Sunday, June 30, 2013

I'm like a deadbeat dad, but for kilowatt hours.

I've now been living in a foreign country, where I don't speak a lick of the language, for nearly five months. And like any good primate, I am learning to adapt. Ish. And that doesn't mean learning the language, because I know approximately four more German words than when I arrived. But, I have learned few things that I didn't even know I needed to learn. Which I will now share with you. This is some insider shit, people. Seriously mundane, insider shit.

1. Addresses. These f*ckers are tricky. Businesses and residences are not separated, so there are most likely several apartments amongst some doctors' offices, and in my case a kindergarden or two (?). Also, street numbers aren't necessarily in order, and the street number can actually be several street numbers. Like currently, I live at 33-35 Rotensterngasse. As if someone couldn't make up their mind if it was actually 33 or 35, and just went with both. Next, there may or may not be a hallway number, which is not to be confused with an apartment number. I am at Tur 3 (i.e. hallway number 3), and apartment 17. And the saga continues, as apartments are not numbered by floor, but sequentially, so you can have any number of units on any given floor. I am at hallway 3, apartment 17, and  on the 5th floor. NO, 6th floor, because the first floor is on the second floor. Right? Here, the first floor is E, and then second floor is the first. Get it? It goes E, 1, 2, etc... This took me months to catch on to and I still have to think, "wait, what floor is that?"

2. Laundry. Rule number one (and rules are very important) is that you turn off the water when you are not using the washer. Austria may cease to exist otherwise. Or flood, apparently. Rule number two is that you disassemble the soap container area after each use. For fear of nighttime bubbles? Oh, and there are no dryers. At all. Next, given that I use a common laundry room, the sub-societal protocol is to record the number of electricity units you use for each wash. Why record the electricity, you may ask (as I did/do)? Because then you can go to the cigarette store to pay for your electricity. On the honor system. Seriously. I have been recording, but haven't yet worked out which cigarette store (there are often more than one per block), or how on earth to explain the hallway/floor/apartment I occupy, let alone my laundry electricity units.

3. Rubbish. Is. Ridiculous. OK, deep breath. Actual garbage and paper recycling go below your building. Always. Glass and metal go to the public bins down the street and (in my case) to the right. Plastic also goes in the other public bins, but these are up the street (and in my case) to the left. Tetra packs, on the other hand, go into special cardboard boxes with olives on them. These boxes magically appear. Obviously from the tetra-pack-olive-box Santa. And once a month (on an undisclosed date) the olive box full of tetra packs goes out onto the street and then (magically) disappears. Santa's elves? Given that I have no idea where to get the olive box or when to put it out, I have a significant collection of tetra packs.

And likely an exorbitant electricity bill.

And clean, yet completely bagged out clothes.

And a pastry belly, which is thankful for the bagged clothes. And empire waist dresses.

Alas, in less than a week I will be back in San Diego. And in less than a month, I will be in Madagascar. And then it will all start again...