Friday, April 11, 2008

9 December: No More Wardrobe & A Minor Incident

After breakfast at SI-Suites, we left Cody and Scotty at the hotel again and headed over to the house to complete the move-out. There’s nothing quite like the hollow echo of an empty house. Our place looks a lot bigger without any furniture in it. A guy named Dieter arrived at 10 am sharp to pick up the wardrobe. He came well-prepared with a battered leather toolbag and a large (by European standards) van. He was surprised at the excellent condition of the wardrobe and pleased that we helped him take it apart and carry it downstairs. It actually came apart pretty easily – Dieter knew just how to detach the hinges; hauling it all down three flights of stairs was the hard part. He gave us an extra 25 Euro for helping him out, which I thought was quite nice of him, especially since he ended up sitting in our driveway for another hour taking all of the hardware off so the wood wouldn’t get scratched up on his drive home. Beth and Axel arrived in their new B-Class to pick up their stuff just as we finished carrying all the wardrobe pieces downstairs. They already own two chairs that match our dining room set, so Beth had laid claim to our chairs several months ago and it was relatively easy to convince them to buy the matching table as well. I also convinced Beth to take most of my Asian cooking ingredients, including some fish sauce, crystallized ginger, and coconut milk. (We had been warned by the moving company not to put a speck of food or alcohol in our shipment to ward off the prying hands of U.S. Customs agents. Apparently if they find something edible or otherwise suspicious in your shipment, they are liable to break into all of your boxes whilly-nilly, destroying your possessions in the process.)

We took a nice walk in the woods near SI-Suites this afternoon, but the weather was pretty lousy and we turned back once it started raining in earnest. We had plans to meet Beth and Axel at 6:00 for dinner and we left a little early since we were also dropping off an old suitcase and our kitchen rug for their Sperrmülle (garbage) collection. (You can’t just leave large household trash out on the street in Germany; you have to call the city and arrange for a special pick-up. Fortunately Beth and Axel had a pick-up scheduled in a few weeks and had agreed to take a few items from us.) We unloaded the stuff and then I drove off with John to find a parking spot. I found a really nice spacious spot on the street a few blocks away and then proceeded to do something incredibly stupid. I turned the car around and pulled up very close to a car parked in front of me, with the intention of putting the car in reverse and backing into the proper position along the curb. Except I was pointing downhill and this particular manual E-Class is especially difficult to get into reverse, and it doesn’t have a handbrake, so I had no way to hold the car in place while I engaged the clutch. John took this opportune moment to point out, “You know this car doesn’t have a handbrake,” which only succeeded in putting me into a nervous state. Needless to say, I didn’t get the car properly into gear and ended up surging forward, stalling the car in the process, and slammed into the car in front of me. It was an old green Mercedes and I did a number on its rear bumper. There was hardly any damage to our car, fortunately, aside from a slightly bent license plate. I called Beth to find out what I should do. Beth was at a loss so she handed the phone over to Axel. We decided against calling the police (heaven forbid!) and I just left a note with my contact information on the car’s front windshield.

I decided to put the incident out of my mind and enjoy our dinner at an ancient Stuttgart restaurant, supposedly one of the oldest establishments in the city. We shared a cozy table in the back of the restaurant and settled in for a traditional feast of maultaschen, schnitzel, and apfelstruedel. Afterwards we said goodbye to Beth and Axel (they will be seeing us off at the airport next weekend so we were able to put off the official parting a bit longer) and I managed to get us back to the hotel again without further incident.

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