Of Pillows and Police

Friday night was a disturbing one: my next-door-neighbor began to while away the hours, all night long, by emitting the occasional yowl, which caused me, in turn, to run every single highly-unlikely-to-impossible scenario through my mind.  Is he trapped? Injured? Grieving? Did his wife finally sign the divorce papers (because, I’ve already concluded, why else would a middle-aged man choose to live in this dingy hole of a flat?)?  Did he trap himself in his shower?  Did he lop off a leg?  Has he managed to  start a fire with one of his two hot plates, and can’t escape because the door is locked, Sims-style?   Is he – oh horror – nuts?

So, in the morning, I did what any guileless stranger in a strange land might do, and gave to Polizei a ring (an aside: I asked to speak in English, thinking this was no time to try out my German, but as it turns out, my German was better than his English, so German it was – which is either validating, or cause for concern, or maybe both).  But as I was waiting… and waiting… for the police, my neighbor left his apartment, most assuredly unmurdered and by no means chained to his toilet.  (“Drat! There goes my evidence, limbs and all!” thought I).  The police came, and told me he was probably drunk, effectively employing the international symbol for “drunk,” which is, of course, the international symbol for “telephone” flipped on its side.

And that was that.  Beth, the other Fulbrighter in Bingen, and I had made plans to spend the day in Mainz, the nearest city, almost entirely in hopes of finding

One more failed photo search: I was trying to find German-themed bedding, but apparently the only nation with gumption enough to design something so blatantly nation-centric is, well, our own.

pillows.  Not sure what it is about German sleeping habits, but evidently, fluffy, supportive pillows are a non-essential.  And so it follows, our flat, limp pillows, twice- and thrice-folded, are not doing magical things for our necks, and, I’ve found, they provide very little buffer against neighbors’ drunken yowling.

However, we were several hour delayed, thanks to the police taking their own sweet time, which actually turned out to be wonderfully serendipitous.  As Beth and I forged our way blindly through Mainz (neither of us being much for things like directions, pah), we heard the most unexpected, most beautiful of sounds: our names.  Out loud.  In a foreign city.  What? And, lo and behold, heading our way, a wild pack of Fulbrighters, ablaze in all their glory.  Needless to say, all pillow plans were hastily discarded in favor of having company, a novel concept to us isolated Bingeners.  We spent the rest of the day traipsing from museum to restaurant to Rhine, reveling in being in the company of other Americans, and chortling all the way about nuances only we Americans could understand (read: making fun of each others’ accents).

Which brings me to an over-reaching, generalized, and grandiose main idea: this one day reveals so much of what it means to travel like this.  It’s a little scary, sometimes unnerving, incredibly confusing, and marked by a heck of a lot of “what do I do?  Call the police?  In Germany?”…but it’s still bound together – as this experience always has been – by incredible and improbable bits of luck, droopy pillows be darned.

And that’s nice.

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4 responses to “Of Pillows and Police

  1. Your “grandiose main idea” rings so true. Maybe you have the same amount of luck in a foreign country that you do day in and day out at home, but good luck (and bad luck) seems to be much more pronounced. Maybe that’s because the luck has a more immediate affect on your life and psyche.

    For example, seeing some friends on the streets of Conway while shopping would definitely be considered a happy coincidence (not luck) and would not be cause for dropping all plans and would certainly make for a boring blog post!

  2. Hey Lori! I agree with you and Kyle! When I was staying in Mexico & Spain the smallest things could make me happy or unhappy just because of the intensity that study abroad trips bring with them–but they were ALWAYS worth every minute!

    Thanks to your brother for sending me your blog link-I love blogging! 🙂 And I just subscribed so I can read whenever you post!

    This is a great post & Good Luck with your trip! Can’t wait to keep reading!

  3. I’m impressed that you called the police. I hardly think to do that in the States, let alone by myself in a foreign country. I envy you the language barrier though–every daily success must seem that much more of an achievement. Smarty 🙂

  4. Wow, sounds like you had a pretty unpleasant night. Hope things have gotten better with your neighbor. (Crossing my fingers that maybe he just had too much to drink.) I think you hit the nail on the head about possible alternate titles for your blogs. Americans just don’t realize how convenient things are here.

    I wish I could come visit you now and help you get your apartment settled and fixed up, but unfortunately, I cannot. I can, however, look up the nearest IKEA. From what I remember in Italy, my apartment was almost entirely furnished (from shower curtains to dishes to bedding) by IKEA. It looks like the closest store is in Frankfurt. It was hard to tell since the website was in German, but I thought you might give that a shot.

    Here is the link: http://www.ikea.com/de/de/store/frankfurt

    The locations seem to be on the left hand side, you might find one closer. Anyway, we are all thinking about you!

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