On being woken up by strangers

I fell asleep on the train, only to wake up when an unknown passenger walked past, saw me sleeping and knocked on the window to let me know that we’d arrived at the end of the line. Luckily that was the stop I’d been aiming for.

Thank you, kind stranger, I would have hated waking up at the train depot.

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 € 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! 🙂



* see: Wind-in-the-Willows

On saving the world, a pint at a time

This morning started the same way most mornings do – in a bid to stay in bed and pretend the world wasn’t actually expecting me to get up and be useful.

I spent longer than I meant to looking for the paperwork I needed to take with me, which resulted in missing the train I originally wanted to catch and in turn having to wait almost 10 minutes for the next one. On the plus side, I got to the final-station without missing any stops and so having to go back (that happens more often than I want to admit.. especially when I’m reading ;)).

So anyway. All was as it usually is. Nothing told me it was going to be a special, heroic, Jesska-saves-the-world sort of day.

When I reached my station, I walked along the platform to the steps…

-sniff-

-sniffsniff-

-sniff-

…smoke.

Not the sort of smoke that cigarettes or cigars produce, this was the sort of unwelcome plastic-bag-in-a-bonfire kind of smoke.

-sniff-

-sniffsniff-

The kind of smoke that makes the end of your nose wrinkly and your mouth go all scrunched up.

-sniff-

Ah! A dustbin on fire. Joyous.

Everyone else walked past it, either oblivious or unconcerned or busy or late or whatever causes people to not care about what’s going on around them.

I had no water on me, and nothing else in the way of fire-stopping material (odd that ;)) and there are no taps and no Security People at this station.

Now what?

On the one hand, I think the Fire Brigade have enough serious problems to deal with, without being called out to put out smoking dustbins on platforms.

On the other, I didn’t know who else to call*.

By this point I should have been at work already. I’d spent 9 unnecessary minutes waiting at the first station due to missing my train, and I was getting later and later with every thought about smoking bins. I very nearly went to work and ignored it, but there’s something in me that can’t do that.

When all else fails, find a baker.

Most train stations in Berlin (and a fairly high percentage in the rest of Germany) have at least one ‘resident’ bakery. I haven’t ever bought anything from this one, but I generally smile on my way past, or wish him a good “Feierabend” (literally: “Party-evening” = evening of not working = what’s left of the day when you finish work) depending on whether I’m coming or going. This morning, instead of smiling and walking past, I went in and asked him what he thought I/we should do about the burning dustbin. He just shrugged, which irritated me for a couple of seconds until I realised there wasn’t actually much he could suggest, restricted as he was to his 6m² of shopfloor and oven full of half-baked breadrolls. Not to mention the steady stream of customers.

I asked him if he had a bucket, and if so if he could fill it with water so I could do my best firefighting act. He is a very obliging baker, even if he did look at me as if I was the strangest thing he’d seen all morning.

This is the closest he came to having a bucket:

As jugs go, this was a fairly big one. As buckets go…. well… *sighs*

Naja.

Neither beggers nor Jesskas can be choosers when it comes to buckets, so I thanked him and made my way back down to the platform.

A couple of trips up and down the steps later, and the bin had stopped smouldering and was now standing in a puddle.

I gave the baker his jug back, wished him a good day and started out in the direction of my workshop.

A few metres up the road (where the lift is) I saw this:

A brand new, shiny, dustbin, presumably meant as a replacement for the one that had been on fire.

Someone must have phoned the train company (something I hadn’t thought of doing… :S).

***

When I came home this evening, none of the bins had been replaced. I feel almost heroic 🙂

🙂

🙂

 

 

* Ghostbusters didn’t seem right either…

On how to travel by train without annoying everyone else

(A rant, please excuse me, I need to let off steam ;))

Travelling by train is quite easy, really, as is travelling by train without irritating your fellow passengers. At least I think it should be (although maybe I annoy everyone else without knowing it).

There are signs up everywhere telling people not to smoke, drink, eat, shout, put feet on the seats, listen to loud music and a few other things which aren’t particularly irritating.

These are a few as yet unwritten rules, which I would love to see implemented to save my teeth and my good temper:

(Please bear in mind that for the most part, I’m not aiming these rules at doddery old people, or people who are travelling by train for the first time in 35 years (for example) or people who can’t see, or are injured, or have some other legitimate reason for whatever they’re doing. I’m not even really talking to/about people travelling during the day when everything’s empty, they can probably do what they like without anyone caring. I’m talking to/about capable people using trains during morning or evening rush hour.)

  • if you are walking along a platform or across the flow of foot traffic in the station or in front of a lift or up/downstairs, DO NOT STOP WALKING (unless you know no one’s behind you and that’s unlikely). You will most likely cause a pile up, and if you don’t, it’s because of the split second reaction time of your fellow travellers. Find somewhere out-of-the-way instead. Looking for where people aren’t walking helps you find a suitable standing spot.
  • if the train or the lift is already stuffed full of people, DO NOT SQUISH THEM FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR BIKE! People don’t like being squished any more than necessary. Wait for the next one.
  • if you are wearing a [huge] backpack, CHECK YOU HAVE SPACE TO TURN ROUND – you are liable to wallop someone without realising it. Also, taking it off and putting it on the floor will make it easier for more people to squeeze themselves into the carriage.
  • if you get on the train and someone offers you a seat DON’T DITHER ABOUT – either sit down or decline (politely). If there are 2 (or more) of you, come to terms with the fact that you might not be able to sit together during rush hour. The chances of someone else jumping up and offering your travelling partner an adjacent seat is remote. Especially if there is a vacant seat in the next row. You might well be lucky, but it isn’t a right. Say thank you, even if you are facing the wrong way and you didn’t get a window seat.
  • if you need to sneeze, COVER YOUR NOSE, even if you don’t have a hanky or tissues, the chances ate pretty high that you still have a shoulder and/or hands. Use them.
  • if the train’s full and you need to get out at a central (or otherwise busy) station, the chances are huge that other people do too. DON’T BARGE PAST THEM ALL TO GET TO THE DOOR WHILE THE TRAIN’S STILL MOVING. They exist. They can’t disappear to satisfy your need to be the first off the train.
  • if you’re playing with the ticket machine to get prices for imaginary journeys while you’re waiting for your train, and someone is standing close by waiting to buy a ticket, cancel the imaginary journey and STAND BACK TO LET THEM BUY A TICKET. You can carry on when they’ve finished.
  • if you see a person with crutches or a white stick or even an ordinary walking stick, or a buggy, DON’T GET IN THE WAY. They probably need a little bit more room to manoeuvre than you do.
  • if someone gets off the train to make room for you to get out, SAY THANK YOU.

(I won’t continue, I’m cross enough as it is!)

Is it really that difficult?!

On momentary connection

Usually, when I get on the train in the morning, it’s full of other people who are all minding their own business, and presumably trying to wake up before they get to work. People read if they have space to hold a book or a phone, or stare out of the window if they don’t. We all squish up to each other, but try not to actually acknowledge anyone’s existence.

Occasionally something happens which breaks the spell, even if only momentarily. People catch each other’s eyes and smile. It lasts a couple of seconds, and then it’s gone. Except it’s not really gone, there’s still the faintest hint of connection in the air. The slightest remembrance of the smile on the faces of strangers.

It doesn’t happen nearly often enough, but it doesn’t take much, just something a little bit unexpected.

Last week, as the train doors closed and the train pulled away from the station, the driver, who usually says, “Train to Spandau, next stop ..XYZ..”, announced, “In case anyone wanted to know, it is exactly 7:10 am, NOW!….” There was a pause, we all looked round to see who might actually want to know what the time was. Eyebrows were raised slightly. “…And incidentally, have a fantastic morning!”. We smiled, grinned even, and went back to our books, our phones and our vacant gazes out of the windows.

The connection was short, but real.

At the next station we looked up, waited expectantly for the next announcement, “Train to Spandau, next stop XYZ.”

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… 🙂

[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? 😉

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. 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. 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 🙂 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 :))”

On getting a seat

I got a seat on the first train this morning!

Ok, so I guess it’s not that big a deal, but it made my morning that much more fulfilling 🙂 Even if I had to catch an earlier train to do so…

On Kindergarten Windows

I love how creative kids are. I love the different interpretations of a task, “draw a butterfly, colour it in and cut it out”. All the butterflies are different and that’s fantastic. I think it’s brilliant when the stuff the kids make gets put up on the walls or the windows.

Today the train I was on went past a kindergarten.

I was appalled.

The windows were obviously supposed to be chic.*

The butterflies were arranged by the colour of the paper they’d been cut out of. Each window was a different colour.. red butterflies, yellow butterflies, green, blue, purple… That wouldn’t’ve been so bad, and might even have been very effective, if the butterflies had all been individual and facing in different directions. Instead, each window had 7 identical butterflies** in the exact same “random” pattern.

5 identical windows.

And that in a kindergarten.

ARGH.

* Or the Kindergarten ‘teacher’ had OCD…

** okay, to be fair, I couldn’t see the other side of the window. Maybe they were beautiful. Maybe they were very small children and had been given the pre-cut butterflies to colour in…

Who knows..

Dear ticketmachine…

Thank you so much dear ticket machine. You must know how much I love getting to stations on time with the right money, typing my destination and how many tickets I need into your slightly greasy screen only to then miss the train I came to catch because you don’t like the taste of my money. It must make your day just that much sweeter!

I appreciate the care you go to, to give me the right change and print the right details on my ticket.. and you put up with all the grubby fingers poking your screen all day, and all the abuse from impatient people…

But is it really asking too much, to want to catch a train on time for once?

I might also be impatient, but at least I’m polite… and I didn’t punch or kick you.. I very patiently fed you my 20€ note 57 times (plus/minus a few) and you rudely spat it back out 57 times.That’s hardly helpful, is it? Hardly Customer Service. When I finally gave up and asked the other machine it obliged first time.. Can I suggest you ask it to teach you some manners?

I really hope that we will one day be successful ‘business partners’. Until then I will go directly to the other machine and you won’t get the chance to spit my money back at me.

Your friendly but frustrated Ticketbuyer