Monday, August 25, 2003

Stupid is as Stupid Does

I am sitting here on my balcony on a warm afternoon day in Munich, reflecting upon my first week in Germany. These days have been filled with mostly ups and a few downs, and a steady stream of adjustments on my part. If anything, living in another country tests your patience, but it also has been an opportunity to re-learn ways of thinking and your approach to doing the most mundane of tasks that help you navigate through your day. I have found that if I can only minimize my own stupid actions, things generally tend to work themselves out in the end.

Case in point: Frustrations multiply by a given percentage to the stupidity that precedes them. In this example, the irony began when I was presented with three sets of apartment keys upon moving in. “Wow, that’s a lot of keys”, I quipped to my agent. “Yeah, I’m not sure why there are so many”, she responded.

Fast forward to Wednesday evening, when I am having dinner with a new fellow American transplant, Frank Martinez, who will be working in Germany for the next two years. We were right in the middle of a Bavarian feast consisting of sausage, pork steak, potatoes, sauerkraut, dumplings, and Weiss bier (white (light colored) beer). Frank had just got done telling me one of his poignant stories, which I always look forward to and enjoy. Frank is very spiritual, but not in a religious manner. His spirituality draws more upon his Native American upbringing, and is often focused around finding balance with one’s thoughts, body, and actions. This story was about his brother and how he had learned to not let things that were beyond his control or had already taken place bother him. Frank said his brother rolls through life with passion and doesn’t let things get him down. He is not plagued by frustrations because he knows in the end things will work out.

So I realized right in the middle of dinner, and after just hearing Frank’s story, that I had failed to bring my keys with me to the restaurant. All three sets of keys were locked up in my room. Trying hard to practice the wisdom I was just bestowed, I calmly informed Frank that I had locked myself out of my apartment. An apartment I had lived in for less than three days, and one in which I was given three sets of keys. I quickly followed up my deadpan delivery with the phrase, “That’s OK, things will work out”.

I was very calm as I finished off my last bite of potatoes. Each bite had me running scenarios through my head. Even though I had forgot the apartment keys, I did still have the keys to the BMW. I could just sleep in the car I thought. Or I could drive out to the office and sleep under my desk. Oh yeah, I was being really rational now. I figured I would wake up from under my desk and call my apartment agent who surely would have a locksmith friend who could let me in.

I finally reckoned with myself that I really needed to sleep in my own bed and was quite tired from travel and adjustment. The only way was a locksmith. But do they even work at nights over here, I pondered. Our waiter at the restaurant spoke fairly good English, so I admitted to him about what had happened and my dilemma. His first reaction was to ask if I could climb up the balcony. Good thought, and one that I had considered myself earlier in the meal, but one that would not work as I live on the 3rd floor. I told him that I needed a locksmith. The waiter scratched his head and said that those guys are very expensive at around 200 Euros. Wow that was a lot, but I figured it was my own stupid fault and I so much wanted to sleep in a bed that night. I asked if he could call and he agreed. He came back to the table and told Frank and me that the locksmith would be there in 20 minutes.

Frank and I waited 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, than 40 minutes with no sign of my salvation. Frank went back to the restaurant, and the waiter told him to give it a few more minutes. 40 minutes became an hour, and this time I went back to the restaurant. The waiter said, “Oh, you know these mechanical type guys. They are always slow. But I will call one more time for you.”

He came back with a proud look on his face and said that he had told the dispatcher that if the guy did not come in the next 5 minutes, that he would call one of their competitors. So I went back and joined Frank in front of my place. Passers by must have wondered what the heck two strange guys were doing loitering out in front of an apartment for so long, but there was nothing else for us to do. We waited another 20 minutes, and just as I was about to take another trip to the restaurant, a huge burly German man got out of his tiny car and grunted at Frank about someone needing a lock service. Frank pointed at me and the guy approached the door. Within literally 5 seconds he had the front building door unlocked. All three of us squeezed into the tiny elevator, and Frank told me later that he was wondering if we were going to make it up with all of our combined weight, which was mostly our locksmith.

It took the man less than 2 seconds to pop my apartment door open. Finally, I was home. What a feeling. Then I prepared myself for the financial blow for my stupidity. The man asked to see my passport and jotted down numbers onto his official looking form. He gave me a copy and said it will be 87 Euros. It was better than 200, but expensive nonetheless. He took the cash and said in broken and grunted English, “See you later”, to which I retorted under my breath, “I sure hope not.”


Post a Comment

<< Home