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This Is Why I Don’t Ride A Bike

, , , , , | Legal | October 14, 2021

On my first day of a holiday to Austria, I rent a bicycle. I hit the back of a car at five km/h and fall off my bike. The driver is an Austrian woman. I am a British man. To be fair to her, I was using my phone to navigate, and I was on the road instead of the cycle lane.

She starts shouting in German.

Me: “Sprache sie Englisch?”

Driver: “Why are you cycling on the road?”

Me: “I’m not injured, thanks. I have never been to this country. What happens when there is a collision?”

She produces a form, all in German.

Driver: “We both have to complete this form for the insurance.”

She points to a five-centimeter scratch on her car.

Me: “Crime of the century. You can have my name and address, but I will not complete a legal document in a language I don’t understand.”

Driver: “I will explain it to you. Look, this—”

Me: “No offence, but I can’t trust you to translate it independently. You’re biased.”

Driver: “But Austria is a German-speaking country! Why don’t you speak German?”

Seriously? I start thinking of the psychological and historical reasons why I, as a Brit, wouldn’t be interested in German.

Me: “This situation didn’t really feature in my holiday planning. Who produced that form? Have they an English version?”

Driver: “But Austria is a German-speaking country!”

After a while, we’re going round in circles. She is getting frustrated. I’m searching for any way at all to end the stalemate.

Me: “No disrespect, but I will not complete that without an independent, human translation. I could get sued for a lot of money if I don’t understand what I am signing. I’m on holiday here and I can wait a very long time.”

Driver: “What German do you know?”

Me: “Since you asked, I can say three things. I can say, ‘Du bist ein löffel.’”

Driver: “I… I am a spoon? Where did you learn this?”

Me: “School. My teacher had a strange sense of humour.”

Driver: “I… Anything else?”

Me: “Yes. ‘Mein luftkissenboot ist voll mit alle,’ and, ‘Möchtest du ein darmspülung.’”

Driver: “I… I, what— Do you know what this means?”

Me: “‘My hovercraft is full of eels,’ and, ‘Would you like an enema?’”

Driver: “Nein, danke?”

Me: “That’s from The Big Bang Theory. Is this of any use in understanding the form?”

Driver: “I’m calling the police!”

Me: “You do that. Maybe they will translate.”

Ten minutes later, a car with “Polizei” on the side arrives, and two tall, beautiful blondes in their early twenties get out. 

Cop #1: “What happened?”

Me: “I hit her on my bike, and I won’t complete the form because I don’t understand German.”

Cop #1: “That form is to report the accident to her car insurance. That’s normal in Austria. Are you a resident here?”

Me: “No, I live in Wales. What does the form say?”

Cop #1: “I will translate it.”

She goes through the form line by line while I complete my details. Meanwhile, [Cop #2] and the woman get heated.

Me: “If this is about me can you summarise?”

Cop #2: “She says you were on your phone, but I don’t care because that is not a crime. Not unless you were in a call.”

Me: “I would not get this sort of service at home.”

Cop #2: “I think you understand the danger.”

Me: “I have another question about traffic laws, please?”

Cop #2: “Yes?”

Me: “Is the cycle lane compulsory or optional?”

Cop #2: “The special bike route is mandatory.”

Me: “That’s called a ‘cycle lane’ in English. Are you saying you have the power to punish me just because I cycled on the road when a cycle lane is available?”

Cop #2: “Yes. I could make you pay a fine for that.”

Me: “At home, I would have had a lecture about cycling with a phone, and the cycle lane wouldn’t have existed in the first place.”

For the rest of my trip, I found that Austrians, both the authorities and the people, always answered a straight question. Advice was only offered where it was needed. I felt very safe and very happy to the point that I would live there.

The Drink He Deserved If Not The One He Wanted

, , , , | Friendly | December 22, 2020

It’s late evening. I’m a woman in my thirties, and I’m the only person waiting at a dark tram stop when an unkempt old guy comes by. He eyes the soda bottle I just drank from.

Guy: “Give me that bottle! I want to have a drink!”

Me: “That’s tap water I filled up around noon. Are you sure you want that?”

Guy: *Angrily* “I said I want to have a drink!”

I shrug, surrender the bottle, and watch him take a big gulp and become very disappointed. He hands it back as if it was a used diaper.

Guy: *Hurt* “That’s disgusting! I wanted something strong! Why would you give me water?! That was mean!”

I point toward the direction my highly anticipated tram will hopefully be coming from very soon.

Me: “If you want alcohol, there was an old man slowly carrying a big red bag full of wine bottles right before you arrived here. He can’t have gone far; if you are quick enough, you can probably catch up with him and make him share.”

Thankfully, the idea of mugging imaginary Santa got him excited enough to leave, and my tram arrived not too long later. I had been clutching my knife from the moment he spoke to me.

Another Exhibit In The Case Of “Why Nurses Should Rule The World”

, , , , , | Healthy | December 3, 2020

My parents are with my severely disabled sister who is being prepped for an operation. We take care of her at home and have a live-in nurse, but she still ends up in the hospital every few months, so the nurses are quite familiar with my family.

Nurse: “Would you like to remove your daughter’s nail polish?”

Mother: “Is it really necessary?”

Nurse: “Well, yes. We need to be able to see her nails during the operation to make sure she’s getting enough oxygen.”

Mother: “Oh, I see. It’s only that my other daughter painted her nails before going to college, and she won’t be back home for months. She went all the way to America and we can’t afford to bring her back every time [Sister] is hospitalized.”

Nurse: “Ach, I’m very sorry.”

She makes small talk with my parents while removing the nail polish. There are no comments about how my sister wouldn’t understand or even notice the nail polish, just reassuring chatter.

When they wheeled my sister back after the operation, my mother broke down in tears; they’d repainted my sister’s nails. When my mother told me about it, I teared up, too.

I still think of that nurse’s kindness — how she must’ve left the hospital to get nail polish of a similar shade and then painted my sister’s tiny nails. It sounds like such a small thing, but it was so completely outside her job scope and so sweet of her. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.


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Can’t Stress This Enough

, , , , | Right | December 2, 2020

I work at a bistro. Today, I am working alone. I have to prepare salad and rice for lunch, make sandwiches and cereal bowls, clean the tables, and serve customers simultaneously. There are a lot of customers, so I struggle to juggle everything at once.

A regular wants something from the antipasti bar. I fill her plate, but she wants more and more, even though the plate is full. I probably look a bit annoyed, so she asks me:

Customer: “Are you in a bad mood?”

Me: “No, I’m just stressed.”

Customer: “And you’re serving me this stressed?!”

Me: “Pardon?”

Customer: “What am I supposed to do with this? Eat it and become stressed?”

Me: “W—”

Customer: “What are you even stressed about? There are barely any people here!”

Me: “…?”

Customer: “I don’t even know if I want this now that I know that you’re serving me this stressed!”

A colleague from the adjacent grocery store came over and asked what was wrong. The customer ranted that I was stressed and I was serving her stressed and now she couldn’t eat what I served her. She demanded that my colleague prepare her the same plate but in a calm way.

The customer next in line didn’t say anything, but she gave me a huge tip out of pity.

Who Does That?!

, , , , , | Friendly | November 28, 2020

My partner has a long-time friend that is difficult, to put it nicely. She hears that we are planning on visiting my niece’s baptism abroad, where we have booked a small flat.

Friend: “Great news! I just bought my plane ticket and am coming with you! You don’t really need a couch, so I’m sleeping on it.”

Me: “Sorry, that’s not a good idea. My family has planned out the entire three days fully, so we won’t have any time to spend with you. Both of us will even have to deal with work when we get home in the evenings. It’s going to be quite stressful, so it might be better if you book your own room and we meet up when we all are back.”

Friend: “Of course. I just want to spend some days abroad, and I’m happy to see you for a few minutes, should you ever be free. You won’t even notice I’m in the same city.”

Weeks later, we are abroad. After tearfully guilt-tripping my partner and bullying me, the friend takes over half of our flat.

The first evening:

Friend: “You are no fun at all! Why did you stay out until now? You promised to spend at least the evenings with me!”

Me: “No. If you are bored, you could make dinner or go for a walk while we finish work.”

Friend: “Alone? At almost midnight? Do you want me to get murdered?”

The second evening:

Friend: “Why didn’t you call all day? I could have joined you. Your family is mean and should be ashamed! If my child brought along a friend, I would invite them everywhere and pay for them!”

Me: “What if that friend rudely invited themselves? Besides, [Partner] told you that we are spending our own money, as is everyone else.”

Friend: “Whatever! [Partner] said that your family was throwing away money on this baptism, so I’m sure someone is paying for something! You said that you didn’t get to eat outside this flat yet, so whoever paid for lunch and dinner could have easily used what they saved on you on me instead. If [My Sibling] is rich enough to afford a child, they can certainly afford to invite me!”

Me: “I guess one of my old uncles might be interested. Are you really willing to prostitute yourself for some food in a cheap restaurant?”

Friend: “Don’t be ridiculous! I just think it’s a waste that you didn’t eat anything. I would have enjoyed two lavish meals with your family instead of suffering through my day all alone, again, thanks to your selfishness!”

Me: “Do you think I didn’t want to eat? I wish they had picked a restaurant with any food that fit my dietary restrictions. But I’m not going to whine about it and ruin my family’s holiday.”

Friend: “Of course not, but that’s your own fault. I hate cold vegetables and vinegar, so I exactly know what to do whenever I’m served something wrong. Just order any dish that sounds good, and if it doesn’t look or smell tasty, make them remove whatever you don’t want to eat or are allergic to. If I behaved recklessly like you and skipped a meal, I would actually die from starvation, since I’m slender.”

The third evening:

Friend: “You both have made nothing but salad for three days in a row now! Why can’t you cook anything I like? The whole flat reeks of vinegar. I’m going for a walk!”

A year later, the baptism of my sibling’s next child comes up.

Friend: “When are you going abroad again?”

Partner: “Sometime around the first week of June. And no, please don’t even think about joining us, not after last time’s drama!”

We had a very peaceful and relaxing family holiday in May. The friend did not enjoy her weekend away in June.