“Sure I enjoy small talk. I can talk about movies and music, sports and cars, tv and comics and books and current events. How’s the weather? How was your day? What’s your favorite food? Who’s your favorite band? Shit all the favorites; numbers, colors, seasons, places, animals, beers, actors. Apple or Android? Mac or PC? Pancakes or fuckin French toast? You could fill an entire night with small talk, and that’s ok. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking it. It’s sweet and satisfying and everyone loves it. But it’s junk food. At the end of the day, it has no nutritional value for the soul. It won’t fill any empty gaps. I’d rather talk about something deeper. I want to know why you are the way you are. What events brought about the being you have become? If we peeled back your hair and your eyes and your smile; what would be underneath? I want to know how you feel about oblivion and existentialism and the infinity of the universe, or lack there of. And I suppose there in lies my curse. This plague preventing my escape from purgatory. Drifting in this desolate sea of solitude; sinking slowly; soul less. Does my equal exist? Or am I extinct. A relic of days past. Or perhaps, an early bloomer. Doomed to die out just prior to springs production of paramours aplenty.” – Dialogue from the graveyard of unfinished short films resting in peace on my hard drive.
Well since my computer seems to be eating battery faster than I can type, and there aren’t any outlets in this lounge, it looks like I might be writing my next few posts from my phone. It’s raining on my first full day in Berlin, but that’s ok, I haven’t seen two days of rain in the same week since January thanks to Los Angeles. I didn’t really have plans for the night anyway. I was hoping to stumble upon a group of other solo travelers and form a random, multi ethnic group of misfits to get drunk with, but that didn’t happen…yet. The night is technically still young, but this hostel has me doubtful. It does have exciting lounge areas, like the bar I’m now located in, or the courtyard containing pong tables currently covered in sky water, but it doesn’t have the same vibe as the one in Munich. I took a great walking tour this morning that included some thought provoking history of Berlin, but it was too crowded to locate and prey upon unsuspecting solo travelers, and so I left empty handed – but not empty minded, so it was still a success. Afterwards I tried to do some shopping for t-shirts, but I didn’t see any I liked enough to wear during daily life, so I decided not to waste my money. I did tons on research on what to pack for trip and I still got the clothes wrong. It’s been too hot to simply wear jeans and a button down while walking the city every day. Should have simply packed two jeans/button down outfits for drinking nights, and used the rest of the space for shorts and comfy t-shirts. That’s the first takeaway I wanted to talk about. Don’t spend too much time preparing, you can’t predict things anyway.
Back to my current hostel though. This one has decided to squeeze 4 sets of bunk beds (8 people) into the same size room as the last hostel held 3 sets. I mean, I get it, when you stay in hostels the rooms are just supposed to be for changing and sleeping, but some space to sit or walk around would be nice. And I was chosen to recieve a top bunk this time around so I don’t even have anywhere to put on my shoes. I had to sit on the toilet today to lace up my chucks. It’s been hard to keep track of so many people, but so far staying with me is a couple from Argentina, a New Zealand rugby player whose been sleeping for the last 20 hours (if I didn’t encounter him in his underwear upon leaving the bathroom this morning I’d be concerned he was dead), and a presumably lesbian couple from another unnamed South American country (when I awoke this morning they were spooning on the twin size top bunk across from me, you do the math). The shower is separated from the other usual bathroom amenities and is essentially a closet. It didn’t have anywhere to even place clothes, so I guess were expected to simply depart the room naked. When I woke today I wasn’t sure how to handle my morning routine. I didn’t have any pressing plans so I stayed in bed for sometime wondering how to proceed. Where do I put my clothes while I’m showering? If I leave the shower closet in only a towel, do I climb back on my top bunk dangling my jewels in the face of the poor soul underneath? How do we decide the order in which we shower? Finally, I came to two conclusions, either this situation is awkward, or it’s not. If it’s awkward, then it’s awkward for everyone and we will all spend the whole day laying here if no one acts. If it’s not awkward, then just get the fuck up. So that’s what I did. I left my clothes on my bed and took only my towel to the shower. Thankfully no one was sleeping below me – bed must have belonged to one of the lesbians – and I was able to retrieve my clothes in my towel and change in the other side of the bathroom without any awkward dangling dick encounters. I move to a new hostel on Saturday and that one only sleeps 4 to a room, I think I’ll make it out alive.
The second takeaway to talk about concerns another way the ignorance of Americans becomes more apparent during traveling. Or at least my ignorance anyway. Where I’m originally from in Delaware we have a large Hispanic population and the majority don’t speak English. And a lot that can clearly understand English, would sometimes act as if they didn’t. I never understood why that was and would sometimes take it as if they were purposely being rude. Learning a new language, especially after you’ve left childhood, is very difficult. I’ve been studying German for the past year, and I took 3 years of the language in high school, but I still don’t feel comfortable enough to have a conversation in it. I understand much, but I have this fear that I will get in over my head in a conversation and so I’ll play dumb and simply ask for English speakers everywhere. Luckily the majority of Germans do speak English. I’m betting many people feel the same way when trying out conversations in a second language. Sure they might understand some words, but they aren’t comfortable enough to have full on dialogue. And if all these other countries can be understanding enough to accept those that don’t speak their native tongue, then I hope we can do the same in America. I hope I never again hear the phrase, “This is America, learn to speak English or get out”.
A third and final takeaway or thought I’ve been having: it feels really good being disconnected from phone service. You don’t realize how much you use your phone as a social crutch until you are without phone data. I have wifi in the hostel so I’ll typically only update in the morning and at night – today is an exception due to the rain and the lack of plans – but that’s honestly enough. At home, every traffic stop, every shopping queue, every awkward conversational pause, every bathroom break, every solo coffee stop, every tv commercial, essentially every waking moment we are glued to our phones, connected to everyone and everything. And for what? How much would we miss if we disconnected for an hour, or a day, or, gasp!, an entire week? What are we so afraid of? Now, I’m not saying I’m going to get rid of my phone data or anything like that, but it’s definitely a new awareness I hope to remember. We love to say, “stay woke”, but we’re all fucking sound asleep. Mic drop.