Monday, August 3, 2009

The Euro: don't leave home without it!

I decided to go to a German market the other day. I received an email from relatives in Austria that they would love to visit. They assured me they understood our living situation (no furniture, no beds, little opportunity for hospitality) and to not worry about preparing anything for their arrival, they just wanted to see us and where we live. This sounded great to me. I've been dying for visitors and would like people to see where we live. But I decided I still wanted to have something more than filtered water, coffee and apple juice to offer our guests to drink.

I had been told the village just to the east(?) has a nice large market. It is a small village, only 5 minutes away from our house. I told the kids to behave and I would be back in an hour. One would think finding a market in a small German village sounds pretty simple. I had a GPS with me (a godsend here) so I knew I wouldn't get so lost I wouldn't find my way back home. I drove around the small village, having to turn my mid-sized SUV around in the narrow streets multiple times. There was an older German man sitting by the bus stop. He watched me drive past him at least 6 times. He always had the same knowing smile on his said to me, "lost American". I finally got lucky and found the market. I drove around at least 30 minutes looking for it, another 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get to it :)

I made it to the market. I knew I wanted to buy beverages primarily and wanted to get a cart. There is a cash depsit for a cart. The amount is not posted anywhere. I don't know how many Euros to put in. Instead of trial and error potentially losing a few Euros in my lack of knowledge I opted to use a shopping basket supplied at no charge. :) I find a bottle of German Cabernet Sauvingon made in the Rhine-Pfalz. That was a must. Cheese goes well with was all in German. The only kind of cheese I could decipher for sure was brie which I wasn't in the mood for. I abandoned the cheese idea. I got a couple bottles of soda for the kids. I found two 6 packs of beer that I thought looked like good choices.

So, here I am with a shopping BASKET (like the ones in the states) with a bottle of wine, two 1.5 liter bottles of iced tea, two 6 packs of beer, kicking a crate with 4 1.5 liter bottles of soda. Yes, the basket was VERY heavy. I had to have been something to gawk at :) I didn't care, I am independant, I don't need to speak the language to do what I want to do!

I stand in the checkout line. It is my turn. I say Guten Tag, the checkout lady smiles a knowing smile and returns my polite greeting. She tells me my total. I put my US debit card in the card reader. I have used this card at a few different German stores...McDonald's, various restuarants. The card doesn't work. I tried a different card, that one doesn't work. The checkout lady shows me a different type of card and says something in German that included the word Deutsche card. Shit. I don't have one of these cards and I don't have 30.09 Euros. The lady is very polite. She is telling me I have to go to the bank and get cash, then I can come back and buy my things. I can't understand her. I don't even know enough German to be able to say I don't understand. I know how to say it in Spanish, and French. This doesn't help me at all. Thankfully a younger man next to me in line knows English. He tells me where the bank is. Great, it took me 45 min to find the market.

Amazingly I found the bank on first drive by. I walk in with my credit card and show the man at the window. He doens't know English. I babble to him about needing cash to buy things at the market. He just smiles the knowing smile and points to the ATM behind me. I did not see the all-familiar machine when I walked in. Had I seen it I wouldn't have had to babble to the friendly man at the window. I put my debit card in the machine. It wouldn't accept my PIN...jesus christ. wtf??? I've now been gone for almost 2 hours. I think about the kids at home by themselves. I think about abandoning the whole prospect of having beverages available to my guests. Then I decide, Hell no!! I've started this, I'm gonna finish victorious, dammit!! I look in my wallet, my debit card is sitting in its place, mocking me. I put a credit card in the machine by mistake. I do not know any PIN #'s for credit cards as I don't take cash from them. I stare at the machine as it tells me something in German that I've used the wrong number. I'm sure if it could smile, I would recognize it, "lost American". I'm freaking out thinking the machine is gonna steal my card. The friendly German man at the window is saying something to me I can't understand....I quickly call Paul at work. He has an uncanny talent of remembering numbers...he doesn't know the number. As I am talking to him the friendly German ATM spits my card out. I thanked the machine, in German :)

I put my debit card in the machine. I got cash for beverages at the market. I drove back to the market. This time, I asked the coffee counter girl if she spoke English, "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" I say. "A little bit", she replies...sigh. "How much for a cart?" She doesn't know what I am asking. I make the motion of pushing a cart and say, "Euro?" She smiles and points to the two carts in the entry way. They are designed for mothers with kids who want to ride in a car or truck while mom shops. I say, "I can use those?" She again smiles (knowingly, mind you) and says yes. So I take the cart equipped with a large plastic truck to the checkout line. (I knew I would not be able to carry my purchases to the car and I didn't want to kick the crate out to the parking lot.)

Long story short, (too late) I get my things and go home. Over two hours had past. I walk in the door. The first thing I hear is Baile tattling to me, "MOM, Will says he's gonna stab me in the face if I lock myself in the bathroom again." Will is strutting around with a large stick. I just sigh. I tell them they have no idea what I just had to do to buy 30 Euros worth of beverages. I tell Will if he threatens anyone with that stick again, I will break it over my knee and throw it away. I proceed to ignore any remaining noise that comes from their mouths for the next 10 min. I share my latest adventure with them. Neither of them laughed. I don't think either of them appreciated the follies of my afternoon.