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Arch irritation: feeling the inexpressible

2014 May 7
by Zoe Strimpel
I wasn't even left with a wheel.

I wasn’t even left with a wheel.

I’m having some of those days. Not one. Some. You know? Do you though? I don’t know: it’s been pretty damn annoying and I’m just not sure you appreciate just how annoying.

So hear this. Yesterday I tottered out to the street to grab my bike and cycle to the station, and found that my velo – my lovely funny purple  bicycle with red velvet seat – had been stolen. I was now going to miss my train, in addition to being plunged into mourning, so wasted about 20 minutes asking at my local yoga studio if they’d seen it. No. They’d ask, but no. So I walked to the station, angry at the slow boredom of pedestrian travel after the two-wheeled sort, found the next train was not for 45 minutes and the next direct one not for an hour and a half, and began wasting more time, desultorily browsing the uninspiring English-language mags at Relay, and foolishly not buying a sandwich so that later, at my destination, a Polish-border town called Schwedt, I was reduced to bad, bad things to eat. Later that evening, I set out to meet someone, and – viciously tired of walking on terrain I knew so well by bike – I decided to be constructive, not negative, and to rent a Deutsches Bahn City Bike.

Here we go. Are you ready for this?

Had rental gone as planned, I’d have been on time for my next appointment. But it didn’t: after registering thousands of my details twice (one wrong button at the end and I was shunted back to the beginning) and then my card details, I selected a bike. “The bike is unlocked!” said the screen. So I went to get it, but there was no such bike. Machine error. It was obviously a different station or at the bottom of the Spree or being sold off in a drug-squat. So I went back to the machine and chose another one, one I could actually see. “The bike is unlocked!” it chirruped, with me still thinking it had realised it had fucked up, not me, and that I was not going to be charged. I walked to this bike, but it was not unlocked. I went back to the machine, now really running late, and stuck my credit card in again. “! You have no more bikes allowed! ” it read. Suddenly I realised it thought I had taken two bikes, and that – as would become apparent after the 30 minute free period – I had nicked them and would have to pay, probably around €600 apiece.

So I dialled the customer help number written in red on the screen. A very very loud German woman said, in German, something that didn’t sound like: “hello, can I help you? Don’t worry, you haven’t lost all your money on two phantom bikes and a broken machine”. Alas, after trying another 4 times, as well as another number from the website (it was actually the same number), Simon was able to tell me that it was a recorded message saying NOT IN SERVICE. Odd for a system that I happen to know breaks down often, but there you are.

As I was walking to meet him, though, ringing and ringing this number and being told NOT IN SERVICE by the German woman, and becoming ever more stressed at how much money I might lose and how much time I might have to spend in dispute, and why didn’t I note down the false bike numbers, as well as thinking about how I was now running late DESPITE my best efforts…A BIRD SHAT COPIOUSLY ON MY HEAD. I was in the most urban, treeless street in Mitte, but would you believe, the one tree, and the one bird, happened to decide to unload a massive meal on my head at the precise moment I was walking by.

I mean guys, do you really need any more proof that the universe is out to get me?

I think you do. And here it is: TODAY, just one day after the above happened, leaving plenty of time (having no bike) to get somewhere for a 13:30 apt, I set out by foot to a train station. Simple: one line, the S5, to Zoo Station, according to my subway app. Only when I got there, there was no S5. The line doesn’t seem to exist. Still, I bought a ticket (that’s €2.60 thanks), standing on the platform trying to work out where it could be. Then an S1 went by. After walking through a tunnel to the U-bahn and then returning, I realised the S1 was my best option, and went straight to my destination.

There are few maps on platforms in Berlin that show you where trains go. true, different trains pass the same platform. But by the time my slow brain figured out that the S1 was the best bet, there was a four and then a seven minute wait for the next trains – but they didn’t go the right way at all. At last: another S1, OUT OF SERVICE. Time ticked by. I had left lots of time but now…and then, after the out of service train, a seven minute wait for an S2, no S1 in sight.

I had to go and find a taxi, since I had a ten minute walk on the other side, and I predicted- given the past few days- that I”d get lost and go round in circles and that my 3G, which has been loading at the speed of ice melting in Siberia for the past two weeks, would mean my map wouldn’t load at all. I wasted money on a subway ticket, yes. But worst was that I hadn’t been able to zoom in and out and in and out of the subway map, tracing the train to the terminus flashing on the screen to guess its number, in time, and LET THE GODDAMN S1 PASS BY STILL THINKING AN S5 EXISTED.

Isn’t all this so annoying? Do you get me? Now let me say that throughout the deeply irritating sequences of events that have plagued me yesterday and today, I formulated angry descriptions. “When people hear about this”…I spluttered inwardly, “then…”

Then what? Then they’ll feel really terrible for me, of course. And immediately see the way the universe is uniquely predisposed against ME. ZOE STRIMPEL. But as I said the stories to myself that I wanted to unload on others, I could already see their bored expressions. But come on! Couldn’t the sheer annoyingness of all this make for a really good narrative? I mean, there must be novels out there where this kind of thing forms the substance of the plot; the ups and downs of the character, the nucleus for something profound.

But then I couldn’t picture it. I have never read a book like that.

And then I realised: nobody cares, or will care. The levels of irritation and stress caused by these banalities, hitting me as they did at a particularly doubtful juncture in life, are not conveyable through the events that created them. To make a good story there needs to be more; to make an individual feel furious, there’s plenty.


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