Thursday, September 11, 2008

An international incident

I left Paris without incident. Oh, sure, I did my usual routine of not packing on time, staying up late the night before leaving and rushing around in the morning taking care of things like washing the dishes instead of leaving the house promptly. Despite it all, I made it to the train station with enough time to stop for a coffee and croissant before boarding the train.

(Aside: my packing for this trip was particularly humorous. In the morning, I laid out everything I might need on the bed. I added and subtracted a few things as the day progressed—but I didn’t do anything else all day! Sure, I knit, watched a movie, read, emailed, etc., but I stayed in and DIDN’T PACK all day until I left to take about a 45 minute walk to meet a fellow to go to the movies.

Aside from the aside: did I mention that last week I put an ad on CL specifically soliciting movie-going companions? I got five responses in a single day before I took the ad down, realizing that it was too near to my departure for points East to actually make arrangements to meet more than one person. The fellow I met on Monday was the most likely of the bunch. He’s British and a long-time resident of Paris. We agreed to see “East of Eden,” a mutual favorite that we’d both seen before. We chatted easily before the movie—mostly about my academic discipline (how did that happen?). Afterwards, we were both a bit awash in the feelings inspired by the picture. We talked about the movie for a while, something I rarely do, and then we went for a drink. We sat and talked for something like, oh, three hours. I’m sure we’ll get together again and, this may sound goofy, but I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit. Let me address the “potential for romance” issue. I did not place my ad with the intention of romance. If A. were less of an intermittent presence, I would be completely satisfied (in a short term way) with the amount of romance in my life. As he is an inconsistent and unpredictable presence, some room remains for romance, but very little desire on my part to pursue it. So, what about this guy? I think I might actually enjoy having him as a friend and a movie-going companion more than as a boyfriend. That said, who knows what will happen? I really enjoyed our time together, the conversation was great, and if I gain a friend with as much enthusiasm for movie-watching as I have, I will be very happy indeed. Now ends the longest aside ever.)

The train ride to Berlin was easy and since I’d had so little sleep the night before, I even dozed a little. When I woke up, I did some knitting and listened to a podcast. I ate a sandwich and read. I changed trains at Cologne and realized I had an hour stopover. I walked out of the train station and encountered a huge gothic cathedral. Cologne, as it turns out, has one of the most fantastic gothic cathedrals in Europe and it’s directly adjacent to the train station. (Why didn’t I know?) So, I went in. It was a lovely, sunny day, which made the stained glass sing.

The next leg of the trip was on a very comfortable German express train. We had one ten-minute delay and were about that late arriving in Berlin.

It wasn’t until I arrived in Berlin that I had a problem.

I exited the train and I followed along after the other passengers to the station exit. When I got there I wondered, where am I supposed to meet Johanna (the person with whom I was to stay)? I stood there for a bit and looked at a map of the station, which revealed that this station had five exits. FIVE. Uh-oh. I stood for a while longer (how long? I’m not sure). I walked around to the other main-looking exit. Johanna was nowhere in sight. Eventually, I got the idea that she must have intended to meet me on the platform (her email hadn’t indicated where we’d meet and I’d neglected to ask). So, I went back to the platform. I waited. I went back to the first exit. I waited. I asked the man at the information desk if there were a “meeting point” in the station. His answer (after first trying to direct me to the tourist information desk): no.

I went back to the platform. I called Johanna. No answer. Feeling a bit desperate and more than a little foolish, I called my father. In California. (He and Johanna’s husband were in the army together (her husband died last year) and they are good friends.) I thought that if she did have a cell phone, Dad might have the number. My stepmother answered and said she’d find out from Dad if there were a way to get in touch with Johanna. About 20 minutes later (we’re at an hour and a half of waiting by now), Dad called and said he’d try and contact one or two of Johanna’s four sons to see if they had her number.

At about 8:30—over two hours after I arrived—Johanna called me. She had indeed been at the train station and waiting for me on the platform. Either she arrived after I got off the train or she didn’t see me exit. After waiting a good long time and wandering around the station a bit, she went home. When she called, she instructed me on which train to take to her small town just outside of Berlin. She met me there (without incident), drove me home and fed me a light supper. I slept a solid nine hours.

Apparently, two of her sons called (one from the US the other from a European location) after hearing from my father, and gave her my cell phone number! Thus, a missed connection at the railway station became an international incident.

PS My time in Berlin is going very quickly! It's a fascinating, vibrant city and a huge contrast with Paris. I'm glad I'm here. Johanna and I are having a good time together, too.

Grateful for: connections.

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