Every day life, food & strangeness in a big city

Month: April, 2012

Baddie and the splint

Remember that not long ago I blogged about going to my dentist? Now, what I did not tell you was exactly what I did there. That’s mostly because I was a little foggy about it myself. Sure, I had the regular check-up, and some fillings, and the professional cleaning. But in addition… I let myself be convinced by my doctor to be fitted for a “Schiene”. Because, she explained, it would be good for my teeth. Eh, why not?

That’s how I came to believe that I would get something akin to braces. At least that’s the first thought that popped into my mind, probably because I’ve always been somewhat self-conscious about my not-so-straight teeth. At last! This clever lady dentist has guessed my secret dream of a Hollywood smile and she’s going to make it come true! I went home and told Mr. Baddie all about it.

He, meanwhile, acted as the voice of reason and told me several horror-stories of people not being able to sleep because of the excruciating pain caused by braces, and getting bankrupt because of the costs. So a few days later, I went to my dentist again for a consultation. To my delight, I was told that my insurance would cover it all, and that it wouldn’t be too painful to wear. Reassured, I asked again what this “Schiene” would do. What I heard the lady say this time was that it would help draw my teeth out a bit. Oooohhh. So not straightening, after all. But how does this dentist know of my secret complex which involves smiling modestly because I think my lower teeth are much shorter than my upper ones? I will now get evenly sized teeth! Life is good.

I have now had this thing for a week. It looks like this:

The splint

And I have been wearing it at night, as directed. And wondering what the heck it does. It couldn’t possibly be drawing out my small, lower teeth. Because, you see, it is a soft, transparent resin piece molded exactly after and hence obviously meant to be worn on my upper teeth.

Today I went for yet another check-up. As I looked up to my dentist, I heard a little hysterical note in my voice bubbling to the surface: “But what exactly, EXACTLY, does this do?”

“Ah” she smiled “it’s for protecting your tooth surface. From gnashing together. Especially when you sleep.”

PS if you are very curious and want more info on “occlusal splints” and such, go here.


Baddie and the Holey Wall

Pretty much around three months ago, Mr. Baddie and I moved into our new apartment in the centre of Berlin. It’s a lovely, bright place with an incredible amount of roomy built-in closets (which are mostly filled with my shoes; no, really).  It does have some unexpected features, however. Like no visible wires for lamps. Yep, the ceilings are smooth as a baby’s bottom. So when we were unpacking during several winter days when it got dark around 4, we had to do it one room at a time, travelling with our single free standing lamp accordingly. We still have this problem, by the way.

Anyway, unpacking done, we got to the business of furnishing, decorating and adjusting it to our needs. What we left for last, like any sane persons, were putting up pictures. While this  may seem reasonable enough, and living without pictures for three months not a big deal, believe me, it was. Because the previous occupant had drilled holes in every. single. freaking. wall. Which were not painted over – he only used a greyish kind of substance to cover them, that only made them more visible. And while this was not such a big problem for most walls, which hold 2 to 3 holes arranged symetrically, one of our living room walls has a grand total of 9 holes. Splattered across it in no recognizable pattern (except maybe of a Leviathan). They look as if a blind man had been drilling for fun. In the dark. (Which is probably rather close to the truth – remember, the man had no lights).

We lived with this for three long, dreary months. But yesterday we decided to do something about it. What we did, first, was map out the holes on the floor. For this, Mr. Baddie was measuring the distances between the holes, and I was then placing post-its on our carpet strategically, thus:

The post-it map

This activity sort of brought to mind another weekend Mr. Baddie and I spent in our new home, me shut in our hallway closet, where a phone socket thingy was supposed to have been covered by the built-in furniture. Him, in the building’s hallway, on a ladder, poking a little hole with a loooong cable which was supposed to reach our flat and determine the existence of a phone line. I was to listen for telling scratching noises. Needless to say I heard none. But did we stop? Oh no, we just switched places.

But let’s get back to the holes at hand. So, after the post-it mapping was done, we displayed the picture frames we had bought on the floor, and fiddled with them until a) they covered the post-its and b) they looked quite pleasing. At Mr. Baddie’s suggestion, we took the paper out of the frames, and arranged it on the wall according to the pattern on the carpet. We stuck the papers with double-sided tape, and the improvement was so breath-taking that I totally forgot to take a photo. We looked at our masterpiece with deep joy. Which lasted for the three seconds before the first paper fell down. Yeah, double-sided tape isn’t what it used to be, folks.

Next came some pencil edging of the paper. And then some more wall-measuring. And then some hammering, nail-breaking and cursing persevering. Then finally, finally, putting up everything up. So that our formerly holey wall now looks like this:

The wall of frame

Oh, did I forget to say that we don’t have any actual pictures yet? Yes, it does look a bit gloomy, I’ll give you that. But we like to think that some of the old masters from Hogwarts might drop in for a visit any time now…

The Gift

There is a small grocery shop not far from the S-bahn stop I usually take for university. So naturally, because of its convenience, I sometimes stop by. It’s one of those slightly shabby places selling fruit, veggies, and some mediterranean products.

The first time I stopped there, enticed by the fruit boxes outside, I was taken aback by how quickly the young shop assistant popped out and started ogling my every move. I was so nervous I even dropped a tangerine – which he hurried to rescue and assure me it was ok. He then proceeded to explain that the oranges are good and sweet – and only 2 euros for four – would I like some? No, I would not. I felt a bit awkward though – as you feel sometimes when someone is trying to be nice and you give them the cold shoulder. So when I went inside to pay, as he placed my fruit on the scales, I noticed the peculiar photo of him, posing in front of the rows of veggie boxes outside the store.

“Oh” I utter before managing to bite my tongue. “Why do you have a photo of yourself with your shop there?”

He looks at me, perfectly puzzled. And then opens his mouth: “Oh… well… that’s because… errrrrr” I wait, patiently.

“It’s … well … you see….” He breaks off, considers, stares into the distance. He could be a character in a Beckett play. For that matter, so could I. I keep quiet, inwardly cursing my stupid urge to make small talk. I thought it would cheer him up. But it’s really more like the Chinese drop torture. For both of us.

“You see.. there was this photographer…” he resumes. I nod, encouragingly. “and he… hmm.. he…he took the picture” Well duh, I kind of guessed that, retorts the evil Baddie part of me. “Why do you have it up though?” is what I say instead.

“It’s to show…. to show…” he stammers and flushes. “To show…” Oh spit it out, man!  “To show that you work here?” I try to help. “YES!” he booms. “But also to show… to show…” Oh boy, here we go again…. “To show that I am always here for my customers!” he finishes, and I swear I can see a sheen of sweat on his forehead, but he grins and is happy and so am I.

I thought I’d never go back to that store. But Baddie never learns her lesson. Next time I did, I bought some artichokes.”Are you cooking them yourself?” I stare at him, in a state of incomprehension. Why else would I buy them? Do I look like I can afford a cook? or is it the type of thing you casually bring to friends when you visit, in lieu of flowers? “Err, yeah” I look at him, insecurely. “The heart is the best part” comes the sage advice. Ahhh… now I’ve had it. I will definitely definitely not take the chance of having any more strage conversations with this guy.

Until today, that is. That little store must have an aura that draws me in – or maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. In any case, I went in, and bought: half a melon, some cherry tomatoes, 2 pieces of baklava and a small jar of home-made strawberry jam. I did not ask if it was his granny or himself who made it. But I really wanted to.

And as I was leaving, he smiled, reached into a veggie box and said: “I’ll throw this in for free, ok?”

the gifted carrot

the gifted carrot

I was not looking at carrots. I was not in need of carrots. And it’s not like it matched the rest of my shopping. But it was sweet, if a little too Freudian for my taste. Now I am DEFINITELY not going there anymore.

Baddie takes the TOEFL

Ok, so you know that time you thought your flight ticket was for a certain date, and then when you got to the airport it turned out it had been for the day before? And you were tremendously pissed off? That never happened to you? Well it happened to me. And to Mr. Baddie. Independently, if I might add.

So anyway, today was my great TOEFL test date. Because I tend to apply for things that need me to prove my English skills – even though by now it might as well be my mother tongue, for the little I speak Romanian. But I digress. Well, the good people at ETS (the developers of this mightily fine test) do provide a series of instructions on what to do on the day. I read them all conscientiously, I swear I did. All 3 pages of them. And the result of that was that by the time I was through, I had totally forgotten if I was supposed to show up there at 8:30 or 9. And I didn’t quite bother to check. Even if they did say that under no circumstances will candidates be admitted after the start time, and that you need to “report” there half an hour before. And if you don’t, your test fee (which is incidentally rather substantial) will be forfeited. Bah! So what? I will rely on my gut feeling about this and leave the checking to other, uncool people.*

This is how it came to be that I was still on the tube at 8:35. I got off at Alexanderplatz, where I needed to change connections, waited and waited for the U2, which finally took me the necessary two stops away. I was in Rosenthaler Platz at 8:50 and I knew I had to walk for only a few minutes to get to the building. Except…. I had a bad feeling. So I checked my instructions sheet for the first time today and… there, to my great dismay, it said that the test starts at 9. And that the address is Rosa Luxembourg Platz. **

The Scream

Ok people, I panicked. Because although the two are relatively close, they are not close enough to walk in 5 minutes. And there’s no direct tube connecting them. (Why would there be?) And I didn’t know the area. Right, I said to myself, I’ll do my best. I went out, and frantically looked for a cab. And miracle of miracles, I found one in 4 minutes. And it only took 3 minutes to get to the square I needed. I jumped out, crossed the street and went into the building. I flew past reception, and went on the elevator, reached the testing centre and came to a grinding halt in front of their glass doors at 9 am sharp. I could spy a group of 15 people sitting down and an invigilator standing. I knock, and she opens the door. “For the TOEFL test”*** I offer with my last breath. “Yeeees?” she replies eyeing me suspiciously. I pause. She resumes: “are you registered for it here?” “Yes!” I exclaim, giving her my puppy-eyes look. “You are quite late” she sniffs, but moves aside a bit. I take advantage of the small gap and weasel my way in. “Why is that?” she enquires. I pretend not to hear her, especially since everyone’s attention is now riveted on me. “Why is that?” she ìnsists. “What?” I repeat dumbly, hoping her question will just go away. “Why are you late?” she almost shouts. “Because… err… my train was delayed” I manage, looking away furtively. Because I would never, ever consider telling the truth.

“Ah…” she smiles kindly “it’s ok, settle in and you can start with everyone else.”

And this is how I took my TOEFL test.

* the truth though, is that I am usually a worrier – and I check every little thing and everything must be just so; but despite my best efforts I am, almost without exception, tragically late.

** I am beginning to think I might have some sort of name dyslexia. Like the time I wanted to go to a Damien Rice concert and ended up getting tickets for David Gray instead. But their names do sound similar, right? And David Gray turned out to be cool too. It was just a bit sad that everyone else in the audience was singing along and I didn’t know one bloody song. But fun, I tell you, lots of fun…

*** The TOEFL test, if I may explain, has 4 parts. I do believe that the Speaking part has been designed by sadists with no concept of human civility in mind. You are asked to read some texts or listen to several conversations and then rephrase, synthesize or reproduce key points or opinions. There are 6 such tasks, and you are given 45 or 60 seconds for each. After which you are abruptly cut off. I can’t really imagine any real-life situation (never mind a university context, which is what this test aims for)  in which your interlocutor would cut you off after that short amount of time. As if, if you can’t make your points in 45 seconds, you are not fit to live….

Baddie goes shopping

I guess I might just as well admit it. TK Maxx is my favourite shop ever. Despite or maybe because of its crazy messiness and pot-luck nature. I love rummaging like a piggy for truffles and coming up for air with pieces that look as if their erstwhile home was a Parisian boutique. And it is cheap. That said, I never could quite make up my mind about their customer service.

Take today. I was looking for summer skirts, and since I have none whatsoever, I had planned to buy at least three. I did my rounds, and as I approached the changing rooms, I hear one of the girls at the entrance laughing and remarking loudly: “Oh look there, she has the entire shop in her basket!” I mentally wince, and wonder which poor woman they are talking about. I don’t even want to know, it’s too rude. “Oh yes, you’re right!” interjects her colleague, giggling “I could never try on so many things!” I surreptitiously glance around. There are a few baskets outside the changing rooms, but they don’t seem terribly full. And there’s no other customer in sight. Realization begins to dawn on me.

“Hi” the girls say in unison, smiling at me like so many 100 Watt bulbs. “You sure have a lot in there” beams one. I nod humbly, and look back at my basket, holding around 20 items. “Well, that’s alright, if you have the time to try it all on…” The other girl chuckles. I manage a little smile and leg it to the cabins. Once there, I look in the mirror, shake my head, and grin. Just another day in Baddieworld.

PS. Because of my many items, as I was trying to place some back in the basket and take some new ones to try on, as is their nature, the clothes got mightily tangled in their infinite number of coat hangers. Unsurprisingly, they toppled my basket and spilled on the floor. I did what I always do – look and feel pretty much useless. As you might expect, it took about 2 seconds for a guy to come to the rescue and put everything neatly back in order. So ok, he was mid-fifties, obviously batting for the other team AND a store employee, but I tell you, this works. If you don’t know what this is, see Baddie and the Bread Cages and Baddie and the Prisoner Chairs. And do try to keep up, hmmm?

Baddie and the 42 Steps

I don’t know the exact number of steps between the ground floor and my first floor appartment. I like to think that there are exactly 42.* That’s not a huge number by any means, but to my eternal shame, I sometimes take the elevator. When, say, I am carrying a lot of shopping. Or come home tipsy tired after a long day. If given half a choice, I will take an elevator even if I have to go down flights of stairs. Yes, yes, I know, terribly unsporty of me and all that. And energy-wasting. And lazy.

Today, though, my gnawing conscience got the better of me and I decided to… drumroll … take the stairs. And so I started on my climb, beaming with pride and self-congratulatory feelings. The stairs in my building, as luck will have it, provide three turns.  The first turn completed, I almost stumbled across an innocent blue bucket filled to the brim with Ajax and the like. My keen senses immediately informed me that something was afoot (apart from me, that is).

The second turn revealed the backside of a plump, mustachioed man. Who had a mop in his hands. And who turned to me with a complete look of disgust in his face.

I muttered “hello” and skulked past him. As my feet left small, telling pawprints on the still wet and nice smelling remaining ten steps, I could hear the man’s thoughts with the clarity of a crystal vase shattering on a marble floor: “for the love of God, woman, why oh why couldn’t you take the sodding elevator?”

PS. To cheer myself up, I went home and had this for brunch:

Roast onion cream cheese and raddishes sandwich

*If you haven’t the foggiest why 42, go out and buy / borrow / steal The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams now.

Strangers and Cities

In Zygmunt Baumann’s words:

The meeting of strangers [in a city] is an event without a past. More often than not, it is also an event without a future (it is expected to be, hoped to be, free of a future), a story most certainly ‘not to be continued’, a one-off chance, to be consumated in full while it lasts and on the spot, without delay.

Like the spider whose entire world is enclosed in the web it spins out of its own abdomen, the sole support which strangers-in-meeting may count on must be woven from the thin and loose yarn of their looks, words and gestures.

Baddie and the Prisoner Chairs

Whether this is something country, or city-specific, or merely caused by the generally suspicious behaviour of students, university cafeteria outdoor chairs in Berlin are tied properly. With hose-like implements that are so thorough, they actually prevent you from sitting comfortably, as can be observed in the photos.

The source of all evil aka the big hose-chain

An additional surprising quality of these chains is their shortness, which makes them become artificially raised and create a sort of tallish fence around the table. This must be skipped with great agility on all occasions.

I've been good, guv'nor, honest i have

Say, for example, (you understand, entirely hypothetically) that your friend left to make a phone call and her sheets of paper are being scattered by a gust of wind? Not a problem, Baddie will spring like a panther sit down, sipping on her coffee, and allow the nice guy at the next table to get up and collect them for her.

When did you say I could go on parole?

…Please don’t judge. It’s a survival technique. If you don’t believe me, see  Baddie and the Breadcages

Baddie and Outdoor Sports

You might have noticed that between Friday the 20th and Sunday the 22nd an entry is missing. On that day, as Baddie was blissfully walking along in a park, she heard a stranger call “Watch out!” and opened her eyes widely to see a swivelling red frisbee approaching her with the speed of a Borg-chased Starship Enterprise. This was on a direct trajectory of collision with her head. In a thoroughly desperate sporty move, Baddie shrieked like a little girl, bent down, and dodged it.*








*Or did she?

Baddie’s Rodent Day

After spending our day ironing, cleaning windows, putting up pictures and cooking, Mr. Baddie and I thought we’d go for a little walk around our neighbourhood. The air was fragrant and full of promise this warm evening  – and the old street lamps, beautiful art nouveau buildings, colourful restaurant facades and tiny boutiques were basked in a rusty light.

“Have you seen the mouse?” Mr. Baddie’s voice wakes me out of my reverie.

“No! Where?” I ask excitedly. The thing is, I love glimpsing small furry creatures. As long as I am far, far away from them. Because, as Baddie everyone knows, mice love running up girls’ legs. Even (or especially if) you are wearing trousers. Then they take delight in crawling inside the trouser leg. I don’t know what they do once up there. I think they mostly enjoy the trip.

Anyway, Mr. Baddie releases my arm and goes near this building which, in broad architectural terms, had a slightly protruding bit with a little space underneath.”Stay on the other side” he instructs.

I position myself at a safe distance, and crouch intently. That, and the black poncho I am wearing, make me look like a baby-bat preparing to begin her first flight lesson, but I don’t care. I’ll see a mouse! Mr. Baddie, in the meantime, begins stomping and kicking the building a bit, hoping to frighten the mouse into running towards me. I peer, and try my best to telepathically convince it to come out. He stomps. I stare. Nothing.

“Oh well, he might have a hole in there” I sigh. And then I slowly look up. And see that the very select boutique whose facade we were kicking and crouching in front of is, remarkably, and very unlike all the other shops at 9 o’clock on this Sunday evening, not empty. Oh no, there’s some sort of party there. And guess what all the well-dressed people in there are looking at, pointing and smirking. Every single one of them. You have one try.

PS I wonder what they thought we were doing…

PPS And then we went home, and watched “My friend Harvey“, a 50s classic in which James Stewart’s character Elwood P. Dowd’s pal is an invisible six-foot tall white rabbit. Scout’s honour.