“What have you got to smile about?”


Last Friday morning I woke up displeased. The cat was licking my nose and even in my sleepy state I remembered that I had discovered it lapping out of the toilet bowl the day before. I yanked my eyes open and looked at LSB who was fast asleep, wearing an angelic countenance and taking up most of the bed.

We had been to a concert the night before and I hadn’t slept enough. Going to work seemed like a waste of a day, especially when LSB was in town. I rolled to the bathroom, wearily sliced the heads off my strawberries and left LSB a little note explaining how the key worked.

The only person in the office when I arrived was Benji, the curly-haired production assistant. He sits opposite me and I like him very much. He often chuckles to himself at things he reads or overhears and I find he has an unusually pleasant and uncomplicated presence.

“Morning! How are you doing?” I said cheerily, for it is only my nearest and dearest that I privilege to the unbridled version of my morning grumpiness.

“Not good,” he said.

“What? Why?”

“The internet’s down!”

“No?!”

“Yes.”

Internet problems are an inconvenience at the best of times but when you work for a website, it’s enough to..

Take the day off.

It was that simple. At first they were talking about calling me to come back in when the connection was restored but then one of the editors pulled me over and whispered “go out and have a nice day with your boyfriend.”

When I texted LSB to tell him the news, he thought it was a prank.

We arranged to meet at Alexanderplatz, the large square featuring the iconic TV tower which was lit up green when I visited it all alone on St Patrick’s Day.

On my way there I was delayed by an old man who wanted to sell me a subscription to Die Zeit, a German weekly. I tried to explain very gently that I had only stopped because I thought he was giving out a free copy but the sweeter I was, the more enthusiastic he became. He positively glowed as he told me about the special money-off coupons I would be entitled to should I sign up. In the end, I apologised and he let me go. He even winked at me as I was walking away.

Since I had time to kill and was in a joyous mood, I decided it was a good time to pay my €40 fine.

“Next,” a dreary voice behind the counter called.

“Hello!” I said to a long-faced man with glassy eyes and a thin, white moustache that fell in an incomplete rectangle over his lips.

He didn’t reply so I continued, “I would like to pay my fine please.”

“Well then what on earth have you got to smile about?” he asked.

“Well..” I was going to tell him the truth about my day off but thought it might be insensitive.

Instead I told him that I had made an honest mistake so instead of feeling guilty, I considered it one of life’s comparatively unimportant annoyances.

“It’s a costly mistake to make,” he said, as if he were a sage tasked with evaluating the severity of my misdemeanor.

“Well, yes,” I said “but as of now I’m free of my punishment and I’m looking forward to returning to normal life.”

I may have been mistaken but a tiny grin seemed to creep its way towards the incomplete rectangle of his moustache.

Back at Alexanderplatz, LSB seemed to be taking much too long.

Suddenly my phone (or Haendy, as the locals call it) rang. It was LSB. And he was upset and agitated.

“Katzi.” he said.

“Yes?”

“I can’t open the door.”

“What door?”

“Your door.”

“Why?”

“It won’t open.”

“What do you mean it won’t open?”

“JUST THAT.”

“Well.. have you tried the key?”

Strangely, the question seemed to irk him.

“Katzi. I can’t get out.”

“Did you see the note I left with the key?”

Silence.

“I’ll be right there,” I said, hoping it wasn’t a prank.

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3 thoughts on ““What have you got to smile about?”

  1. Well, was it a prank or not? You can’t just stop at the most exciting spot! Poor LSB – how long was he locked in?
    Anyway, we are all awaiting your next instalment with great trepidation.
    I read with great amusement your encounter with the dreary voice behind the counter and you being challenged about your smile.

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