I have been in financial dire straits for the past couple of months. Ironically, I seem to have put myself in this situation because, when I lost my job in January, I didn’t want to become unemployed for even a single day: I took the one thing I had in offer, which was a part-time. After a couple of months, I feel like I was taken hostage by my current employer and it’s my own fault, no less – I should’ve never signed such a fucking crappy working contract, but I so wanted to avoid unemployment…
I’ve made major cuts. I couldn’t, for the first time in years, afford to buy a ticket to visit my family in the summer: I had to ask a sister to buy me the plane ticket and used my online banking to set my account to pay her back, 55€ a month until August/September. My “splurge” for this month was a bottle of bike-chain oil and a 16€ seat for my crappy bike – biking on sunny days is still cost-free.
So when I came home two days ago, started loading my washing machine and a comb dropped fom above and fell in right through a crack beyond the washing-drum and beyond my reach, my blood froze in my veins. I will spare you the agonizing details of the misunderstandings that delayed the coming of the technician, later to be known as my guardian angel. I was nervous, panicky and got a knot in my stomach when he told me on the phone it was gonna cost me 70€ to retrieve the comb. This month I was to pay 80€ less rent because of overpaying last year, and I was happy. Suddenly, wham! 70€ are gone! I cannot get a fucking break, can I?
When I opened my door yesterday and a handsome 6’4” turkish man stood on my doorstep I was mostly in awe of his looks, but still, I just showed him to the washer, explained again what happened, and went back to skyping with my sis in the next room – dying to tell her what a tall drink of water was fixing my machine and not daring because, who know who understands MY native tongue? He called me and asked for a few items – a bowl, a piece of wire and a towel – and kept working. After a while he called me and had a good talk with me.
“Your heater is shot” he said “and this” he said pointing at the comb “this alone is gonna cost you… what had we agreed on? 70?”. I started panicking. “I can install a new heater, I have a used one in my car, but that’s going to make 95€ total. But it’s totally up to you, because I’m going to be honest, this machine is in very bad shape. It’s totally up to you”.
Cannot… get… a fucking…. break!
I was getting more and more nervous, made the guy repeat himself several times, swallowed dry a couple of times and I finally said “Well, thank you so much for your honesty, but 100€ is too much for that piece of junk. Sucks that I’m losing 70€, but if it’s this bad, best if I buy another second-hand piece of crap….” We then talked a while, I explained how I got the machine second had, got an offer from him but had to refuse because it was way over my price-range and he even agreed that if I could find cheaper junk with warranty (I can) that’s certainly better and he won’t even try to convince me otherwise. He gave me tons of tips on what to look for and how to haggle, where to look, so nice…. and then I gave him the 70€ and he looked awkwardly at the 50 and the 20 and stuck the 20€ in my way. I pulled back “No way! We agreed 70€, sucks to be me it’s true, but take it!” and he just said
“No, you take it, don’t you worry.” he said “I’ll get enough money anyway and I’m the owner of the company, so you go ahead and keep it.”
Well…. what can you say to that? I took the money, thanked him in a shakey voice, walked him out, listened to some more of his good tips, said thank you in a voice that was getting shakier and shakier, closed the door behind me and finally got back to my sister on skype. I sat down, the tears started rolling and I yelled “I’m so FUCKED! My washing machine is trashed! Look, he gave me 20€ back, so that’s something, huh? FUCK!” She then started her usual over-patronizing talk of “look, forget the money you owe me, we’ll deal some other time” because oh well, I’m not even going to get into how this kind of patronizing shit from my family might sound helpful but actually stunted my development as a tax-paying grownup. I wouldn’t hear it and told her so. I told her I’d find a way and she was getting the money, whether she liked it or not, I was just so hormonal and so upset that everything had to be such a fucking challenge in my life.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang. I told her “Wait up! It must be him, must’ve forgotten something”. I rubbed my red eyes dry and glanced at the washing machine on my way to the door, but couldn’t see any forgotten instruments. I opened the door and he stood there “Look, I was outside and I suddenly thought something up, I’m so silly! Can I come in?” I was uhm…. well… not totally dumbstruck, because I managed to say “sure!”
“It just hit me! Look, you were going to lose 70€ today, right? You were going to give me 70€. You DID give them to me, and I gave you 20 back. And you know, sometimes you need fresh air to have good ideas it seems and I’m thinking… I’m not going to try and convince you, if you say you’re buying another secondhand washer, do it. But if you want, you give me the 20€ back and I build this functioning heater into your machine. Your washerwon’t hold forever, but you can save up for a new one!”
Uhhhh…. fuck yeah! Not only had he given me a 20€ discount on the previously agreed fee, he was giving me a 5€ discount on the heater and giving me LOADS of wiggle room! I was so grateful I stood the whole time there and chit-chatted with him – he wouldn’t take a cup of coffee and I later had to wonder if we have ramadan right now (we don’t). We talked about the state of things, both of us foreigners in Germany. His reasoning was that people should help each other out when they can, because you never know when it’s going to hit us and he added “It’s really hard when you’re on your own, I know. And as a woman, it must be even harder, right?” I didn’t quite know what to tell him. I felt like saying I never felt the impact, although I was never a man, so I can’t know. The truth is, I never really felt like I have it harder because I’m a woman, but it’s getting harder and harder to argue the opposite.
The guy was finally done, I gave him the 20€, I thanked him profusely and he said “Damn, why didn’t I think of it? You know, fresh air! But now I have a clean conscience and you can save up for another washer. Just go easy on this one, small loads, it should hold a while” I walked him out and surprisingly, my sis was still online. I got to tell her the story and the party pooper said “Clean conscience? He’d have a clean conscience if he put the new heat in for free, but like that….” – jesus fuck, if you ever wonder why I mostly sound this bitter on my blog, just think I grew up surrounded by comments like this!
If anything, I’m allways in awe of how some people will still ocasionally prove me that not all is lost and that I still should have hope. I’m still getting teary eyed when I think of it, and I suspect it will be years before I won’t feel moved by the kindness of this handsome stranger and if that ever comes to be, I’ll be very disapointed in myself. This man was no less than a guardian angel to me yesterday.