Friday, February 15, 2002

The End of the Countdown

Chapter Twenty-Two The End of the Countdown February 15, 2002 From the time we had decided on the apartment to the time we were to move seemed like an eternity. This was especially true at three in the morning, when our neighbor child woke the dead screaming at the top of her lungs. We started counting days, hours, and minutes until the day arrived and this was finally the day. I had to teach in the morning, and I must have been overexcited last night and had difficulty sleeping. My butt was dragging going to meet my class, but as soon as I found my way into the hallway of the building, I became energized and then jazzed about being there. Getting home seemed like a longer than usual ordeal. This was not due to the anticipation of moving, but to the lack of trams. It seemed like every tram that passed me by was every number except my #49. They usually run every eight minutes, but I waited for close to twenty before one appeared. When I reached home, I was ready to roll. Somehow, mental plans are never telepathically transmitted in their entirety to the intended person, regardless of the number of years you have spent together. I thought I had shared with Ron that although Fernando had promised to help us on Saturday, he also had many other plans and I did not want to have to depend on him. As it turned out, Fernando had conjunctivitis earlier in the week, then the flu on top of it. I had in the back of my mind that if he had been better by the end of the week, I did not want to bother him with helping us move. Fernando is a great guy and comes through in a pinch, but his latest hobby happens to be trying to find the love of his life. No one is worth a used tissue during the infatuation stage of a relationship and Fernando is no exception. Unfortunately, he is so desperate for love that he falls to any man who will look at him twice and then falls to the depths of depression when it does not last more than two dates. His reasoning is beyond our comprehension. He is very good looking, intelligent, well employed with IBM, owns his own flat, is trilingual (speaks three languages, get your mind out of the trash), and has a charming personality. His self-esteem runs on empty. With all of these factors, it was a wise plan to move by taxi, a concept that Ron never fully comprehended. We had the four suitcases packed plus large heavy duty bags that the postal service delivered packages in. Every box was recycled into service. We had only been in the first apartment for two months and already we were ready for a U-Haul truck to move us. Thank the heavens that we did not need to move furniture. With the first load ready to go, I went down the ground floor and took the elevator to our first floor. There is no elevator call button on our floor. We loaded three of the suitcases and me onto the elevator and Ron went to call the taxi asking for what he thought was a large car. By the time he reached the ground floor, the taxi was waiting for us and we made the first trip to the new apartment. It was a regular sedan that would only accommodate one of our large suitcases and one of the carry-on pieces in the trunk. As we drove off, the driver pulled next to a station wagon and said “cumbi”, so we would know what to ask for next time. The cost was 650 forints with a tip. Timi, the daughter of the owner of the apartment met us at the door and gave us two sets of keys. We had her sign a Hungarian version of our lease, as we would need it for getting the cell phones after we get our tax certificate. She still had not purchased the extra pillows we had agreed on and said she was going to go directly to Ikea when she left and bring them back. We assured her it would be okay to bring them back with her spare key, as we would need to make another trip back to the old place. She slyly told us there was a problem with the television. It seems that had not paid the cable bill for some time, since no one was living here and it was disconnected. The cable company was scheduled to be here on Monday and she could not get back to Budapest, so she hoped one of us could. She assured us she would pay the reconnection fee. No television meant no Winter Olympics. It did mean some peace and quiet though and a lot more time to read. That was not a bad trade-off. As soon as she was gone, we unpacked and put away all of the contents of the four suitcases. With luggage empty, we took the two carry-ons and headed for the tram to make another haul. The tram was beyond crowded and it would have been almost impossible for us to get on empty handed, let alone with the luggage, so we walked most of the way back. Normally, this would not be a bad walk, but after lack of sleep, getting up at 6:15 am, one trip of moving, unpacking, and carting a piece of luggage, it was not my idea of a pleasure trip. The second load, we filled the two pieces with more stuff. The coffee pot filled half of one suitcase. The heavy-duty bags were filled with things, as were boxes that did not fit in the suitcase. We filled the elevator after I ran down to the first floor and rode it back up to the first. We filled the small cavity excuse of an elevator and I took the trip down to the ground floor. The capacity of the elevator is four people. They would have to be four anorexics that were intimately acquainted and all made a mutual agreement to lift their arms in the air and hold their breath to fit in at the same time. One would then have to hit the needed floor button with their tongue, since there would not be the wiggle room to maneuver an arm and hand to that position. Again, the taxi was waiting for us as we approached the front door. They are so fast, you would think that they had been stalking drug dealing waiting for the drop to zoom in and make an arrest. We were nowhere close to that dramatic with our pitiful belongings and we did not get the station wagon either. It must be something in Ron’s Hungarian accent or they had bigger movers to transport. The driver thought he was looking for a ‘Tom’. He settled for a ‘Ron’ when no Tom appeared within the mandatory ten-second wait time. We had involuntarily become part of the Hungarian taxi team of the Winter Olympics. This taxi got us to the new apartment minutes faster and cheaper than the first running us 600 forints with the tip. The same scenario played itself out. We lugged the stuff into the new apartment’s elevator having to do this in two trips. With stuff sitting in the hallway as unpacking central, we carted the goods to their new points of display or storage. Like happy little worker bees, we were arranging the hive, preparing it for the Queens to move in. Ta, da, ta, da! Hive, Sweet Hive! One more trip to the old apartment should clean it out sufficiently. There were still two boxes of towels, books, my computer, printer, and other small miscellaneous items. With the suitcases in hand, we learned from the last trip not to try the tram, so we took the subway. As the last of the items were being packed to transfer, I had a sentimental moment about all that we had experienced in this apartment in the course of two months. We moved in, bought some household items like a coffee pot, changed our thinking about being in Budapest temporarily to more permanent, entertained guests for a weekend and guests for coffee on a dozen occasions, found jobs, fretted over diplomas, cursed the neighbors, and wormed our way into the hearts of the women at the little corner store to the point where they will transform their faces from the usual frown to a half smile when they see us coming. Aside from our parties, we had more social events in this apartment in two months, than we did in Modesto in nine years. We used each opportunity to pack up the apartment as an excuse to watch some of the Olympics. The cable is not hooked up at the new apartment and we are suffering from sports withdrawal. Did you ever think you would have seen those words come from under my typing fingers? The sad part was that on the third trip, the cable company was installing new cable in the building and there was no television at all. We were left wanting. Just like the movie ‘Groundhog Day’, the whole thing went as it had the first two trips. The third driver won the Olympic gold by getting us here for 540 forints with tip. The total cost of moving was $6.39 and we did not have to steal time from our friends. By 3:00 pm, everything was unpacked and put away, the suitcases were in the pantry, and we were in relax and enjoy mode. We could not help but look around and feel like we had hit the lottery and then wondered what we were going to do with all of this room. We need intercoms to communicate with each other when we are in different rooms. There are dozens of empty bookshelves screaming, “Fill me” and the sounds are deafening. Be patient my pretties, your time will come. After a day filled with activity, Ron was not dissuaded to walk to the old neighborhood to see if they advertised Masked parade for Lent, was going to happen this night. According to the paper, they had two different dates one of which was tonight and the other a week from now. We went down to the street that was to host it, but the traffic was flowing without incident and there were no signs of anyone looking out of the ordinary. One hotel we passed on the way, looked decked out for a big ball, but there were no signs of attendees at this point. After hanging out for a short while without any signs of the streets changing from normal to festive, we decided to go to dinner at the Amstel Restaurant, a bit of Holland in Budapest. The Amstel is advertised as a gay restaurant, but the food is good and the prices are reasonable, so therefore it is popular amongst the non-gay crowd too. It is almost necessary to have a reservation in Budapest restaurants from Wednesday to Sunday, so we were lucky to find one small table available. We had a relaxing dinner and realized that we had not cleaned out the refrigerator of food. This was not a big deal, but there was a fresh carton of milk and our tubes of spices that we would want. We stopped there on the way home and filled a shopping bag. One of the most ingenious things that I really like here is that you can buy garlic paste in tubes for about seventy-five cents. It tastes just as good as fresh garlic when used in cooking and it would probably make great garlic bread, though we have not tried that yet. The other tube features are hot chili paste, which we do use a great deal, ketchup, mustard, and pizza sauce. Ron found caviar and sardine paste, but they stayed right there on the shelf. All of what was in our freezer was coffee, Starbucks and Hawaiian blends, but they are our coffee of choice at home, so they are getting depleted too. The eggs were trashed. They sell them unrefrigerated in the store and they were in our cold storage for two weeks. Why kill ourselves for five eggs? Did I mention in the past that the eggs come in cartons of 10 and not a dozen? They are all brown eggs too, not white. While on the Internet, I checked Global Currency. They finally credited our $300.00. YOU’VE GOT MONEY!! Tomorrow is a shopping day for sure.

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