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Handy April 29, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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…which is German (and Finnish) for mobile phone.

The Russian, when out shopping for some new accessory for his stinking computer – we might have to move to a bigger flat to accommodate them all soon – found a mobile. He announced this with unnecessary anger to me upon his return, as if I had forced him into a particularly thorny moral dilemma. I asked, good-citizenishly, if he’d rung its owner. “Нет.” My petit bourgeois housewife genes went into overdrive and I took the job on with full Margo-Leadbetteresque vigour. (Gosh Paul Eddington was a diamond geezer. Has anyone ever seen him interviewed? Incredibly nice man.) Obviously I had a good rummage through the phone beforehand though. “Who owns a Handy like this?” I mused, in a Boston accent. The make was exactly the shitty one I got two of “for free” with my laptop before Christmas (or was it the laptop free with the two mobiles? Daggi, you were so right not to go for the same deal. I’ve never had higher phone bills in my life. I checked the mailbox in New Zealand – admittedly a silly thing to do – and it cost over 30 euros. Thieving cunts), an extraordinary lightweight piece of crap which I initially took for a maquette of the ‘real’ phone I would find as I waded through further packaging. Anyway, so the loser – of the telephone, I’m not casting aspersions – had a crappy phone like mine. This made me think they must be working class, plus they’d lost it on our street, which reinforced that suspicion. What reinforced it doubly was that the crappy piece of plastic had a camera in it. “This person’s life just so hasn’t got anything to do with Heidegger,” I continued, Bostonianly. The loser had also plumped for a two-tone variety of shoddy plastic. Hmm. I began to go through the address book to see if there was an obvious number to phone in preference to all others. Gosh, you can get to know a lot, it turns out, about a mobile-loser from their lost goods. Within minutes, I knew the loser’s parents were divorced, that it had grandparents (not divorced. Honestly, the parents of today), that it had a brother and a sister (3 children, eh? Mutti doing her bit to keep the population up) (and it called brother and sister Brüderchen and Schwesterchen, so that suggests a happy family, at least, since father fucked off, perhaps. Although relations with him clearly weren’t too bad as it had his home and mobile numbers stored too) and that it had a darling, listed as ‘darling’, in English. Hmm, probably a girl, then. I don’t think a boy would write ‘darling’, in English. Mind you, perhaps, if he was 18, and a closeted homosexual, say, and this was his first girlfriend. Or maybe the loser was just a homosexual and ‘darling’ was his boyfriend. Or it was a lesbian. Or just a girl. Mother, it turned out, had a job, as there were two numbers, so quadruply respectable by Berlin standards. A job! In 2006? NO-ONE who’s anyone has a job in Berlin. Jobs are seriously uncool. But Mutti had a job. There was a work number and a mobile number for her. I fingered onwards, and eventually hit the jackpot with My Home Number. I got dialling, bracing myself to speak German for the first time in months. Pants. Answering-machine. I fumbled a sentence, avoiding articles where possible, in a sort of telegramese – My-name-BiB-Handy-found-*-Straße-my-number-* – and put the phone down. “Hm, that won’t do,” I thought, Margoly, and decided to ring Mutti on her Handy. Another answering-machine, but with Mutti’s name, so I now knew the phone belonged to a person with a bog-standard German surname. I also called Mutti’s mobile from the lost goods and a recorded woman told me there wasn’t much money left in the phone and could I jolly well get on and fill it nicely back up with money. “Hm, unemployed young person or child,” I concluded, with ever-increasing smugness and certitude. But mother sounded normal enough in her message. No overtly Berlin accent. No long-term alcohol problems. All in all, she sounded your average, early-40s, short-blond-hair-and-glasses divorced mother of three teenagers. I repeated my telegram and hung up, wondering what exciting twist the saga would next take.

About half a nanosecond later, the average, early-40s, short-blond-hair-and-glasses divorced mother of three teenagers rang back. “You heff found ze telefon of my daughter,” she said, with a hint of accusation, and in real, not comedy German. “Yes, yes,” I said, trying to sound urbane and not-foreign. “Well, I’m at home now so your…” “Oh, she is already on ze vay.” “Oh, good, well, my surname is…”

“Bzzzzzzzz.” Fuck, that was quick. I’d hardly had time to make further judgments about Mrs. Standard-German-surname’s daughter before having to speak to it, I mean her, at the door. “2nd floor.” I opened the front door and could hear the guffawing and ecstatic gushings of a multitude of teenage girls thundering enthusiastically up the stairs. I braced myself for exposed midriffs, ipods and the combined odour of cigarette and kebab. The perfectly-ordinary-actually daughter, not reeking of Döner, then loomed into view with her acolytes, gushing gratefully and politely before skipping off out of my life again for ever.

Because I’m insane, it all troubled me inordinately. Not her divorced parents and the slight wankiness of the phone itself, but that the cunting thing should have been deemed a thing of such total importance. I imagine her guffawing, dribbling acolytes must have been part of a search-party that she’d had casing our Straße since the moment the loss was observed. The speed with which she got here means she simply must have had a helicopter on standby for when the important news came in. (She may, of course, have lived nearby.) And perhaps she’d eaten a lot of sugar today, or was herself of unsound mind, or was giggly in an American-teenage-tennis-player kind of way, but I slightly minded her being SO happy at her phone being found. I thought she ought to be saving that level of happiness for when something REALLY good happened, like when she discovers she’s done well in some exam or other, or been accepted onto her nail-varnishing course or, heaven forfend, when she discovers a loved one whom she thought was in danger in Turkmenistan was in fact alive and well. But not for a flipping Handy. I could hear her and her friends continue their gush as they frolicked off back down the stairs, amazed at the miracle of all that had happened. Or perhaps she has an inexhaustible supply of happiness and I should try to resist the urge to turn into the grumpy old git who tells children playing on his street to keep the noise down. But the kids of today. We were happy with an apple at Christmas.

Still, if Mrs. Standard-surname sends us a bunch of flowers on Tuesday, all will, of course, be forgiven.

Comments»

1. daggi - April 30, 2006

I got a packet of cheap Lidl-ish “Matchmakers” (you know, those sickly-sweet hollow tubes made out of ‘krokant’ (no idea what that is in English) which taste a bit of mouthwash, I mean, peppermint essence) for finding someone’s ‘Handy’. I phoned Mutti too. I didn’t find out as much about the owner as you did though. Unfortunately. I should have kept it.

2. The Blind-Winger Jones - April 30, 2006

Greetings to our man in Berlin. Please keep the natives in check.

3. Anonymous - May 1, 2006

Nice story, with a touch of Suskind. ;)))

br23.net

4. Amy - May 1, 2006

Ace post – I felt like I was there, although in a surreal way; not like I was ACTUALLY in your living room or anything. I can see the group of girls frolicking with handy-found glee down the street, and can imagine Mrs Normalname preparing fruechter oder roobish tea in one of those kaennchen things (you can tell I can’t be bother to find the umlaut…) in a third floor appartment. I miss my little German appartment, street, kaennchen and irritating groups of teenagers (the later less so). Thanks for the nostaligia trip.

5. BiB - May 2, 2006

Daggi, I suppose I might just have to content myself with Mrs. Normalname’s thanks.

Hello Blind-Winger Jones. I’ll do my best as long as you promise to keep us bang up-to-date with the ‘life’ of a dead footballer. Deal?

br23.net… Hello Prague. This is Berlin calling. Can we have the results of the Czech jury? Actually, why don’t the Czechs take part in the Eurovision? I struggle with Süskind, I have to say. I still haven’t managed to finish Perfume, after several attempts. I’ll try again, one day. I see only now that he wrote it when in his mid-20s. I’m feeling old…

Amy, happy to be able to bring a little bit of Germany to Fairyland.

6. lukeski - May 2, 2006

The lack of Czechness in Eurovision mystifies me – I was rather under the impression that all of these former Soviet satellites were dying to engage with the vagaries of Western European civilisation. On another (unrelated note), Polish sweets are the sweetest things I have ever eaten. Strawberry, vanilla and dark chocolate. I can feel my enamel dissolving as I type.

7. BiB - May 2, 2006

Polish sweets? How have you managed to come by them, or are they on sale at your bookselling establishment?

I think the Czechs must be playing it cool for now. They’ll join in eventually. (Do the Slovaks sit it out too, now that I come to think of it?) (According to Daggi, there was a Warsaw Pact Eurovision Song Contest too. That could well be worth a watch.)

8. daggi - May 3, 2006

I was just dissapointed to find out (via Wikipedia, so the details may be badly wrong) that the Intervision Song Contest, as it was indeed called only took place four times, between 1977 and 1980 inclusive. 1981 (the contest, not the year as such) was cancelled due to Solidarnosc and martial law in Poland, where each contest took place, in Sopot.

Before, since 1961 (and again afterwards the Tank-enforced break, when it restarted in 1984) it was called the “Sopot International Song Festival”. You’ll be pleased to know, B, that the Finns have won it twice. Since Polish state television lost interest (the gay/kitsch/postmodern ironic market not being one that Polish government and media bigwigs have yet discovered/considered/decided it would be politically prudent to waste licence-fee money on) it is now covered by a pirate television channel.

9. BiB - May 4, 2006

The Finns? Forced into it by Moscow no doubt. But was there the suspense of the jury voting? Did they say, “Hello, Sopot, this is Budapest calling,” except, I suppose, in Russian? I know there was some Soviet song contest in Jurmala (Latvia) too, but in that great land, where the people lived in a spirit of love and brotherhood, I don’t suppose the juries from each SSR voted for each other. “Here are the results of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic jury. Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, 1 point, Эстонской Советской Социалистической Республике, 1 очко.” Well, maybe it is pretty catchy after all…


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