Return of the cold toilet seats

Eberhard’s mom had German measles when she was pregnant with his sister, causing his sister to suffer from a variety of autoimmune diseases, loss of hair at a young age, rheumatism — now she needs a hip replacement, which is complicated by her dwarfism and requires custom fitting, all of which adds to the complexity and logistics of Eberhard’s life, caring for everyone around him, herding — warning us of speed traps, the consequences of violating off-street parking laws, making sure the recycling goes in the right bins — everything that comes from being the Burgermeister’s eldest son, left in charge of the house at a young age, the Dungeon Master’s keys.

Had to try to nap in the car in the airport parking lot in Stuttgart, to settle down. A hard day with Charlotte, our first “Field Trip Friday” planned for the zoo in Stuttgart, the city tour on a double decker bus — but we left the house late, realised neither of us even knew the German word for ‘zoo’ let alone the route there, and I won’t use the GPS because I don’t like being told what to do.

Instead, we followed pictures on signs that looked like an elephant or a wooly mammoth assuming that was the zoo, but got stressed by the kids misbehaving in the backseat and the enormity of driving around a major European city without really knowing the way — arguably more stressful than relying on electronic devices — and it was Eberhard on the phone the night before who insisted mom put me on with him, trying to explain about the construction there and that parking would be hard, but I couldn’t hear him because it feels like we can’t be trusted to do anything on our own, and so I waved him off despite the tension I could hear in his voice, like he was having trouble breathing, finding the right words in English.

We pulled into a parking complex inside a shopping mall, walked around, spent too long at the WC, bought sandwiches in the Bahnhof while Dawn tried to figure out how to buy tickets from a machine back to Besigheim since I would take the car on to Stuttgart to get my friend at the airport, and Dawn would take the train home with the kids.

But the train station didn’t look the same as Dawn remembered it and some of the departures left for Stuttgart which seemed weird because we were in Stuttgart, I even had blurry memories of the station now with Eberhard six years ago after the Cannstatt Volksfest eating döner kebap, waiting for the train, sneaking Ramazzotti — so we left the Bahnhof convinced we were in the wrong one, there must be a main train station elsewhere, and entered the Altstadt by foot — and though the sky was threatening rain we pressed on a good half hour until we came to a river, but none of it was on my map of Stuttgart, and finally I decided we weren’t in Stuttgart at all, we were in Bad Cannstatt.

Back to the car, we got out the GPS and navigated to the city, saw a crane on the skyline and deduced the train station must be there since they’re tearing everything up and redoing it, and after a lot more dicking around we found it, I pulled over and let them out, smiled, honked, waved, and made my way on to the airport, following pictures of a plane.

Hadn’t seen my friend Alex in 13 years and remembered him leaving the States around the time we declared war on Afghanistan, autumn coming on then, the feeling a shit show is about to start — and since then, Alex adopted a son, bought a couple houses in Bulgaria for like nothing, and looks about the same, like me, a touch slower, older, whiter.

And his son is a good kid but coming unglued on the drive home — because I didn’t use the GPS, I landed us right back in the middle of Stuttgart at Friday rush hour, traffic reduced down to one lane just like Eberhard said it would, and what should have been a 30 minute drive took two hours, and some man-handling of Alex’s three-year-old as he got himself out of the booster seat and threatened to open the car door.

We’re assembling to leave Monday morning and with the screams of children on the third floor, the rhythmic slamming of a 15th century door on an iron hinge, it sounds like the loop of a Haunted House soundtrack — and on to the restaurant up the street, the kids are gumming packets of Nutella like molluscs, eating it off the butter knives, drinking hot cocoa with teaspoons, and I try to be there and not at the same time because I have a hard time relaxing and think I’ve got some unique condition but maybe it’s just that I’m an ass.

And it’s like a horror movie where everyone points at me and makes some gurgling sounds with their throats and that’s how it ends, I die, incorporated by the rest and turned into a zombie who looks just like a normal person, it just leaves you with that feeling as the credits roll and the lights come up.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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23 Responses to Return of the cold toilet seats

  1. rossmurray1 says:

    I feel it. I feel it all.
    “I’ve got some unique condition but maybe it’s just that I’m an ass.” No, it’s trying to be a man in a world that devalues testosterone until it decides it’s valuable, only you can only guess when that time is.

    Like

  2. walt walker says:

    I did something like that in Germany once. We were supposed to fly out of Frankfurt, which sounds easy enough, until you go to the wrong Frankfurt. There’s Frankfurt on der Oder and Frankfurt am Main. Dummies, we were. This tale of your trip is stressing me out, though. I too feel it, like Ross said.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      That’s an easy mistake to make. I think we did the same on a train, heading to Frankfurt. It is stressful at times — I don’t put sugar in my coffee, if you follow. (Thanks for nudging me that I hadn’t posted in a few days last night old sport, you inspired me to finish this this morning and get it out of my system, even though I didn’t like the title or the ending. Better out than in.)

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      • walt walker says:

        I figured either you were just busy with being in foreign lands and trying to educate your children and such, or maybe you’d wandered too far into the forest and run out of bread crumbs. Good to know you’re relatively okay.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I was going to use my GPS unit a lot if I could install the John Cleese voice it claimed was available. Didn’t work out, so I wander around aimlessly now…

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Oh my god I would so be there if it were John Cleese. That’s my beef with it really, I think I’m super-sensitive to voices I don’t like, especially automated ones.

      Like

  4. ksbeth says:

    funny, i do that all the time in my home town and my aussie male gps has the patience of job.

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  5. goldfish says:

    So, the whole men don’t ask for directions trope extends to GPS as well?

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      It does me, but it’s combined with a distrust of technology and some bad experiences, like we’ve all likely had, when not keeping up to date with the mapping software, and following the voice right into a dead end alley somewhere, or losing satellite reception at key times, or having to suffer that cranky ‘recalculating’ voice. I do like when they try to pronounce very long Italian street names, however.

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  6. amcmulin914 says:

    It’s all so funny and like others say so goddamn awfully relatable. I’m rereading Walden’s Pond, and really think that might be the best bet. Isolation. Don’t let it spread. But then it’s like a slippery oil and you can’t really stop it, nor do you have a container to hold it, and whoops you have spawned and duplicated oil producing machines, and now everyone’s swimming in it…oh god…I think I am going to start smoking cigarettes again…

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      I think it might have been Nathaniel Hawthorne too, who just up and disappeared one day for several years, to write. The isolation thing, I don’t know. The idea of ‘personal space.’ We all need it, for sure. I think others need me gone sometimes too, it works both ways. If you’re raising small children you know this also, how important it is to have time to yourself. Keep off the cigarettes though, if you can. You’ll just attract others, like moths to a flame.

      Liked by 1 person

      • amcmulin914 says:

        Did not know that about Hawthorne had to go wikipedia it; he’s a rascally looking son of gun in his photo. Love the hermetic withdrawn life though, and definitely never going back to smoking cigarettes, though if I’m drunk or if the Apocalypse starts all bets are off.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        I feel you on the conditions of the Apocalypse. Feel one coming on every now and then, circling behind the clouds above. Makes for good moments of reflection, right before the earth caves in on itself.

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Yes, I checked the Wiki page too and you’re right about his photo, looks startled. Now I’m wondering if I had the right writer who up and left his family for a dozen years and then just returned one day like nothing happened. I’ll get to the bottom of it, just by asking my wife.

        Liked by 1 person

      • amcmulin914 says:

        I wish there was a better way than hahahah (which makes me look crazy) or LOL (which makes me look fourteen) to show how much this exchange (and your posts) crack me up. But yes, when all else fails, I too ask my wife. I love learning about other writers. They really are the most unique characters out here.

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  7. Dina Honour says:

    What IS it about men and GPS? My husband puts it on and then ignores what the directions say, or tries to go a different way to beat her estimated time. It’s maddening. I now build in ‘getting lost’ time to our departure times without telling him. This piece ramped up my anxiety levels–the traffic, the fidgety kids, the German measles (are they really called German measles in Germany??). Nicely done.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Hi Dina – thanks, I hope I’m not a representative man here with the classic attitude about directions, refusing to act lost, needing to pretend to preserve control, but alas perhaps. Should be fun as we twist our way throughout more of Europe. I just like paper maps. Or following road signs. And they’re so much different here in Europe, at least in Germany, with no ‘east, west’ on the signs, just destinations – so you better know if you want to be going toward Ulm or Heilbronn, for example.

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  8. I might steal that line about GPS. Make me look smarter than I actually am. Hope you don’t mind.

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