Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Diversity - sunflowers and travel vaginas

It's been a long four weeks, and it feels even longer waiting for the wifi to get installed along with being terrified to write anything bloggish using my new work laptop. I've started working for a new company who I do not represent whilst writing this blog. So the last few weeks have been mostly on the road in Luxembourg - a place that looks like Sims city with an old town attached, and this week I'm somewhere in the middle of Germany, in a small place famous for a culture festival that's always booked out and for people recuperating from psychological illnesses. I love it here. The weekends are back at the new place where I still don't have a kitchen or a wardrobe and won't have for a while as I just spent the furniture money on a new bike.
Germany never ceases to surprise me though. So I pull in on the motorway and visit the bathroom. Being Irish, I was on the lookout for a dirty toilet behind the petrol station with the smell of hangover vomit and wet toilet paper strewn on the floor, one that you need a massive key to get into, but one that also has had the door kicked in a few times because patrons have not returned that giant key.
The travel vagina - no traveller should be without one
But this was future toilet. There was a little machine that you had to throw a few coins into and then you find yourself in a cross between toilet Nirvana, and the funfailr hall of mirrors, only this place is all neon and the recorded voice of a very pleasant lady says something to the effect of 'welcome to this toilet, enjoy your visit.' It's a bit wierd hearing the goddess of  toilet send her recorded message to you when you are performing your ablusions, but hey, I'm adapting to a new culture. I make sure to wipe properly just in case the recorded voice starts giving me instructions.  I take a look around as I leave and see the usual vending machines, only these vending machines are not selling tampons and disposable toothbrushes. There's a mini vibrator on offer for two Euro, some kind of penis ring and then the most fascinating of the lot - a travel vagina! Of course, I do realise at this stage that I've wandered into the gents by mistake, but still, a travel vagina? What the hell is it, and what the hell do you do with it? I decide I'm definitely not donating my organs in this country.
All the same, vending machines are a good way of avoiding German customer service. I was up early Saturday to buy that bike. I'd spotted one on offer in the bike shops sale brochure and knew exactly what I wanted. The guy in the shop seemed a tad perturbed that a customer had disturbed him, and told me that sorry, they were out of that one and to try one of their other branches. 'OK, so' I replied 'but where is the other shop, and could you give them a buzz to make sure they have it in stock?' Poor bike shop salesman was over challenged. No, he couldn't phone them, they should just have some, and how the hell was he to direct someone to the other shop?  There was a lot of eye rolling and grunting. I picked out a different bike that cost 200 euro more than the original one. 'How about this one?' He didn't care, he just told me to take it down the road for a test run. 'What? Do you not know I'm Irish?' However, I returned just to annoy him and bought the bike, but not only did I spend 700 quid just like that, I spent another 100 quid on a fancy German Fraulein looking basket that you can clip on and off and skip around the supermarket with.
He gets all my stuff together and I mention that he just needs to affix the clip thingy for the basket, but he throws a minor wobbler and says ' I can't do things like that on a Saturday, I need to be here for my customers!' 'But, em,' I ever so politely argued, 'I am a customer, and the shop is empty.' Half an hour later I apologised my way out of the shop, but at least I had the bike.
Ah well, at least the shops open on Saturdays. German shops all close on Sundays. I can only guess that the reason is because Sunday is the best day for people to catch up on shopping, so they close just to annoy everyone. It also meant that I had to go out on the bike on Sunday, when I could have had an excuse not to if Ikea and the Garden Centre had been open.
An open shop on a Sunday. YaY!
Off I cycled out to this town nearby. The thing that I don't understand is that in a country so densley populated as Germany, how come every time you go through a town it seems deserted? The place was empty apart from a guy washing his car, which I wasn't too sure one should be doing on a Sunday. Nevertheless, I managed to go shopping in the end: I had stopped to admire a lovely field of sunflowers, and amazingly, there's this sign saying 'sunflowers 50c each', and there below it is this metal money box with a lock. Gobsmacked, I bought a sunflower. I couldn't have let the day pass without shopping for something, and it just feels so odd being trusted.
Further on, I either saw a fata morgana ( I was a bit dehydrated) in the form of a brass band playing tunes in a field, or possibly I really did see that,  but by this stage life was just too bizarre to explore further. I got back to Karlsruhe and sat in a nice respectable bar where all the cool people go.

I swear I paid for the flower
So this is what diversity is about I thought; here, in the land of fast cars and fabulous technology, shops don't open, people trust you, men wear ugly bermudas and sandals with white tennis socks and somewhere, there's a sad German dude sitting in a lonely hotel room, accompanied by his travel vagina...

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