Tag Archives: travel

Directions Dilemma 

My grandmother used to joke that it was a good thing that there is only one way to go when we are born, or there are those of us who would get lost on the way out. This joke was never particularly funny to me because I am one of those who would most definitely get lost.

On my honeymoon, I tried to read a map and guide Roy through Kansas City. The result of that trip was the first fight of our married lives. Fights over travel and directions have continued apace with every travel adventure we have taken. Most people fight about the charges on the credit card or the money spent on shoes or guns. Not Roy and I. Our fights frequently come from the fact that I told him to turn left when he should have turned right and now we are in a neighborhood which looks like a dangerous place to stop, roll down a window and admit we’re lost!

Maps were the original field of my inabilities. In final checks before we set off, Roy would say: Gas? Check. Suitcases? Check. Cash? Check. Map right side up? Check. I would have been much more insulted by this last instruction except that he was justified. I once guided him halfway through Denver before I discovered I was holding the map backwards and we were traveling pretty much in circles through heavy Denver traffic!

The introduction of GPS to our lives has improved things, but I find I can still mess up in giving directions even then. GPS and Google maps both speak directions, but Roy always asks me questions, anyway. “What direction is the next turn?” he will ask, wishing to be in the proper lane to react quickly. “Right,” I reply, pointing for good measure. “Okay,” comes his response, “you said right and you’re pointing left. Which is it?”

“Sorry,” I answer, “it’s my directions dyslexia kicking in. We turn left.”

“Now you’re saying left and pointing right,” he says, through gritted teeth. “Oh wait, there’s our street and we missed it.”

“Recalculating,” intones the GPS.

This year, we went to Germany and Roy wanted to go to places where his family had originated. That meant taking a car and going off some of the main tourist paths through the country. We took the car from the central train station in Brussels, Belgium, which didn’t look too bad until we contemplated driving through it.

“There’s a GPS on the car,” the young man told us with heavily accented English.

“Oh good,” Roy replied, “because our little Garmin won’t connect over here.”

“Yes, but don’t follow its instructions until you get out of the Ring,” he continued. “You want to drive out onto the Ring and then follow the GPS after you leave the inner city.”

We had no idea what he was talking about and judging from the expression on his face, the minute we left, he turned to his co-worker and made a bet as to whether we would have our accident while still in “the Ring” or if we would crash the minute we drove out of the train station.

Well, we made it to “the Ring”. The trick we couldn’t figure out was how to get out of the Ring. We just kept running in circles in heavy traffic, while the car’s GPS intoned in perfect British accents, “Take a slight right and then turn right.” It gave no distances, no road names and no clue as to which of myriad “rights” that were all along the street was the correct “slight right and right turn.”

In desperation, Roy pulled into a small side street and got out the Google Maps on his phone and plugged in the directions to southern Germany. The map loaded up and instructed, “Continue on this street for 1 kilometer.”

Feeling more confident, Roy put the car in gear and asked, “Which direction does it want me to turn up here?”

“Turn left,” I said, pointing to be certain and of course, I was pointing right.

“Take a slight right and then turn right,” intoned the car’s GPS.

It was a long drive through Germany.

 

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Signs that I am not in the United States…

It has been an eventful couple of weeks for me. For only the second time in my life, I was what you would technically refer to as “abroad.” All that means is that I spent two weeks in Germany and I can tell you it is a different world from my life in the United States. Some things better and some things worse were the result of my observations during this vacation, but I’d like to share with you some signs which told me I was  definitely not in the United States.

First, there is the bathroom. I know I’m not in the United States because I walk into a bathroom only after I agree to pay and then pass through a turn style. In addition, I have only paid and used this bathroom after a search of several blocks to find one. When I am in the bathroom, I have to worry about having two levels of flushing and I go through the stress of wondering  if I pressed the right one! When it’s easier to hold it, than to go through the stress of the “WC”, then I know I’m somewhere other than the United States.

I know I’m not in the United States when I feel compelled to begin every conversation with “Do you speak English?” To the credit of the German people, they are remarkably conversant in English, but inevitably, my question was answered with “Ya, a little bit.” A little bit was anywhere from those few words to a fluency in English that put mine to shame. Just once, however, I did run into a woman who could speak no English. Since she was the clerk in the train station and I was lost…not in the United States… this was a problem.19429656_1534105623294529_3039647992177886607_n

And this brings me to another thing that tells me I’m not in the United States. I traveled a lot by train. In Europe, the train is a popular method of getting around and the people there are very easy with it. I find it unsettling that I must find the proper train and I will be allowed to board without anyone checking my ticket. Tickets are not collected until after the train leaves the station. I spent most of my train trips in a panic that I was on the wrong train and on at least one occasion, that was the case. Then, there were the others in even worse shape than me. “Pardon me, do you speak English?” I was approached by one worried passenger, ticket in hand. Then, before I answered, she continued, “Do you know if this is train the 1501?” Not wishing to appear as ignorant as I really was, I smiled apologetically, pointed at myself and said, “Sprechen da Deutsch.” That’s something I definitely wouldn’t do in the United States.

I know I’m not in the United States because of the “Nos.” By this, I mean things that I am used to that they don’t have…no water, no ice, no hurry, no air conditioning, no fans, no window screens, no chocolate and sugar sweets. The last one was the worst. I would have given a great deal to go into a store anywhere and see a KitKat on the shelves. As it was, I couldn’t find anything that was recognizable and the ingredients were all in German. Add to that the fact that soda came in 8-ounce bottles and was referred to as “German coke,” and you’ll see the dilemma for a sugar freak like me. However, on reflection, the Europeans may have this one right.

No water and no ice go together. Water also came in small, 8 ounce glass bottles (or the European equivalent).And  if you were not careful to ask for “still” water, you would end up with a mineral water that was as pleasant for this spoiled American to drink as Alka-seltzer! They use ice in nothing. For me, I’ll forego the liquid if I can still have the ice. For two weeks, I looked for water everywhere, suffered with no ice, and sweated out what little liquid I had in the heat, since there were no air conditioners. Now, I have long said the United States keeps air conditioners ridiculously low,  but NO air conditioning was not pleasant either! Windows in hotels opened and contained no screens. This bothered me, but I’d rather battle bugs than have no air moving.

My final clue that I was not in the United States had to do with restaurant dining. Food was abundant and very filling. So much so that I could seldom finish a plate. When the waiters would retrieve it they would shake their heads solemnly at me and intone, “Not guut?” They also didn’t believe in a speedy conclusion. They would clear the food and leave you sitting there…and sitting there…and sitting there. Apparently, we in the United States finish our food and leave the restaurant too quickly. There, people linger over coffee or drinks or cigarettes (the summer means all dining is out of doors).  Anytime I grew impatient and asked for the bill, they all looked so sorry for the boorish American with no appreciation for what a quiet time over the table could offer…they were right.

And of course, no conversation about being in Europe is complete without talking about paying that restaurant bill. Cash only…they didn’t like credit cards—in fact, they trouble swiping them when they would use them. Not only cash, but in the smallest common denominator. Each waiter carried their own cash pouch for paying the bill and they encouraged you to pay in as close to correct change as possible. In fact, one young lady went so far as to look in Roy’s wallet as he opened it to get money out and request specific bills.

There were many ways in which I was charmed by the German people I met, but there is a definite difference between their methods and those in the United States. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to use the bathroom for free and then sit with my tall glass of still water on ice and have the air conditioning blow directly on me. Because I am now in the United States!

 

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No room at the inn…

It was a strange bathroom. I groped my way inside the extremely tiny space and found the toilet. I made the mistake of sitting down before I reached over and turned on the light switch. And found a bug….no two bugs…no three bugs on the floor. Of course, the third bug might not count because he was dead.

It doesn’t happen very often because Roy and I are both paranoid about making sure we have good motel rooms when we travel, but occasionally, we get stymied. We decided on the spur of the moment to take a little trip over the weekend. Except, it was Labor Day weekend and we soon discovered that EVERYBODY books rooms over the long Labor Day weekend and we were just a little late. Like Mary and Joseph, we discovered there was no room at the inn…at least, any of the inns we normally frequent.

At last, however, in a small town outside of the immediate area of our destination, we were able to book a room at one of those non-chain, smaller venues. It was alright, though, because when we got to the motel, there was a long line of people also checking in. Must be a great place, right? Except we soon discovered in talking to people in line that we were about the only ones who had made any kind of reservation. The rest of them were traveling impromptu as well and were stopping here as a last resort, hoping for an open room. We were all standing in line praying for a good experience.

The girl at the counter spoke so softly that even those of us not hearing impaired had to hang over the counter to hear her. The fellow working with her made up for that however. He indicated that he was ready for the next customer by pounding on the counter and bellowing, “Next!” We all jumped and flinched like frightened recruits on Army induction day.

It was finally our turn and when we had filled out the necessary paperwork with the soft-spoken girl, the loud drill sergeant reached into a box behind him and handed Roy an unusual, metal-looking object.

“What is that?” I asked Roy as we left the office.

“It’s a key,” he answered, wonder in his voice.

“That didn’t look like a key card to me,” I said skeptically.

“It’s not a key card; it’s an actual KEY,” he said and held it up, glinting in the late afternoon sun. Now, it’s not that I like those key cards; it’s just that they suggest a little bit more up-to-date facilities than the old-fashioned keys. However, beggars quite definitely can’t be choosers.

As we walked down the hall, we passed a table containing a coffee pot and some individually packaged, dry-looking granola bars. I indicated the table with a jerk of my head as I told Roy, “If that’s the continental breakfast, we’re going to need to find a Perkins somewhere instead, tomorrow morning.”  It was and we did.

We unlocked the door of our room with the actual KEY and were cautiously surprised to find a fairly modern looking room before us. Of course, it packed two beds, a night table and a luggage rack in a mighty small space, but by using the sink as a desk for our computer, phone and camera to recharge on, it worked pretty well. I was feeling pretty good about it until I went into the bathroom and encountered the refuge from Raid convention.

“There’s a bug in here,” I called to Roy, “in fact, there’s several.”

“Well, kill them,” he returned, “I’m busy with a couple of wall crawlers out here.” His shoe hit the wall for emphasis and I knew we were one cricket less.

I returned to the main room when I had finished the bug stomping party in the bathroom. “I’d like to sit on these extremely hard beds and watch some television, but I see there isn’t a television.”

“Look up,” he replied and sure enough, there was a nice, not flat-screened television, hanging from a holder on the wall.  “Which of the three stations it gets would you like to watch?”

We made it through the night and we reminded ourselves a number of times that we had been lucky to get the room at this place, or we would have been forced to spend the night in our car, so when we thought about it that way, it didn’t seem so bad. However, the next time this Mary and Joseph go traveling, they are going to be sure they have booked their accommodations far in advance!

 

 

© Jackie Wells-Fauth and Drops In the Well, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Wells-Fauth and Drops In The Well with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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