Public Meltdowns

I had a public meltdown that is ingrained in my memory not long after I moved to Boston in 2003. I mean, within the first month. And that first month was bad. I had a manipulative, ill-intentioned landlord, a hellhole studio, zero friends, and a leaky roof… amidst other problems. But at least there was coffee. And one day I stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Brookline by the Saint Mary’s T stop and for a stupid dollar-and-change coffee and bagel, they would not take my debit card and I had no cash. The cashier literally pulled the coffee away from me when she realized I didn’t have $1.57 or whatever it was. And what did I do? I cried. Because sometimes, a cup of coffee is All You Have. And then you don’t have it.

Well, today I had my official first public meltdown in Holland. Which I think is great, because I’ve been here three months, and if there’s only been one instance of public crying? That’s honestly not bad. There was a confluence of circumstances: PMS (it factors). Tim is going to America and I’m not (for a wedding). I didn’t sleep well. And so this afternoon I went to the HEMA (it’s like Target) in Rotterdam with a CD of photos I wanted to print to send to my grandfather for his birthday. So I went to one of those kiosks, just like at CVS, and inserted my CD and ordered some prints to pick up in one hour. Went and killed an hour in a bookstore, came back. Now I tell you, up until this point, I was not having a bad day. The woman at the photo counter went to retrieve my order and I had a card I wanted to buy, if the photos fit inside. And she said, “Do you want this too?” and I said, “Will the photos fit inside it?” And she opened my envelope of photos to check and pulled out a CD. I was confused. She said that I had ordered not prints, but a photo CD. (This is a function, I am telling you, of the machines all being in Dutch.)

And really, this shouldn’t have been a big deal, but for some reason, this really flustered me. I don’t know if it was because I was thinking I had to get those prints in the mail today, or thinking about my grandpa, or Dutch, or what. So to get out of the situation, I said it was my mistake and I’d pay for the CD and the card. And the woman could tell I was flustered so she said it was OK; I didn’t have to pay for the CD. And then because she was being so nice and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, I started to cry. I don’t know if this sort of thing happens to you (I am not saying it does) but on the rare occasion that it happens to me, there is no stopping it once it starts. In about five seconds there was wiping the nose on the sleeve, and the need for Kleenex, etc.

And then the woman said she would help me use the machine again, and print the pictures right away so I didn’t have to wait, and her being overly nice was not helping my emotional display, but I said OK and we went to use the machine. Then another customer asked her for help and she said in Dutch something about “de vrouw,” meaning, “I am helping this woman, and can’t you see she’s a wreck.” And then the other customer looked at me knowingly and gave us our space. I was so embarrassed, and yet could not pull it together for about two more minutes, which felt excruciatingly long! We ordered the prints, she went to print them, and I managed to collect myself while pretending to browse photo albums.

And I got my photos five minutes later, and went home, and was very glad that was the HEMA in Rotterdam, and not in Delft, so I can still show my face there next week. And that’s the story of my Friday (Vrijdag).

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8 Comments

Filed under Our Dutch Adventure

8 responses to “Public Meltdowns

  1. Cathryn

    oh, Meghan, I just want to give you a big hug after reading this. I know exactly the feeling you’re describing… Sending hugs and prayers your way for a better Saturday (Zaterdag)

  2. I had a horrible Friday in Plattsburgh, NY…waiting for a plane to take me to Boston to take me to Charlotte, N.C….and NONE of it happened. High winds and rain kept the planes on the tarmac….we even got to the point where the plane was at the end of the runway positioned for take-off, and the prop plane slowed, and the pilot said….we can’t get clearance! So we de-planed…went back into the terminal, waited an hour with less and less hope….so I finally thought, “I’m scrapping the entire weekend”! I’m going home to my little bed and never crawling out from under the covers. I don’t even get PMS anymore….but I sure wanted a public meltdown today. I think it would have helped.

  3. Jennifer

    Meghan,
    I’ve had days like that too… I’m glad you got the paper photos! You write so well, I love to read your blog and your adventures overseas. I do miss some of the copy editing mistakes (which always made me laugh), but I don’t know how you’d figure them out in Dutch!
    Hope your Saturday is better….
    Jennifer

    • unquiettime

      Thanks, Jennifer! I miss the copyediting mistakes, too (trust me)! But it doesn’t seem fair to pick on English over here, since it’s not the first language, and in Dutch… well, I could just try to write in Dutch and then all the errors would be mine. 🙂

  4. Scott

    Meghan, thanks for being so open to write about such a personal issue. You describe the situation so well that I really felt for you in that situation. It leaves me with the question of when my dignity meets my frailty, how will I act and will there be someone there who will try to understand? I hope the answer to both of those questions will reflect the humanity of your story.

    • unquiettime

      Thanks, Scott. I think writing about incidents like this comes partly from shaking my head at myself in amusement, and partly from trying to understand better how I tick and how life unfolds in these little daily moments.

  5. HoHoHolland

    You! Hang in there. Holland can sure be a funny place and I have first hand experience having moved here last year. The Dutch are very nice people but the cultural differences are huge. You’ll learn to overcome that slowly. Also, it’ll be a good idea to get some Dutch language lessons if you need to break into the social life. If you are reluctant to seek out a social circle there, do try the AWC – it is in the Hague but you can sure take the Tram No.1. Quite convenient.

    http://www.awcthehague.org/

    Many people find the book “UNDUTCHABLES” a useful guide to most quirky situations in Holland. The first skill to learn to survive Holland is to be tough and assertive.

    And the expat community is huge and very supportive.

  6. Katrina

    Love you friend!! Great post…made me homesick for Muggin.

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