I started writing out a very different blog the other day to celebrate my first year of having moved into my apartment. It has been 12 months of challenges while undergoing a major learning curve, and there is still so much to learn. Champagne, my ever-faithful feline companion, has been with me through it all, and then some. Everyone in the building knows her for being the one who marched into people's homes uninvited in the beginning, or can be found wandering the staircase anywhere between the ground floor and the fourth floor because she dashes out when she can seize the opportunity. I usually just run after her, pick her up and carry her back in, or a neighbour will ring my bell to inform my that my cat is loitering outside their door again because she can't tell which one is home. Same procedure as always last night, except there was a major plot twist.
My lovely neighbours returned the spare key after they cat-sat for me last weekend. I was tired, hungry and barefoot, having just come home from work and was looking forward to a quiet evening. Ha! it was anything but that. Champagne made a mad dash for the staircase while the key was being handed over, and I ran out right behind her. It was a windy night, all my windows were tilted open to air the apartment, so naturally, the door slammed shut behind me. I panicked. This was exactly the situation I had been dreading all along. There I was, barefoot in the hallway, no mobile phone and a happily gallivanting cat somewhere in the building. At least I still had my work clothes on and hadn't changed into my nightgown.
Then I remembered that my spare key was in my pocket, so I thought all was well. I said good night to my neighbours and put the key in the lock. It wouldn't budge. Then I panicked even more, realising that my regular keys were stuck in the lock on the other side of the door, as they always are when I am home. First I climbed over the balcony from my neighbours to see if I could stick an arm in through one of my windows to open it and then climb into my own home. Nope, nothing doing. They are solid windows of excellent quality that are not meant to be broken into. The neighbours downstairs were watching me from the parking lot as well and wondered what on earth I was up to, whether I had suddenly gone postal.
So I climbed back into the neighbours home, and ran up to the other neighbour who is a property manager for another building. The little group that had now assembled outside my door was beginning to worry, and by now Champagne was restless and nervous too. So we were lent a pet carrier to contain her, before she caused any more trouble. Down came Mr. S. with his hammer and a few old credit cards (just like in the movies), hopping to be able dislodge my keys from the other side or jimmy the lock open, but he couldn't. That left only one thing, calling the locksmith.
Any business with a locksmith in Germany is an expensive experience, and calling one in to open your door is not cheap, even less so if it is the night duty. OMG. It was almost 9:00pm, Cherry and Lolita were beginning to get nervous inside the apartment as well, and I did my best to keep my cool. It took several calls (one someone else's phone) to find a 24-hour service in Spandau, to no avail, and ended up with someone from further away. In the meantime, Champagne and I were taken in by the neighbours, I was fed, and then my expected grocery delivery arrived (I had set the delivery time between 8-10pm)! They piled everything outside my door, greeted my delinquent cat with amusement, and left.
The locksmith didn't dilly-dally and arrived after an hour. He took all of five seconds to open my door, write up a fantastic bill of EUR 150, told me to put my shoes on and keep the cat inside and left. I never keep that amount of money in the house, and very rarely do I even carry that much in my wallet, so again my neighbours came to my rescue.
Needless to say this experience rattled me to the core, and I went to bed in tears, both in gratitude for the kindness and generosity of my neighbours, but also in the realisation that there is a dark side to living alone that I am just discovering, and that scared me.