When not to lose your work laptop…

What not to do when traveling through 5 countries, in 40 hours, through 5 security checkpoints….Don’t bother to check your laptop bag at any point to make sure the laptop airport security put back in your bag is in fact, the one you handed them. And, don’t be suspect that you were in fact pulled out of line 3 different times for “random screening.”  In fact, don’t bother to check any of this til Maine, 48 hours, 5 countries, 5 security points, three car rides later. 

Go ahead, say it, I’m stupid.  At this point, I deserve it.

Pray to the payroll gods above that I, Heather Smith, have the laptop of some patient person in Serbia, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Zurich, Montreal, Boston, or eff, anywhere in all of Europe.  And if I do, said patient person, do you have mine?? Because if so, you can reach me at: ihaveawesomejobineuropeidon’twanttobefiredfrom.com  and at this point, I’ll hand-deliver yours, no matter what effing country you’re in.

Yours truly,

Heather “Nancy Drewing this international crisis” S….

Germans–insecure, much?

middle_fingerYesterday I gathered all the evidence I needed to prove something I’ve been pretty sure of since my first week here.  The Germans are out of control.  I’m serious.  I can prove this one. And just saying this, especially to the whole free world, will make them want to arrest me.  Yes, them.  As in all Germans.  I’ve lumped them all together and don’t even feel bad about it and here’s why. 

There is such a thing as the German Insult Law.  This law is primarily used to protect the “honor and dignity” of all German law enforcement and government officials (yes, including the President) Yeah, wtf.  It exists, it’s insane and it’s a CRIMINAL offense.  Furthermore, it is commonly used in  punishing “mere criticism of government policies or public officials, to stifle political discussion, and to squelch news and discussion that governments would rather avoid.”  Get.the.hell.out.of.here.  

Now, that’s not even the part that makes them crazier than a one-eyed bear.  What’s even crazier is that they use it on each other.  In order to create a more peaceful environment here, here are things that are NOT acceptable ways to behave, under said Insult Law (featured here: ://www.hqjmtc.army.mil/Organization/Special_Personal_Staff/Staff_SJA/Staff_SJA_FactSheets_Documents/German%20Law%20of%20Insult.pdf)

Now, let’s go over my favorite offenses that are punishable by fines and up to two years imprisonment.  

1.  Giving someone the one finger salute.  Don’t even try it.  They can sue you.  This includes while driving.  ESPECIALLY while driving. 

2. Calling someone a name that is insulting.  Some of my favorite words have been banned for the purpose of this insult law: Assclown, asshole, douchebag, dick, bastard–all not allowed.  Jackass, the C word (my mother hates that word), and bitch…not allowed. 

3. Throwing your hands over your head after being cut off in traffic…not allowed.  Any sort of waving motion in front of your face (think jazz hands) to express anger…not allowed.  I was told it’s the equivalent of the middle finger.  Who knows.

4. Don’t use the word pig when referring to or addressing a police officer.  I don’t understand why people love this anyway.  And no oinking, because that’s disrespectful too.  (that one is my interpretation only)

4. Tapping your head in traffic, as though to say, “What?  Are you a goddamned moron?” while staring at the moron who just cut you off…not allowed.  Really, Germany?

5. Referring to a German woman as “lady”….not allowed.  No wonder the old women around me behave the way they do.  Lady, for the record, is not insulting.  Miserable, crotchety shrew is insulting.

blasphemyAnd now for another fun law: The Blasphemy Law.  DO NOT start hating on God and probably all of his friends.  Don’t do it.  But for the sake of making a point, I”ll post this, which I found in reading up on these laws.  And yes, I know.  I just secured my spot in hell.  Surprise, surprise.

So, those are my favorites.  Now here are a few other things you can sue your neighbors for. 

1.  Not taking care of your lawn.

2.  Being too noisy on Relaxation Sunday.  (no one is allowed to work or be loud here on Sundays.  It’s bizarre.)

3.  Not shoveling the snow before 7am.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen any Saturday or SUnday morning. 

So, there is some proof for you.  Out. of. Control.  Really. I think this is common European practice, though, as so many countries have these laws, meaning so many other people around the world just LOVE to sue the bejesus out of each other.  It must be like a game, punishing each other all the time.  This just would not work back in the states.  For one, half of the population would be in jail or in court daily due to running their mouth.  All of NYC would be in jail for giving the finger, cutting people off and acting aggressive towards each other (not allowed here).  And good god.  We just had eight years of GW Bush.  How many people would be in jail right now for criticizing his brilliant effort at ruining, I mean running, the country? 

I’m not going to even get into what happens if you are charged, arrested, etc.  It’s absurd.  All I know is that I’ll be keeping my finger to myself and my insults quiet.  I will admit, though, Germany (and whoever else practices these laws) is probably a more peaceful (less insulting, maybe) place than the U.S. will ever be, which is really odd considering that whole thing that happened here, say 50-60 years ago….

Either way, as respectful as I’ll be while living here, I’m proud of my mouth and my freedom back home to run it.  Final (personal) thoughts on this?  Suck it up, Germany.  You’re acting like an insecure, 14 year old girl.  Grow a pair and stop being such a sally.

Words and number two pencils feed this soul…

Anyone that knows me well knows that I have only one real goal in life:  To write a book.  I’d probably exert myself a bit and come up with a few more goals, but I think that one is enough.  To be able to sit at home every day, drinking coffee and writing for a living…ahhh, well, I could think of nothing better.  Hmm, scratch that.  Doing it in a house in Maine that overlooks a lake…now that would be the life. 

Trying to get a job here was stressful and time-consuming and kept me away from the pen and paper.  The self-induced depression that set in on the days I really didn’t want to be unemployed anymore was **fun and didn’t give me the best mindset I needed to write.  But now?  Now I’ll probably just be too busy with work and tired because of work to write as much as I did this summer.  It’s a vicious cycle of laziness, exhaustion and no motivation.  I hate it.  And so in creating writing goals for myself in 2009-2010, I thought about a few books, people and things from my past that inspired me to write in the first place and have inspired me to keep writing.  Here is my list:

1.  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler:  It’s taken me about 5 years of reminding myself to look up this book and after a quick google search (kids runaways the Met), I found it! Finally!  I ordered it from Amazon today so that I can reread and remember the reasons I fell in love with this book at the age of 9.  This book is timeless and should be read by all kids before they finish elementary school.

sb library2. The South Berwick Library:  “You dropped a 150 grand on a fuckin’ education you could have gotten for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.” Ahh, I’ll always find a way to quote Good Will Hunting, and it’s true.  You can learn more in a library in one summer than you can in four years at college.  As a former (somewhat) latchkey kid living in small town Maine, I spent a lot of my days at the library, unless I was at Meme’s, baking muffins or playing rummy.  I think it’s sad that most kids today have never been inside the library in their town and have no idea what a library card looks like.  A library card is worth more than any credit card.

3.  My high school English teacher.  I will refrain from naming him, as I’m fb friends with his daughters, but anyone that went to high school with me will know who I’m talking about.  I haven’t seen or talked to him more than once or twice since high school, and I’m sure he has no idea how much he influenced me, but when I write, I still think sometimes about what he’d have to say.  His standards were high and he was honest, and more importantly, he treated us like adults and didn’t put up with our bullshit.  He was funny and swore every fifth sentence, invited us over for the holidays and had the best stories to tell.  He made me want to write, or teach, and I’ll never forget my favorite line that came out of his mouth. “Sophia Loren can park her slippers under my bed any day of the week…”  Every writer has an old English teacher they’d like to thank.  I have mine.

4. Hatchet.  I have no idea why this book has been stuck in the back of my head for over two decades, but it has.  Did I just say two decades?  Jesus.  I think I have something for books that have some sort of survival of the fittest/children in nature theme… I’ll have to order this one too. 

5.  The Catcher in the Rye: Obviously.  In trying not to be too generic (picking this book makes it already too late for that…)  I’ll at least explain that I love this book because it always reassures me that I can write a book in first person.  God, there is nothing I love more than writing in stream of conciousness.  Another book that’s fantastic for this is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.  Worth noting is my favorite quote which starts on p. 305 and finishes with this little gem on p. 306.  “Why are these people not noticing?  Why is it not considered unusual that I’m writhing on the floor?  Have I writhed on this carpet before?  I try to think of when that might have happened—.”

best pencil6.   The Dixon Ticonderoga Classic #2 Pencil:  Nothing is better than having your favorite writing tool.  Mine is the pencil, extra sharp.  I will never pick a pen over this pencil.  It will always be my favorite.

7.  Mother of Sorrows:  Because Richard McCann writes in a way that I cannot yet. 

8.  Etsy journals:  I’m sucker for homemade paper.  I don’t like lines on my paper and I like to feel the paper bump and smooth under my pencil as I write.  That, and they make really cute journals.  I could have one for every occasion and never be satisfied. 

9.  The Image.  It’s actually bizarre that I’ve fallen in love with the old school writing image—the starving artist, deep, dark,tragically misunderstood, scotch drinking, brilliant, tortured soul.  It’s not very becoming, and I don’t think anyone normal sets out to reduce themselves to a crazy, alcoholic, writing machine, but it’s romantic, in a very unusual, twisted way….

pulitzer10.  The Pulitzer Prize:  There’s always a prize for the best at everything.  This is my prize.

But what’s the real reason I keep writing?  Because when life really sucks, sometimes it’s the only thing you have left.  You, your thoughts, and your pencil.  And for me, that’s enough.

Big week, big week

me mox zugs

This picture has nothing to do with my big week.  I opted to start today’s update with the picture because it makes me giggle.  Moxie is afraid of heights apparently and she dislikes being picked up in general, usually making it ridiculously awkward for me to lift her.  And so typical, she got all awkward on me on the mountain trip this weekend and the result was this picture.  Hahah, I love her and I love this picture.

Now, back to life in Aidlingen.  So, in exactly one week, I heard of a job, interviewed for said job, was offered the job, and started yesterday.  Hurray!  My days of being a kept woman are over.  I am back in the mix of politics/logistics/miliary/civilian work, of course in the form of a big, bad contractor.  Booo me, I know.  Whatever.  I’m excited and I’m more excited to get my first paycheck.  Who knew work could be so exciting?  We’ll see how long this excitement lasts….

Now, for a few exciting perks.  I work for the German economy, which means great health care and free life insurance, which is not an invitation for anyone to off me and collect.  I left it all to Moxie, like the old, crazy ass biddy I am.  But really, life insurance and 401ks.  I feel like a new woman. 

They have three different functional kitchens where you can cook your lunch.  Some lady was frying eggs today, no lie.  I like that.  And FOUR coffee machines that will spit you all the coffee, cappuccino, lattes, espresso, hot chocolate, and hot milk you could ever want.  I still have no idea who drinks hot milk.

I am out of sweatpants, which is not so much good for me, but the rest of the free world.  But let’s be honest, I’m about 30 years too early to be wearing sweatpants around the house 7 days a week and I do look pretty spiffy in heels and a skirt, though I fucking hate tights.  I won’t go as far as saying I’m husky or anything but shit, only really skinny girls must not mind tights and they can go to hell.  I ripped a pair today pulling them up, and it’s only my second day.  Back to investing in whoever makes nylons.  Leggs, ah yes, leggs, you clever little bastards. Sidenote: Chris walked in AGAIN today while I was wiggling into my nylons and I will avoid that little meeting again at all cost.  I don’t know why, but men get this intense look of confusion, fear, disgust and curiosity if they catch you half in a pair of nylons.  Or they chase you.  Any of the above is unacceptable and therefore, tights and nylons go on in a dark closet, by MYSELF. (I feel like any girl reading this will completely understand)

I have a map at my desk.  Granted, maps aren’t as cool as globes but this one is nice because it features per diem by country and any map with dollar signs is a nice map.  AND, lucky me, it features Serbia (not Siberia), which is where I will be for a week–starting next week!  Who knew.  Serbia.  So in looking up Serbia, first to find it on a map (brilliant, i know) and then I did a “top ten” of Serbia search and lucky me, Miss Serbia let me know that the best things about Serbia is the people it imports around the world–apparently they’ve got some athletic and intellectual talent over there.  Fair, but I want to hear about the castle situation, favorite drink and food.  Those are important things I should know about.  In looking into it, I find that the plum and grape brandy are favorites, as is the mince meat sandwich (akaserbia castle the hamburger).  The castle situation?  I’m unsure.  I found this old castle, but it’s really nothing to write home about.  In fact, it looks foolish if you ask me.  I guess I’ll have to wait this out and judge Serbia on what I see that week, which really won’t be much outside of Belgrade.

So that leaves me with Serbia’s football team.  I really think you can judge a country over here on how good looking their football team is.  I think that’s fair.  So let’s go over these amazing athletes Miss Serbia is so captivated by.  (she’s not so bad looking herself, really)

jovanovic_milanWe’ve got Milan.  Nice name, I hear he’s quick on his feet, scores a lot, but in some photos he looks like Kevin Federline and that bothers me.  Then we have Zoran, the dark haired fellow giving the sultry eyes.  Then Milos, which really, he just ruins the good looking factor of this team andMilos-Krasic then Neven, who I was going to say is good looking, but then I saw he was born in 1988 and I felt like a dirty pervert.  I don’t feel like posting anymore pictures because they do nothing for me.  Let’s just summarize here and say they don’t have a David Beckham or that yummy tan soccer player I always see in the celebrity blogs, and therefore, I don’t care.  When I return I will write something about all the great things Serbia has to offer…I’m sure it’ll be a great trip.

Back to the work thing.  It’s great, just great.  It’ll be great next week when I travel and it’ll be even better next month when I get paid.  Ah, work…I missed you.

Now, other great things.  1. They started selling Gluhwein at the stores for 1euro/6 liters.  That seems dangerous to me, but since you’re supposed to simmer it over your stove with oranges and cinnamon and such, and not so much chug it out of the bottle, I think the discounted price is fantastic and I’m getting really excited for Christmas season here.

2.  It’s true. cross at zugs Zugspitze is amaaaaazing.  It’s the highest mountain in Germany, and it may be the most beautiful.  We were up there last weekend, it was freezing (literally) and people were skiing everywhere.  The sleeping in your car situation is fantastic in Grainau, the Italian is delectable, the Irish bars are entertaining, and German Christmas shops are magical.  I can raise my right hand and state for the record, “Grainau is bad ass and I will be back to ski this winter.”  I love finding new towns to return to. 

3.  18 days until I’m back in the states for Thanksgiving.  On tap?  Family dinners, reunions with friends, decorating the family tree, viewing wedding sites, dress shopping, outlet shopping, and good old-fashioned New England holiday festivities (see: leftovers, walks outside and napping by the fire).  I cannot WAIT to be home for a week. 

And that is the update for this week…….