timing and only very occasionally on directions. After driving backwards and forwards and round in circles I parked at random and got out of the car. My phone would have to take over.
It was dark and raining as I walked back the way I’d come. I was already nearly ¾ of an hour late for a talk I’d driven 300km to hear. I was not a particularly happy bunny and the weather wasn’t helping to cheer me up.
A few minutes later I was amazed to find a miniature carpark, accessible only via an unmarked turning, hidden from the road by a thick hedge. Opposite the carpark was a narrow wooden gate, mostly hidden behind some trees.
Further inspection revealed a small sign which informed me that the field behind the gate belonged to the poodle taming club. At the far end of the field was a low hut with row of yellow window-shaped lights.
The poodle tamers’ clubhouse address at the bottom of the sign was the same as the address of the fishlovers association I was looking for. I was expecting lots of catfish enthusiasts but no one had told me about the poodle tamers.
I opened the gate and made my way across the wet field in the half-dark, typing that message to my brother and hoping there weren’t any wild poodles waiting for intruders.
The talk was fantastic (at least the parts I was there for), the speaker unexpectedly laid back. The talk and Q&A session were followed by a book signing. He had brought a box of back issues of his magazines*** to hand out and a box of his books for sale. I, obviously (is it obvious to everyone else?), hadn’t got enough money with me to buy a book, but I did pick up a magazine as they came round.
I knew nobody and would have usually slunk away at this point, but I was accosted as soon as the projector was turned off and the lights came on. Who are you, where do you come from, why are you here, how did you hear about it, where do you come from, did you really drive all the way here from Berlin?! what kind of fish do you have..? Do you know the speaker, do you want to get his signature…etcetcetc… Some of the usuals in the aquarium club knew him already, presumably from previous speeches, and insisted on introducing us.
I still, despite working with famous artists and professors, expect experts to be serious, too aloof to talk to normal mortals, but the speaker, like the artists and professors, was just as human as the rest of us as he sat and chatted about fish and travelling and struggling to find time to write books between all his other commitments.
He pushed the pile of magazines in my direction and gave me the names of other people to get in touch with, people who know about the same sort of fish, people who are part of a small group of experts, people with many years of fish-breeding experience, people who would be interested in passing on their knowledge if I wanted to hear it.
I left the poodle club starving but in a much better mood than before…
…until I found out that none of the restaurants in a 10km radius were willing to serve me food after 10pm.
Good thing garages sell breadbuns late at night.
All things considered, it was a very good evening.
Can’t shake the feeling that I probably need to work on my organisation skills tho.
* Wet hair in cold weather is probably ok if you’re healthy. I used to not care what the weather was doing. Thing is, I’ve been running on empty for a long time and my immune system is more or less screwed.. I’ve been fighting a cold since early September and had far more eczema than usual.
** Not a new phenomenon…
*** He’s not only a discoverer and breeder of various fish, he also writes books and catalogues and is the editor of a well-read magazine.