Monday, September 10, 2012

Sixth gear is terrixhilirating

On my way to dinner tonight, I saw a store called Personality Crisis. That is how this blog post is going to be.

I actually had it written out in my mind; I'd make you laugh at how utterly inept I was with a European stick shift, confess that I don't hate people and then tell you I totally drove 120 mph on the autobahn today and loved it.

But then I spent an hour and a half lost in Berlin, so frustrated I wanted to cry, and then discovered I hadn't marked my hotel on the map. I was tired of feeling so helpless. And I was hot and sweaty and hungry and hated life.

And then I left the worst tip I'd ever intentionally left.

So, the blog post is kinda all over the place today. Where to begin?

I'll start with the car. It was an Audi, not a BMW, to my immediate disappointment. I got lost finding it. I struggled with the emergency brake Then I for some reason had trouble with first gear. At one point I was hindering both vehicle and bicycle traffic trying to make the car move forward.

Then I was instantly lost. I turned on a dead end street, down the wrong of a parking lit and into a spot to correct the situation. And could not move. See reverse in a European car is different than in an American car; you have to push the gearshift down and slide it into first gear position. I did not know this. For five minutes I futilely tried to reverse, all within 50 yards of the car rental office. I debated walking back over, telling her where the car was, handing her the keys and buying a train ticket.

I finally asked someone, he explained it and I was back in business--except I had no idea where to go. The directions I had were dependent on street names, which hide better than Waldo. I took more than an hour to finally get the five miles from the train station to the autobahn.

But this, my friends, this was what I'd signed up for. One missed turn aside, I loved this. The Audi was smooth, and I think it loved using the gas pedal as much as I did. I remember at one point realizing I had 200 miles to go, the same distance between Lubbock and Roswell--three hours of driving.

Yeah, it did not take that long.

The very last step in my directions was where things went awry. There was construction. And I don't think it was the right address anyway. An hour and a half of u-turns, I'm-sorry waves, examining the map and sitting in traffic, I finally got to the right place.

Except it wasn't the right place. Neither was the next one. I finally saw the right place--across the train tracks. When I finally finally got to right place, I was going in the wrong way. I went anyway.

I'm just glad it wasn't a BMW. Transmissions aren't supposed to make the kind of noises I beat out of this one.

I found the hotel. I looked at the size of sink I had to wash my clothes in and hoped for the best. I found a restaurant for dinner, left, couldn't find it so went to another one my guidebook recommended and enjoyed the fact that I could sit in a nice restaurant alone and be fine. I also enjoyed the 7-euro bottle if water I ended up with.

Then, the table was cleared, everything taken away, I declined the dessert menu and I waited. For more than 20 minutes. As the waiter rushes by with wine and menus and bread and mire wine for the other tables. No check. I should note that I had nothing on the table, I wasn't reading a book or in the phone. I was waiting. I thought that was obvious.

After I got it, I discovered I needed change. Ten minutes of holding the pamphlet with money and trying to make eye contact with him. Or any server, for that matter. I had two options: leave the change I had, which covered the bill and a one-euro tip, or wait for change, because I was not leaving him a 50% tip. One euro was 5%.

I finally did that. I wouldn't have minded leaving more if I'd had it, but frankly, he didn't do that much. He took my order, brought me water and bread and asked how the food was. Then he ignored me for half an hour.

I still felt bad, though. Too mean? I don't plan to return to that restaurant, but if I was overly harsh I'll appease karma with future servers.

1 comment:

  1. I had almost this exact same restaurant experience one night in Edinburgh. Apparently some places in Europe you need to be overly aggressive in asking for the bill, or they won't bring it to you. And my tip was even less than yours, so don't feel too bad :).