I worked in Germany for a year and made a lot of really great friends. The year I returned to the US I decided I missed them and took some vacation time to go visit them. We set up a whirlwind round of parties and towns to make sure I got to see everyone I'd worked with.
One our friends, Gab, had moved outside town and invited us all over. I drove down from the city and parked in the town center. First stop, the local pub, "Dada's," where we had many deep conversations, flirtations, and gossip about men from the UK vs. Germany.
The funny bartender with the deepest voice who always told my friends Graham and his entourage "Slow down Englishman" because he talked so fast was gone but we still piled in this hole-in-the-wall and slowly everyone started to file in. Crocko, Joy, and others. We caught up, told stories, remembered old times.
Gab called on the "handi" and told us to get up there. I left my rented VW and we all piled into two taxis and headed to the party. The party was great and everyone had a lot of fun. Gab offered me a guest bed to sleep and I'd get my car in the morning.
In the morning Gab had to go to work so I hitched a ride with him to my car. He drops me off with a fond farewell, who knows when we'll see each other again? and I am ready to begin the next leg of the journey. I walk to my car, digging in my purse. Where. Are. My. #$%&@! Keys??
I dig everywhere, I start to panic. I am on a tight schedule, have to get my suitcase from the hotel in the city and need to hit the road. I call Gab and luckily he's not too far so he turns around. We tear apart his house and find: nothing! He apologizes and says I can stay but he has to go to work.
I hitch another ride back to the town center and re-trace my steps. Dada's, walking, keep going backwards. The taxi! I call Crocko and he goes with me to the taxi center where he explains (because I'm starting to panic and all my German flies out the window other than saying "Scheisse" a few thousand times) and they tell me the guy working last night is off the rest of the week.
Argh! Crocko too must get to work so I'm stuck. After spending all my coins on the phone I finally manage to get to someone at the VW car rental place in Munich. She tells me that I can get a key, but I'll have to come and pick it up. I ask why they can't just send someone to jimmy the lock like AAA does in the states and they go on and on about some mumbo jumbo about a computer chip identifying the car and will only work this car blah blah. Today these are common place, but I'd never heard of such a thing back then.
This day is already lost so I take the train back to the city, spend time in line and they remember me calling and are ready. They give me a bill - 200DM? (back before Euros that was like $5million dollars or something). I laugh and say this must be a mistake. German workers aren't exactly known for their senses of humor, so I get the pitying look of "this is no joke!" and they push the paperwork towards me again with the nonsense about a computer chip in the key that is specially configured blah blah. My mind is still sitting on 200DM. 200DM! For a key!
I reluctantly push my credit card on them, cursing under my breath.
Now I have to go back to the town, hike to my car, drive back to the city. A day of my precious, precious vacation time completely wasted. Especially when you only get two weeks in an entire year...
I get to my car and the key works fine (whew!) and I go on my way.
Fast foward: I decide to return to the heart of Germany two years later and meet with Crocko on his way to Leipzig. He comes out from the rental house - they are staying for the annual goth festival - and after greeting me he runs back into the room shouting that he has something for me.
"Lalalala guess what I have for you!" he laughs, holding something behind his back.
I have absolutely no idea, so I shrug and hold out my hands greedily. Money? Funny photos of long ago? My old boss's ashes?
He drops a set of keys into my hands. It takes a minute to sink in, but the $#(%&! keys!!! The evil, expensive keys that caused such a headache, and a lot of moolah. I start laughing, "Where did you find them?"
He grins, and explains that the taxi drivers had told the guy when he returned and they were there. They asked around until they figured out it was Crocko (he stands out in the town) and his "friend" and he kept them for me. Remember this was back before we were all online so communication was expensive - phone calls and letters (which, hate to say, but not that many men write letters on a steady stream) so he'd never mentioned it.
I still have these keys. I have another strange key story to tell about a more recent car key but at least this prepared me to be sticker shocked.