I think of something as simple as packing and marvel at how difficult it can be. Had I only packed a straight-edged razor, I would be fine. Instead I found myself in a panic in the hotel lobby in Berlin.
Mimicking to a concierge, since my high school German lessons didn’t pay off, I tried to get the man to understand I needed an electrical razor. I was hours away from meeting former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, one of the men responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I looked like the comic book villain Two-Face.
My razor had died an ignoble death due to electrical converter box-confusion. I was exactly halfway through my shave when I first smelled smoke. Apparently the converter boxes I had my razor plugged into weren’t doing the job.
Normally packing for a trip isn’t so problematic. I throw what I will most likely need into my suitcase, zip it up, and go on my way. I rarely think twice about it and am not sure why anyone else does, either, particularly for trips right here in Colorado. If I forget something, even if it is as simple as a toothbrush or an extra pair of leopard-print underwear – not that I actually wear them – I can quickly duck into the store and grab what I need in about five minutes.
The simplicity of availability doesn’t keep me from packing my car to near overflowing on simple weekend getaways around the state, though. I jam the back end so full of suitcases and treats that I’m amazed I keep all four wheels on the ground; surely a state trooper will pull me over sometime and ask me why I’m doing a wheelie in my little four cylinder.
Nonetheless, packing for a trip around the States, particularly right at home here in Colorado, is so simple that I tend to roll my eyes when I hear people fretting over it. If some necessary item, one that cannot be lived without on a weekend away, is forgotten, then the solution is simple: run into the store and buy it.
The same wasn’t necessarily true for me in Berlin. Running around the building somewhere in the Alexandre Platz district, I was near hyperventilating as I tried to find the store’s entrance. The cab driver pointed to it, but it was not exactly obvious, and so around and around I ran. I searched what turned out to be service entrances, thinking the Germans maybe had some secret handshake way of getting into the store. I also tried to ask a Burger King clerk, only to later wonder if the cab driver translated my mimicry of an electric razor into a desire for a Whopper.
Finally I threw my hands into the air and gave up. Dejected, I hung my head on the ride back to the hotel. I tried to explain to the concierge what happened, but he hadn’t learned English in the hour that I was gone. With a deep sigh of embarrassment, I threw on my coat and tie and headed down to the meeting. My saving grace, I was able to hide in the back of a room full of twenty-five other individuals; I placed my left hand on my cheek in an attempt to mask the mass of remaining whiskers.
Later over schnitzel and beer, when asked by my colleagues why I didn’t chase Kohl out into the hall for a photo after our meeting, I could only grimace and explain my pathetic situation.
“Oh,” one of them piped up. “Well, you could have used my straight-edge. I brought a lot of them with me.”