First day in Berlin

 

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Tuesday 9 February 2016, 16:00:

My backpack is haphazardly slung across my back, my purse dangles from the crook of my arm, my suitcase is poised next to the door, all packed and ready to go. A partially constructed table from IKEA lies on the floor, its seemingly simple construction instructions gazing up at me, I imagine with a smug look of feigned innocence: Oh you can’t figure out how to put me together? I can’t say I’m surprised. I type out a quick note of apology to my roommate as my Uber rings incessantly to tell my that my ride to the airport is waiting outside – not-so-patiently, it would seem. I rush to the airport and board the plane that will take me to Amsterdam, Berlin and a real test of my own purported dreams.

Twelve hours later, I am exiting a small KLM plane onto the tarmac of a one-terminal airport in Berlin. I hail a taxi and make my way into the city. The hotel that I am being put up in is near to the city centre where I will soon be working – just a five minute walk from the hub of the Berlinale International Film Festival: the Martin-Gropius-Bau. I check in to the hotel, shower, meet my fellow interns and head over to the Ritz Carlton. We jump into the elevator and punch the top floor – number eleven – and wait in that ever awkward boxed silence until the doors ding open.

We enter the suite uncertainly, looking around in awe at the movie posters with famous faces, the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton, the faces of the executives that I had been studying in a homemade Excel spreadsheet for the past week. Immediately, we are toured around the suite, being told whose office is whose, how to greet and handle clients, the importance of keeping all of our receipts – a list that seems to extend longer and longer as we continue to walk around the huge suite. Suddenly, I panick. In all of my working experience, I had never done this sort of work – working for a specific group of people rather than the lovingly vague consumer. It all feels so immediate, the results so tangibly material. In my past work, a mistake could be corrected in the office before it was sent out to a client or customer, a tweet could be deleted if there was a spelling error, a blog post could be edited if I misspelled somebody’s last name.

But here, I would find, the stakes are higher. A mistaken Starbucks order is written in stone, the crestfallen look on the executive’s face forever etched into my inerasable memory as I quickly realise that they had, actually, asked for no whip on their Frappuccino. Not catching an important client’s name under a thick accent as I escort them into the office saw me having to quickly and humbly run back, lean in and hope to god that I understand them on my second, embarrassing ask before scribbling their (hopefully) correct name on a Post-It and rushing it into an executive’s room – while, in the meantime, a slew of other important clients with other thick accents form a congested line at the front desk and I have to start it all again. A request for a lunch reservation in an hour at a fully booked restaurant could not be met with an incredulous I have to do what now but instead with a determined of course and a smile.

In short, the work I was about to embark on would be hard. It would be long. It would be demanding. It would be erratic and electric and frenzied and scattered and – the list could go on. But the craziest thing of it all? I would come to find that the work was fun. Something clicked on in me that first day of running around the office and suddenly getting Starbucks orders correct, snagging reservations at fully booked restaurants, finding the only egg sandwich in all of Berlin all began to feel like soaring achievements.

It is with this soaring feeling, this energetic high that I walk into the elevator of the Ritz Carlton flanked by my two fellow interns. I steel myself for the days ahead, the promised losses of tempers, the advice to not take anything personally, the uncertainty of it all. I walk out of the building, the red carpet guiding us outside. The flashes of cameras stun me and the voices of the photographers rise up into the cold, steely night. I smile and take out my sunglasses, put them on and lower my head surreptitiously. I am in Berlin for an international film festival. The photographers yell at me to look at them. They scream some person’s name who I could be mistaken for. I step off of the red carpet and the voices fade, the flashes disappear and I am greeted by the crisp Berlin night. It is calm out here, a man bikes slowly in front of me, the streetlights change lazily from green to yellow to red. We amble tiredly back to our hotel, alarms set for another day full of – what exactly?

And with that mystery, I fall asleep and find that my dreams are exactly where I left them: big, bright, blooming.

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