Monday, September 21, 2009

[ aka - organized carpooling with complete strangers ]

The past week at school, all the talk has been about Oktoberfest and the grand opening coming during the weekend. During my initial weeks in Germany, I learned from my family back in Michigan that I had a relative from my Babcia's side of the family that actually lives in Munich - Ciocia Zosia [Ciocia is Polish for Aunt]. I knew that she had come to the states for a few months when I was - ... wow -three years old, but, honestly I couldn't even put a face to the name. I decided during the week that I was going to pull off a somewhat spontaneous trip and go to Munich for Oktoberfest - after all, how could I pass it up. I was living in Germany for a year and had to visit the biggest festival of the year, and on top of that I had contacts there to stay with.

The first step for planning was traveling. The other Americans were all also planning trips to Munich, but ran into issues with places to stay, which all seemed to be booked well in advance. Reluctant to give up the big plans, they all decided to make the trip into a big 26 hour stint and go from the night train at 1 AM on Saturday till 3 AM on Sunday - no sleep, and a lot of partying. Viel Glück...

Since I had Ciocia Zosia to stay with, I looked into some other options. The trains were near booked, and very expensive in addition, so I looked into something else. I had heard about mitfahrgelegenheit [ roughly translating to opportunity to drive together - so essentially carpooling ] which was a website finding strangers that were planning trips, and if they had open seats, they would charge you a relatively cheap price to chip in for gas. It is actually a very sensible idea to get rid of traffic on the roads and use less gas emissions from cars. I didn't realize the small bumps along the way that it would cause however.

I called up Ciocia Zosia to share with her that I was finally coming to visit her in Munich. Her German was probably only a few months more progressed than mine, even though she has been there several years, but since my Polish is near non-existent now for casual conversation, German had to be our language for speaking. She was very cute, saying my name Krzysiu - Chris in Polish - at least 20 times during the short call, but it made me so excited to visit her. With the language challenges, I knew it was going to be fun.

I had a place to stay - now for getting to Munich. Early in the week I emailed this woman named Agnes asking for a 25 Euro ride from Saarbrücken to München [Munich]. She sent me an email the next morning saying of course, and I figured everything was set and sent back a ' Thank you - see you on Friday' response.

So on Thursday night, rather late after our excursion to Saareguemines, I decided to call up Agnes and make sure that everything was ok for the next day. She answered the phone and I began speaking in German and introducing myself. She responded back in German with a hesitant tone:

"Ahh, Chris... I never heard back from you... I wondered what happened, ya that seat is taken"



I was at a complete loss and shocked. So dumbfounded and completely mortified that my entire weekend plans were shattered that the only thing I said back was... "No"

She responded, Auf Deutsch of course;
"What to you mean nein?"

It took me a few moments to collect myself and stumble out what I could with some coherent Deutsch. I asked if she read my email response, and she hadn't checked her email for the past few days, leading her to believe that I backed out and my seat was open since I didn't call her.

The only thing running through my head at this point were German expletives... I guess I have picked those up rather well by this point...

My entire weekend had just gone down the drain and it was my fault. I should have called her and planned it that way - I now learned the hard way. I apologized for the misunderstanding and hung up. It was after nine.... is this too late to call in Germany and ask for rides? Too late to wonder, I was already back online and calling random strangers - I had an entire weekend planned ahead of me!

I was actually so nervous and panicked, I think I was sweating a little as my heart pounded - let alone could I actually think in German. Ring... ring.... Hallo?

Literal translation of what I might have said...

"umm... hi.... my name is Chris... Crachiola. this is mitfargelegenheit - ja, for... I mean, from that. Have you still a room for me tomorrow? Still going you to Munich?"

I was on a mission, my head was spinning and grammar was not my friend at the moment. Some people understood the bastardized language I was speaking but politely responded that everything was full. [ of course they are... it is after 9:30 on the night before people are traveling to Munich...] I seriously called the entire list of about a dozen numbers. I was on my last number - Ralph.... the number was ringing. It was as if glancing left to my St. Christopher medallion, the patron saint of travel, on my desk hailed me with a blessing and good fortune.

"Ja, Ich kann dir mitnemen"
sure I can take you.

there was an open seat! He just told me to look for his red Mercedes A-Klasse the next day at the St. Ingbert train station. [essentially a compact car... preparing me to be cramped. But I wasn't complaining. It was a ride. the trip is still on!]

[That St. Christopher necklace was back on my neck ASAP and was staying with me the entire weekend. The traveling hadn't even begun].

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