We had about 7 hours to kill at the Hamburg train station. Ordinarily this would be fine—Hamburg looked like a beautiful city to stroll around. However, it just happened to be pouring rain the entire time, so we had to look to the Hamburg train station to keep us amused.
We had run out of toothpaste in Denmark and since we didn’t want to pay $20 for a new tube, we squeezed the very last drop out of the tube that we had so that we could make our purchase in Germany. We also badly needed some shoe deodorizer which will come into the story later. We made our purchases, got something to eat, and then had about 6 ½ hours still to go.
Here is something interesting: With the exception of the things that I bought to take on the trip (most of which I bought online), I have not been shopping for clothing since February. I actually remember the specific outing with Amie and Madeline because I vowed at that time that I would not buy anything else that I wasn’t going to use on the trip. In my other life, typically I would run over to Target once a week to get whatever and come back with several other things that I really didn’t need. (The inventor of the dollar spot is someone that I both revere and curse). But the bottom line is I haven’t been in a department store for at least 3 months. That didn’t seem weird until we walked into the department store connected to the train station in order to keep warm and bide our time until we boarded. Suddenly I was confronted with thousands of things that I had no use for and had gone without for several months, but mysteriously, I wanted to buy them. I had not given a moment’s thought to any of these items during our travels, but now, seeing them all splayed out in front of me and faced with lots of spare time, the need to buy came back instantaneously. Of course I can tell myself that there are many things that I have bought in the past that I could have lived without. In fact in many cases I did live without them because I never used them or I forgot about them. But I wanted that perfume, that shiny chefs’ knife, that scarf. (Let the record show that I have not purchased a single scarf during our trip. That may be because Adam, not trusting my willpower in these particular instances, has been making sure to steer me clear of any vendors displaying them). I felt like Veruca Salt, my brain demanding that I have whatever was in front of me right now.
The electronics store was even worse. We went through 5 brilliantly lit stories of electronic goodies that we couldn’t possibly need. We even looked at ranges and refrigerators. What was most disappointing to me is that I thought that this trip would help me to get rid of the kind of behavior that led me to make unnecessary purchases in the past. To some degree it has, but the consumer impulse seems to be so ingrained that it returns the instant that one is faced with the possibility of material acquisition. I’ve heard many stories about people who go for a year without purchasing anything (with the exception of essentials like food)—they either find what they need for free or trade for it. I always thought that after a year like that you would be cured of consumerism, but now I wonder if those people just go bat-shit nuts buying stuff once the year is over.
Not being able to rationalize any purchase in either of these stores, we went back into the train station and looked for a place where we could accomplish our next task: to spray our smelly shoes. After wearing the same shoes pretty much every day and doing a good deal of walking, our shoes had become rather pungent, and we felt that we could no longer go on subjecting helpless passengers on the train to our foot odor which had come to smell decidedly like a meat and cheese platter left out in the blazing sun all day. We had bought the shoe spray, but now where were we going to take our shoes off and spray them? For some reason etiquette dictates that you don’t do that kind of thing in public. Adam took the spray into the bathroom, but he felt that the bathroom attendant’s keen eye might detect a cloud of aerosol spray coming from underneath the stall and that he might find cause for alarm. So we retreated into the least used part of one of the platforms and looked guiltily around as if spraying one’s shoes with deodorizer was a crime. We quickly whipped off our shoes, gave them a good spray, and stuffed them back on our feet. Then we briskly walked away from the scene. And if you’re wondering, that night in the train when we took off our shoes, they did smell much better.
Tired of wandering, we found some benches in a small enclosure that was relatively warm. As we sat there reading, two men came in with some Kentucky Fried Chicken. Now, when I say “some,” I mean two buckets each. If you haven’t had KFC in quite some time, you may not understand the enormity of what I’m saying. Two. Buckets. Each. Immediately the enclosure was filled with the smell of extra crispy chicken parts. And I don’t care how you feel about fast food. Unless you’re a vegetarian, no one can ignore the tantalizing smell of battered and fried poultry, especially when these guys were essentially hot-boxing the KFC. We had to get out of there before one of us lunged for one of the various buckets of chicken.
Not being able to find the KFC, we contented ourselves with a piece of pizza and then finally boarded the train for our long journey to Croatia.