So I recently spent 2 weeks working in beautiful Grevenbroich Germany. As I previously alluded too, getting paid to go to Europe is fucking awesome, and frankly I often feel like my boss screwed up, or I’m unknowingly pulling off some hugely elaborate grift. I mean, I studied English in college, not engineering. My work experience includes two years in the kitchen at Texas Road House and 3 years as a slice-bitch (my actual title, shit you not) at Cosmo’s Pizza. I have no right to fly to Europe to spend two weeks working on an expensive and important project for one of the biggest names in the power industry. But I did. And I digress. Getting to go to Europe is fucking awesome. Working in Europe is fucking hard.
I’m not really talking about the work itself. Actually the power plants are one of the few places I feel completely comfortable out there. Power plants are pretty much power plants; a big ass pile of coal, a boiler or four, cooling towers and turbines. What’s hard is the little crap. The kind of stuff you wouldn’t really think about until it happens, or at least I didn’t.
One night on my recent visit I ended up working an incredibly late night. I got back to my hotel at about 10:00pm, exhausted, filthy and too hungry to see straight. By the time I showered, drank a beer, and wrote my boss his nightly email update it was 11:30 and I, having not eaten since lunch, was desperate for some food. Hotels are tiny in Europe, without the niceties of a fridge, let alone a microwave. It’s impossible to have food on hand, and frankly, when I’m that hungry, that tired, and it’s that late I am not even the slightest bit interested in finding a nice little slice of Bavarian culture. I want fucking sustenance.
There’s a McDonalds about a mile from the hotel I stay in out there, and yes, I eat there a few times a trip. But Brett, why would you eat at an American restaurant when you’re in Germany? That’s a travesty, go out and experience the culture. No. I want to eat. As usual, I’m a long ways from anything remotely tourist, and that means I’m a long way from any menus in English. And I’ve had plenty of opportunities to point at a menu and pray (for instance, pepperoni means pepper in German, if you want an actual pepperoni pizza you have to order a salami pizza, take my word for it); at MacDo I can point at a hamburger, say coke-light, frites and catsup and I end up with precisely what I expect. A burger, a diet coke and some French fries.
So, let’s go to McDonalds. In 20 minutes I’ll have food right? Wrong. That night the parking spots on the street were all occupied so I parked in the hotel parking garage for the first time. Obviously the gate to get in spoke German, the little ticket it gave me spoke German, and the dude working at the front desk spoke German. I don’t speak German. I took the ticket, set it on my dashboard and thought nothing of it. So I go to leave, I take the ticket, and pull up to the machine. I have a handful of Euro coins on the ready and I insert my ticket expecting it to tell me I owe 2 Euros and I have to insert them and I’ll be on my way. Wrong. I insert the ticket and the machine tells me “Sie zahlen müssen!!“ I don’t know what that means. I try again. “Sie zahlen müssen!!“ I still don’t know what that means. After a few more futile attempts, and realizing that there isn’t any place to put in any money, I gave up and pulled back into a spot and ascended the three flights of stairs to the front desk. In pretty simple languange I explained that I needed to pay for my parking and handed the attendent my ticket. He put it into a little machine, it beeped, he handed it back to me. I’m good to go. He billed it to my room I guess. No harm no foul. I headed back downstairs and got in my car, chuckling at my own ignorance. I pulled up to the machine and pulled the ticket out of my pocket. Right about this time I saw another hotel guest climb into their car. I inserted my newly-paid parking garage ticket and… “Sie zahlen müssen!!“ Ok, at this point I was fucking pissed. I try the ticket again. “Sie zahlen müssen!!“ Frustrated just about to tears, and still starving, I heard a car honk. Some dude was right behind me. Fucking great. I try the ticket one last time because I figure the 18th time is the charm, it wasn’t, so I get out of my car to attempt to explain to the dude behind me that I need him to back up, so I can back up, so I can go pay this goddamn ticket. In the car is a slight, better than middle-aged asian man. And, he was pissed. In retrospect, getting chewed out in German by an elderly Asian man is pretty damn funny. At the time, I was pulling my hair out. I finally got the guy to back up, parked my car, again, headed back up the stairs, again, and explained to the guy at the front desk, again, that I need to pay for this thing, I can’t get my car out. After a minute or two of mediocre at best communication, the dude finally got me. He explained that he thought I wanted the ticket paid for tomorrow so I could leave in the morning, and directed me to the little kiosk I needed to use to actually pay the ticket for reals. I paid my E2.50, got my ticket back and believe it or not it worked. I’ve never been so happy to get out of a parking garage. At damn near 1:00am, a full hour and twenty minutes after attempting to depart for the first time, and a mere 6 hours before I had to be awake again, I got back to my hotel room with my chicken and bacon sammich.
I got my ass kicked by a parking garage. Working in Germany is fucking hard.