my trip to germany-part 1: the comfort of McD’s
this past december, for the holiday season, we took a trip to germany to visit family and friends. the following are some of my experiences . . .
i arrived in the promised land sweating and jet lagged with 36 hours of traveling, from the remote woods to bustling Frankfurt airport. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, i was having momentary hallucinations, i hugged the in-laws and we drove away. my first memorable experience was stopping for gas and going to the bathroom, a regular mundane experience for most. i stumbled out the car, i tried to keep my eyes open but really all i was doing was lifting my eyebrows really high. mom pointed me in the direction of the washrooms and puts some change in my hand. i fought gravity and blindness the entire 20 meters to the washroom and was greeted by turnstiles and some asian women. the women watched me look around in confusion and pointed to the coin insert machine. i look at the coins in my hand and did as i was told. all the mechanical noises of buying a ticket proceeding and i walked through stainless steel claw of the turn stile. i entered the bright white aseptic room of stales and reflective surfaces. i quickly enter a stall to avoid the commotion of people inside. i pee then was faced with another challenge of finding the flushing mechanism (ive done this wrong in france before, pulling a chord from the ceiling jollily thinking how old school and funny it was, turns out it was for the emergency siren for accidental falls in the bathroom). thinking critically, i pushed a smaller button on the toilet. with an uncomfortable jolt this hypo-hygienic mechanical mouth latched onto the toilet seat, it spun in its maw, wetting and drying all in one motion. my eyes were now open. the mouth retracted, but the toilet paper still floated like a jelly fish in a porcelain bowl. i must have looked incomprehensibly for another minute or two searching until i found that one of the tiles pushed inward and the contents of the toilet flew away. and of course the mechanical monster came back and licked the toilet seat again, gurgling its mechanical sounds. i sped out of the turn stile, still holding my ticket, i returned to the safety of the car (not realising its imediate destiny on the autobahn).
what i didn’t know before landing in germany was that most of the public washroom facilities have been outsourced by private franchises. one euro gives you the peeing enjoyment in the cleanest, most neurotically sanitized washroom you’ll probably ever experience. you also receive a 50 cent coupon for the stores in the area, one ticket per purchase per person (seems like a consumer gimmick to me). this all means that in any train station, mall, food court etc. you need about one euro to take a piss. which means if you find yourself crossing your legs and doing the pee dance searching your pockets for some coin and you don’t find any, here are the necessary steps- 1. find an ATM 2. insert card, type pin, pay one euro fifty service charge, get money 3. find a shop to make change, find something to buy, wait in line, get bad look from cashier because of your 20 euro bill for one euro gum (refrain from peeing your pants) 4. run frantically back to privately owned washrooms 5. if you cant make it through the turn stiles then pee in the foyer in protest of corporate butt heads. so through your journey to relieve your self, you’ve spent three euro fifty, or if you want to support a different corporate giant you could have saved your self the unpleasant time and gone to McDonald’s and spent your three euro fifty on an ice cream sundae. McDonald’s funny enough were the only places in our travels that we found with a free washroom, but i guess if you’re a bizzillionare you can afford the TP. i dont imagine that McDonald’s was doing this out of the kindness of their hearts but rather out of gluttonous genius. people like free washrooms…and people cant deny themselves their desire for salty slick french fries and special sauce afterwards.
smart people like you and me quickly learn to just piss in the streets.
drunk drunk anywhere everywhere
other things i found in the streets of germany, are drunk people, lots of them, mostly good natured, gulping shpetty beer (‘Späti’: corner stores that mainly sell alcohol and cigarettes 24 hours). public drinking is normal and legal and smoking cigarettes indoors is normal and legal too. people smoke in bars and cafes, and in train and subway platforms. when you enter a bar you are greeted by a leisurely cloud of smoke, you sit down and everyone gets out their rolling tobacco, papers and filters, its systematic. if they aren’t smoking one they are rolling one, sometimes they roll while smoking. the bar tender occasionally empties the over flowing ash tray. when the bar gets too crowded you finish your beers, step outside, and if you happen to realize that you’re freshly out of beer and god forbid rolling tobacco you return to the shpetty (and if your really desperate for a cigarettes theres a dispenser on every block.) because of all the outdoor hooliganry the streets are scintillating with bits of glass and cigarette butts. you drink your beer from shpetty to shpetty trying to finish it the moment you step to the next, it becomes a game of sorts, until you have to go home (or someone else’s home in our case) and climb the rickety ladder to a make shift bunk bed 2 feet from the ceiling avoiding a naked light bulb and imminent death with one misstep.
we made it home in one piece, no death falls, no bladder infections, no drunken brawls, just a minor case of sore lungs and throat and a bratwurst addiction.View other posts by Winter