Off World

So of course, mere hours from climbing onto a transAtlantic flight to spend 14 hours in an airtight low-pressure environment at thirty thousand feet, three guesses as to what kind of bug decides to take up residence in my chassis.

Right.  The sinus-clogging, throat-blocking kind.  The kind that can be kept at bay with decongestants and medicinal liquids far exceeding the paranoid 100ml limit that airlines allow for such substances, lest I MacGyver my shampoo and Otravin into a dirty nuke over Iceland.  Also the kind that makes you cough, which these days is enough to get you carted off to swine flu quarantine.  (Yup.  After lead, asbestos, mercury, acid rain, climate change, phthalates/hormone disrupters, liar’s loans, credit meltdowns, and ecosystem degradation on an apocalyptic scale— this is when the powers that be decide to start respecting the Precautionary Principle.  Oh, this and SARS.  cough cough).

I’m hammering at this thing with as many pharmaceutical and wiccan extracts as I can afford.  Hopefully my eardrums won’t implode on descent.  In the meantime I’m trying to get my head around the allegation that most commercial establishments don’t take credit cards in Germany, and trying to figure out how much to tip the bathroom attendants.

Any advice?

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday June 29 2009at 07:06 am , filed under On the Road . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

25 Responses to “Off World”

  1. yes. tip 50 cent.
    Are you staying in frankfurt by any chance?

  2. I rarely get colds anymore, but what I do get are allergies that feel like head colds. Loratodine (Allavert) is the best for that I’ve found.

    No advice that really works fast, but there is a lot of new evidence that Vitamin D and Omega 3 Fish Oil (DHA and EPA) supplements are extremely good immune system boosters (much more than Vitamin C).

  3. In Holland, Denmark, France and Norway (my recent Euro experiences) we just withdrew euros from ATMs. The exchange rate is an issue, but then it is for credit too.

  4. Visa or MasterCard and you’ll be good, AFAIK. Otherwise you can get cash from any hole-in-the-wall ATM with said credit card. Good luck with that bug!

  5. Get yourself the EU equivalent of a netty pot. Yes pouring warm saline through your sinuses is really fucking gross but if it works it works. In a pinch load up a squeeze bottle, tilt head sideways and squeeze bottle inside one nostril until saline leaks out of other.

    That failing, voodoo.

  6. Anecdotally, downing a shot or two of tequila has helped with the past few bouts of sinusitis I’ve had. Don’t know that it would do much for the kind of infection that lives up in the rafters, but my sinus troubles tend to concentrate in the post-nasal canals, and for that infestation, high-power booze seems an adequate incendiary.

    Also possible is that it just gets me buzzed enough not to care.

  7. I agree with Jan, .50 euro for the washroom attendant.

    What little I know:

    If you need cold meds while there, you want an Apotheke (ap oh TAKE uh) , not a Drogerie. The later has no medicine, just personal care stuff like shampoo.

    Your bank may screw you on the exchange rate for cash or credit card, so you could go with the “When in Rome” principle, and use credit cards for big purchases in tourist traps, big stores, and for the hotel, and default to cash for medium and small stuff.

    Of course you already know not to get euros at the airport, and to make fewer but larger ATM withdrawals to reduce the crazy fee-per-transaction.

    The waiter’s tip is figured into the bill already, so no need to leave more than 10%. Classy & cool, I hear, is to leave the next rounded up amount: 23.75 ==> 25.00, for example, but I was never cool enough to pull that off cleanly. If they really give you super service, or you’re very jolly and drunk, er, I never heard a complaint about an over-tip!

    Most eateries, you seat yourself, unless it’s an expensive place. Tables may have litlte “Reserviert” signs on them, and it means what you think – don’t sit there.

    Fork is held in your left hand, knife in the right.

    They’re very nice when you try to speak German to them and fail epically.

    Lastly, baby, oh baby, excellent beer. Mmmmm, dunkles Hefeweizen, bitte! *Homer Simpson noise* and Spätzle!

    That’s all I got.

    Have fun, if that’s possible with clogged sinuses at 30,000 feet. Beer. I hear beer will help.

  8. My mom always prescribes a shot of sambuca!!

  9. Germany? Oh my, oh my.
    Guess what? W’re on the same continent!
    What bliss!

    Why didn’t you say so earlier, I would have bought a copy of Blindsight, gotten myself on a train and stalked you out to get it singed.

    Or don’t you like your overly obsessive and slightly creepy fans here in good old Europe?

  10. Where in Germany? Beer varies by region (but is always excellent, from what I hear).

    Taken early, Sambucol is indeed said to lessen flu symptoms. But Sambuca may also be good 😉

    My favourite remedy is a good malt. Alas I don’t think you can get any in Germany.

  11. Jan guessed it: Frankfurt.

    Leaving in a couple of hours, assuming I don’t get stuck in bloody Iceland, which seems to have obtained some kind of international decree banning the use of English on any online map of Keflavik International Airport …

  12. I’m on it. Retrieving information as we speak.

  13. wow. I live in frankfurt.
    If you have some time to spare, let’s drink a bembel of ebbelwoi and have a smoke and a talk. (My expertise is in philosophy, publishing and as a tour guide ;)) What are you planning to do here, anyway?

  14. Hey Jan,

    That could be fun. I don’t yet know how much time I’ll have to spare: Thursday’s booked with the folks who are flying me over, and I head right back on Friday, so if I have any time to spare it’ll be late afternoon/evening on Wednesday. But for all I know my hosts may have something planned for that night as well, and I don’t want to commit until I know. Which won’t be until I’ve settled in.

    Drop me an e-mail (there’s a link on the Author page). I’ll probably be offline until after the flight, but the hotel (Goldman 25Hrs) has free wireless.

    It would be nice to have a tour guide. I’ve been spending hours fretting about tipping rates, and what to do if I don’t have exact change for the toilets…

  15. Information retrieved. Now in your inbox.

  16. If you don’t have a .5 coin for the plate, drop a 1 euro. Then pee twice.

    Don’t worry; Germans are extraordinarily civilized and kind, and they’re used to foreigners bumbling around their cities.

    Are you driving from the airport? For some reason, I want to put you on 5 north to cross the river – Jan, help! Should he approach Frankfurt from the south or the west if he’s driving?

  17. I’m being driven. Someone’s picking me up. Now I’m trying to figure out whether I’m supposed to tip a driver who’s getting paid by another party.

    Actually, now I’m drinking free Merlot with diet coke and peanuts in the bottom of the glass, waiting for my flight to board. These executive-class lounges are pretty cool. They even have slaves up here. Or maybe servants. I don’t know– what do you call people who slip across the background like ghosts and pick up your mess the moment you set it down? Something like “mothers”, I guess, except they don’t nag. And they seem nice.

  18. good morning.
    If you don’t pay the driver, you needn’t tip him either.
    Seems you worry a little bit too much!?

  19. Yes, you can relax about the tipping. Staff in Europe don’t rely on tips; for them it is a perk earned by giving above-average service. Restaurants – yes; everyone else at your discretion. And they won’t hex you if you don’t.

  20. Unlike the peeps above I won’t mollycoddle you. Scoff some vitamins if need be but this is no time for sniffliness! Don’t forget you’re there for a reason and you’re there to meet ppl, make new connections and generally KICK ASS.

    You can keel over when you step off the plane at this end.

    In the meantime, what noise do tigers make?
    I said, what noise do tigers make!!
    C’mon, I wanna hear it. Again!
    That’s right. You go get ’em….

  21. Have fun in Frankfurt Peter!

    Any chance of you making a quick hop to Finland as well?

    -Hannu

  22. jan says. Seems you worry a little bit too much!?

    Can’t speak for him, but no one wants to be perceived as one of Those Awful Rude Americans.

    I don’t know– what do you call people who slip across the background like ghosts and pick up your mess the moment you set it down?

    Haha! “Mothers!”

    Isn’t it eye-opening to peep at how the upper class lives? Suddenly every interaction is more positive, as I gloooow with auric specialness. The servants are paid to be my reassuring detail-oriented caregiver-bots. I suspect that long-term, it would warp a person’s mind. My mind, anyway.

    Hope you can relax and wallow in the idea of free car service and first class accommodations.

  23. Hljóðlegur – luckily, Peter’s Canadian, so no problem there :-)

  24. Just end every sentence with eh and pronounce ‘about’ as ‘aboot’ and nobody will confuse you as an American.

  25. luckily, Peter’s Canadian, so no problem there

    Er, by now everybody in Europe knows that Americans put big, noticeable Canadian flags on their back-packs and suitcases, so as not to be perceived as Those Awful Rude Americans, and to not run afoul of Those Awful Rude Terrists.