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).