Monday, 4 July 2011

Another Bonkers Road Trip: Part 5 - Mishap Round Up

I can't believe this trip has spawned five travel posts - I miscounted first time, but have renumbered them now! - and all without any perfume-related happenings to speak of, apart from the fact that I wore the stuff every day, and had a very disagreeable experience with YSL La Safarienne. It bore such an eerie resemblance to grapefruit floor cleaner that I speculated on Facebook that it might not even be safe to apply on skin.

But this post isn't about that. No, I decided to conclude the series with an account of my misadventures, excluding the broken tooth episode, which is documented elsewhere.

As a seasoned business traveller of 25 years' standing (well, in practice mostly sitting behind the wheel, but you get my drift), I thought I had made every mistake in the book, from spilling vinaigrette on my suit just before a presentation, splitting skirts, laddering tights, cutting fingers as I was about to shake the hand of the person I was meeting, to sitting on benches covered in pigeon droppings, getting red grape skins stuck in my teeth, Tippex dandruff in my hair, and ink all over my hands. Yes, let's not forget the exploding fountain pen routine, which can happen anywhere, but is especially indicated in pressurised atmospheres such as an aeroplane. I also thought that I was too sensible to repeat any of my past gaffes. I was wrong on both counts...

Here then is a round up of the silly mishaps which befell me on this trip - both old and new! Interestingly, they mostly involve food and drink this time round.

Transporting chocolate in warm weather

Okay, now I know this sounds obvious, but I am an eternal optimist where chocolate preservation is concerned. As some readers may remember from the accounts of my Californian trip last December, I like to keep a little chocolate in the car for emergencies, and when it is quite cool in the morning as you set off, it seems hard to imagine that the boot of the car might turn into a raging furnace by noon, and the chocolate bar a slick of cocoa-y magma. But that's just what it will be: floppy, molten, and if you are very unlucky, oozing over your fresh questionnaires.

Drinking water whilst driving over speed bumps

I say speed bumps, but it could be any kind of rough terrain, like the boneshaking judderfests you find in Poland, masquerading as main arterial roads. The incident in question occurred in Belgium, as I attempted to drive over some very pronounced speed bumps whilst swigging from a bottle of water. Short story short, as the car jolted over the humps, the arm which was holding the bottle gave an involuntary jerk, and I poured half a litre of water (uncorborated!) over my head.

Buying water from the first shop you see

Ah yes, in my eagerness to dodge exorbitant minibar prices, I often explore the immediate surroundings of my hotel, looking for a cheaper deal on water. In a town in East Germany, I headed over to the railway station opposite (the only place nearby with any sign of life on this public holiday), and immediately turned into a small mini-mart just inside the entrance. Water cost about a quid fifty for a small bottle, yet only a few yards beyond was a branch of the drugstore Rossmann, offering bottles of twice the size for a third the price. I should know that really: if you don't have access to a large supermarket, always buy water in a drugstore, counter-intuitive as that may sound. And while you are there, stock up on their very cheap mini bottles of Sekt if, like me, you use alcohol as a bit of a crutch when under stress. Which of course I was after being diddled on the water.

Being foxed by flat screen TVs

Any regular readers out there may spot that I have previous for being foxed by flat screen TVs (last September in an Ibis hotel in Berlin), and you could be forgiven for thinking I might have retained the information the barman gave me on that occasion as to where the sylishly flush on and off button was located. Not a chance. On aggregate over the course of this trip I must have spent the best part of 20 minutes fumbling with the edges of a selection of flat screen TVs in my accommodation. I probably had a success rate of something like 1 in 3. I mean there's flush, there's recessed, there's inverted, and there's just plain blinkin' invisible. If you don't know what you are looking for, never mind where, it can be utterly baffling, and I was reluctant to push any given bit of plastic too hard, on the remote offchance that it might be an invisible control. Come to think of it, you should have been able to turn the thing on using the remote, but this didn't always seem to be the case.

Being late for eggs

I am not a morning person. If I don't have a meeting that catapults me out the hotel door at a preternaturally early hour, I will invariably cut it very fine in terms of catching breakfast. Some days I will skip it altogether, but I will never ever get down to the buffet when it is in its first flush (that word again!) of freshness. This is neither here or there when you are talking about those diddy little boxes of Coco Pops, or twinpacks of Ryvita, or the heap of granny smith apples that passes for a fruit selection, but when it comes to the hot part of the buffet, or the basket of boiled eggs, you could be in for a shock. Yes, by the time I normally get down there, invariably the scrambled egg will be stone cold, slumped under its steel dome and leeching a colourless fluid - I suddenly remember the term "albumen" from Third Form biology and wish I hadn't. And the boiled eggs will also be cold, but crucially they will also be soft boiled. This is not a good combination. But my distaste at such eggy nasties has up to now not been sufficient incentive to propel me out of my pit early enough to catch the egg options in an optimum state.

Going hungry on Ruhetage

Speaking of missing meals, I was bedevilled on this trip by my recurrent mistiming of hotel stays, and often coincided with their Ruhetag ("day of rest"). The hotels would still be open to check you in, but the restaurant would be shut. Now I didn't have time before I left the UK to check the Ruhetag schedule of all the hotels I would be staying at before booking them. Location, availability and price were the main drivers, followed by Internet access in at least some nook or cranny of the premises, if not my room necessarily. As the trip unfolded, I realised I had targeted three hotels in succession on their Ruhetag (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday respectively!). I didn't get a square meal till Wednesday. You understand the need for chocolate now. And a temperature controlled storage receptacle in my boot. An ordinary cool bag would be no good of course, because the cool blocks thaw and get warm eventually - I probably need one of those insulated boxes they transport vital organs in for life-saving operations. Especially if in future, as seems likely, I persistently fail to check the restaurant opening times in advance.

Putting things in wardrobes

Why, you may ask, should I urge people not to hang things in wardrobes, an item of furniture specifically designed for that purpose? Well, quite simply because, having put garments in the wardrobe, there is a very real risk that you will omit to take them out again in the morning. I had to drive cross-country some 20 miles out of the way back to my hotel to retrieve a raincoat and a top that I had put in the wardrobe and promptly forgotten. It was then or never, as I was not passing that way again. Despite this impromptu detour, amazingly I was not late for my second meeting of the day, though I did drive like the proverbial bat out of hell, terrifying a few flat capped old boys at the wheel of clapped out Mazdas along the way. And the moral of this tale - hang things on the handles of the wardrobe, or on hooks on the walls or the backs of doors - or even on the shower rail - but always, always in plain sight...

Pulling a pilot

Okay, so this last item is not a mishap as such, though it easily could have been, if I had taken him up on his offer. Yes, I was hit on by a Dutch pilot in Belgium on the last night of my trip, just as I was getting some stuff out of the boot of the car before turning in. He clocked my English plate and said he loved England, having lived there for 20 years until 2000. He was a dead ringer for the actor Paul Bettany, but was 65 if he was a day - should he still be at the controls of planes?, I couldn't help wondering. Anyway, he invited me for a nightcap but I declined, pleading fear of flying. Well, work actually. So it would appear that I can still pull the odd silver fox, but am not sure whether this quite counts as a feather in my cap.

That's it! Perfume-related posts will be along shortly - until I go off again, which is quite soon...!

Photo of stained businessman from, photo of speed bumps from, photos of Rossmann and park bench from, photos of TV and wardrobe from, photo of German breakfast from, photo of Ruhetage sign from, photo of Paul Bettany from, chocolate photo my own


Marie said...

I laughed out loud when reading about the water over the head incident. Not because I'm the sort of person who generally takes pleasure in the misfortune of others, but because the same thing could have happend to me. I have Murphy's law in my DNA!

I commute to Copenhagen by train almost every day - a round trip of about 340 km. One morning I was sitting there, quitely as usual, with my coffee , ever so gently trying to come to terms with the fact that a new day had indeed started (not a morning person myself either). The train drove into what must have been a particularly challenging curve on the rails and out of nowhere my cup of coffee jumped right at me - the shortest possible distance from table to chest - and spread its liquid black contents all over my torso. On that particular day I wasn't wearing my customary black jersey top but a white cotton shirt that I had carefully ironed the night before - something I rarely do. It took every bit of my nice middle class girl upbringing not to break into language fit for a sailor.

When terribly bored at meetings (it happens) I've also been known to release the thingy on ball point pens that is meant for securing the pen on a pad of paper after much concentrated fiddling with it and sending it across the table at high velocity - much to the suprise of the other participants. On such occassions my middle class upbringing was of very little use obviously.

You can also always count on me to drown my coffee cup in coffee from a very full thermos at meetings. And only recently a button from my shirt inexplicably came off during a meeting and landed on the table in front of me - leaving my shirt open to reveal the lingerie du jour beneath it. Needless to say there was an awkward moment before I left the room to change into a spare blouse that I kept in my office.

Thus my solidarity with the mishaps of others is vast.

Marie said...

By the way, your tale of the elderly Dutch pilot reminded me of the Dean Martin - Foster Brooks classic:

The evidence that one should be suspicious of elderly pílots is adding up.

Vanessa said...

Hi Marie,

I loved reading about your own mishaps, some of them also beverage-related! Like you I have had the exploding button incident - in my case just before a meeting in Germany, also revealing the lingerie du jour - and though I had no spare outfit to hand, I managed to secure the front of the dress after a fashion using a safety pin from a sewing kit I happened to have in my briefcase (but very well might not have done!).

Have you also suffered from dropped hems and dangly threads while we are on the subject of clothing?

And of course you have now given me ideas of playing that biro pinging game! : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi again,

Would you believe it - the sound has just gone on my PC's speakers! I will have to have a listen later, but even the visual appears to back up your theory!

Marie said...

Dangly threads are a specialty of mine! And dropped hems - on pants, not skirts, which I never wear - I'm also familiar with. I had two identical pairs of black suit pants that always did the hem thing on me. Once after a very nice reception I realized that I'd been sporting distinctly droopy hems all the time - and there I was thinking that I'd been doing quite well for myself.

I've also had an unfortunate scarf incident. I often wear scarves double around my neck for a fluffy look. Once after a lunch I realized that I'd brought a little something from that lunch with me in the creases of my scarf and the rest of the day I was left wondering how many people had noticed that. Now I always loosen my scarf and let it hang down when I eat. One should aim at learing from one's mistakes.

The pinging game is fun - it satisfies the adrenalin junkie in me!

Vanessa said...

Hi Marie,

That trapped food stunt is toe curling - and I can so easily imagine it happening to me if I wore scarves more often. And I am glad to meet a fellow hem drooper!

: - )

Anonymous said...

Your post make my mornings brighter, Vanessa! Thank you for another highlight.

Anonymous said...

posts, plural. Sorry!

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

Shucks, thanks for that - also the plural!

: - )

Undina said...

It's great that you can look at all these mishaps and smile (and make us all smile or even laugh with you). Thank you, I enjoyed reading it and I hope the next 25 years of traveling ;) will be easier.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I have had years of practice at smiling at my mishaps, haha! I hope in fact that there won't be 25 more years of travelling, though the government keeps upping the retirement age, so who knows?!