And when I say “German apartment,” I don’t mean some kind of chic leiderhosen decorating scheme.
I mean my student apartment in Germany.
That little, 280-square-foot, futon-furnished apartment with a shower curtain that encroached on my personal space. My temporary home was one of many little boxes that fit together to form Boeselburg, the student apartment complex that was to be torn down a month before my semester ended.
I had gotten into a routine in that little space, with its mini fridge, ’70s-era accents and my own homemade calendar counting down the days until I could return to the Great White North with its mountains and ocean and politeness. More importantly, though, I made sure I always had my key with me when I got to the other side of my orange door since it locked from the outside as soon as it closed.
Then one day I was late for class and I ran out the door realizing, as soon as it clicked shut, that my key was sitting on the tiny white table that sat in front of my couch/bed hybrid.
And all I could do was slowly rest my forehead on the door in frustration. Because I knew the process of finding the German-speaking hausmeisters was nearly impossible since they were only in the office each day for a couple hours and those couple of hours coincided with the class I was about to be late to.
So out I ran, catching the bus and (thankfully) making it to class on time, only to lament with my friend that I had no place to sleep that night.
After class finished, we went back to my locked apartment door and attempted to click open the lock with old student IDs and a plastic bottle that was sliced open. Tired, frustrated and sweating through the clothes on my back, I gave up and we picked up some beer to heal the pain.
Since the building we were inhabiting was to be torn down in a matter of weeks, my friend had already found a couch to crash on and, thankfully, his temporary roommate would be out, so he knew of a spare bed I could sleep on until the next day, when I could find the Germans who hated non-German speaking students.
That next day, I woke up prepared for the worst.
Much to my surprise, the lady in the office was super nice and helpful. It wasn’t a bother for her to help out this sleep-deprived, Canadian girl who felt idiotic and presumably smelled bad. And the wave of relief that followed almost made me cry.
Clearly this wasn’t her first time dealing with a frazzled, non-German-speaking, international student who doesn’t know how to operate a door. And I will forever be grateful for her sympathy.