Monday, 20 July 2009

A Munich Retrospective: People, Places, Things...Lessons Learned

The last couple of weeks in Munich have been an adventure. It all started shortly after the Christopher Street Day Parade. I went out to get a shot from a storefront at some late night hour, convinced I wouldn't get the shot the next day because they would change the display (they did, but thankfully I got the shot). On the way back I noticed two people standing in a doorway looking at something. When I found the object of their gaze I saw a man sleeping standing up. Something was obviously wrong. As it turned out, he was an American in Munich on a business trip. He wasn't much older than I was, and he was drunk out of his mind. We kept asking if he had a phone or someone to contact, thinking he was totally lost. As it turned out, he and his friends had been out, he'd had the key and then they'd wanted to go home, so he gave the key to them. Of course when he got home, they weren't home. As this information was exchanged, the weather, already bad became chillier and more rain began to fall. The other couple left saying they had to go to bed, and that he'd be fine. The bar that was open said it wasn't their problem. We called the medical emergency number and were told to call the police. We called the police and they said they would send someone by. In the meantime I talked to him some more. When the police showed up, they talked to him a bit put him in a cab and sent him to a motel. I hoped that it had all worked out. Every time we had asked him something he had flashed his wallet, with American money, Euros, credit cards, everything. It was a risky situation and all I could keep thinking was, if it was my kid, I'd hope someone would do something for him
A few days later in the grocery store close by I saw him, sober this time, with his friend. They were buying more beer. I walked by him. I spoke English, but I didn't ask him how he was doing or if he got home OK that night. When I noticed a cell phone that someone had left in a basket I turned it in, leading us to chat in the informal way that strangers do.
Lesson Learned: Don't put yourself in situations that make you reliant on strangers. Also maybe don't get drunk and locked out in Munich (especially if you don't speak German).

A couple of days later I was carrying things home from my apartment on the underground. I had loads of bags and a heavy wooden stool. Shortly before I was meant to get off a man looked over at me smiled and said how impressed he was that I could carry all that stuff and ride the train. He let me get off the train first, something that is totally rare here in Munich, and then offered to carry the stool for me. After chatting about where I had gotten it and how it was remarkably stable for a piece of IKEA furniture, he asked my name. Perhaps it would have been the nice thing to do, but I felt a bit odd, so I kind of smiled awkwardly. As we went our separate ways I realised that it's often the most unlikely candidates that step up and do the right or just downright nice thing.
Lesson Learned: People can and do surprise you.

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