I’m actually not sure which made me feel more like a dumbass; the original reason behind the picnic basket or walking around the center of a large, trendy metropolis like Hamburg with it – this heavy, cumbersome wicker box slung across my body. The leather strap dug into my shoulder through my shirt as I awkwardly tread down the sidewalk of Jungfernsteig, trying to find the real life manifestation of where Google had marked the post office with a big red pinpoint. This search was proving to be frustrating and unfruitful, as the GPS on my phone kept insisting that the Apple Store was the post office when it was so clearly evident that it was not. Yet no matter how many times I retyped the address or maneuvered my phone through the air to make sure I was walking in the right direction, the GPS adamantly insisted that this was the place. Shaking my head, I ducked inside the pristine glass doors into the delicate simplicity that is the Apple Store with this large, clumsy basket in tow. Ignoring the inquisitive looks I detected in my peripheral vision, I politely asked the first smiling “Genius” if they could tell me where I could find the post office.
“Oh! If you go down into the U-Bahn station they have a small kiosk!” he cheerfully replied, lying through his teeth as I found out later. The closest thing to a post office I could find in the U-Bahn station was a gift shop selling postcards and “HAMBURG” swag.
Exasperated, I considered just leaving the damn thing on a bench somewhere just to have it out of my life and (even better) off of my body. But then I thought better of it– the last thing I need to add to this pile of shit I’m in is to end up on the eleven o’clock news as the “Hamburg Picnic Basket Terrorist”. Despite my amusement at the thought of the bomb squad robot being used to remove this harmless, ever-so-1950’s picnic basket, I was just feeling low and defeated. I grabbed the leather strap, switched shoulders and trudged down the sidewalk to make my way back to the Haptbahnhof. I’m never getting rid of this stupid thing, I thought as tears threatened to form. I fought them back, knowing that just walking around looking as miserable as I probably did while carrying this idiotically cheerful object probably made me look like a total lunatic as is. If I started crying, I might get the Polizei following me. I had a train to catch, and the best thing for me was to take my picnic basket and get the hell out of there until I could figure out another way to get rid of it.
The thing is, it really was a cute basket. It came with plates, champagne flutes and steel cutlery and was fitted with a triangle-shaped top and very picnic-y blue plaid lining. I even thought about keeping it, but I needed it gone.
I rode the stuffy, crowded train toward home with the stupid thing on my lap. I wanted to just park it on the seat next to me, but then I would have been subjected to stern German glares and emphatic “Entschuldigung!”s for taking up an extra seat like another thoughtless American. I got out at Buchholz rather than home to Lauenbrück, deciding that I would have better luck finding a post office there.
Well, I was almost right. I did find a post office. It was a cute red brick storefront among other cute red brick storefronts with a friendly yellow sign that said “Deutsch Post”…right next to a much less friendly sign saying “Geschlossen” (CLOSED). The leather strap weighing painfully on my shoulder, I stood there and stared for a good minute, silently talking myself out of just setting the fucking thing on fire right there.
I didn’t have any matches anyway.
I could get some.
It was going to be at least another forty minutes until the next train home arrived, and all I could think to do was slump down on a bench at the platform with the nuisance basket at my feet and wait. Twenty minutes later more people began to congregate on the platform, some waiting for my train, others on the opposite side going back to Hamburg. An elderly woman came over and sat next to me. I managed to offer her a polite smile but then turned my gaze back to the tracks as I was losing the battle to stop myself from crying.
Christ, Laura, pull yourself together.
But that thought only weakened my defense and I felt a wet drop glide down my face, which I quickly wiped away and turned my head the opposite direction of the woman. When I finally felt more stabilized, I turned back. This sweet lady was now looking at me with a sympathetic expression on her face, holding her hand out to offer me a small package of tissues.
This unfortunately opened the floodgates as my restrained tears became uncontrollable sobs. So much for pulling myself together. However, I was grateful for her kindness after such an awful day. I gently took them from her hand, smiled and thanked her appreciatively.
Jesus. Now I must look completely insane to this poor woman – sitting here bawling with a picnic basket at my feet.
Stop it. STOP.
I somehow managed to calm down as I was growing more weary by the minute, my energy drained by the day’s events. More than anything, I was just so mad at myself for even being in this situation. Praying to whatever deity happened to be listening for a sinkhole to swallow me right there, I slumped in defeat and waited for the next train home.