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Could I be more inept?

February 4, 2008
So. It’s been 8 days. 8 hectic and overwhelming and frustrating and confusing and… exciting days.

If I were to try and recount every detail of the last week it would fill 10 pages – and bore everyone to tears.

In an effort to keep this at least somewhat entertaining, below is a list of my top 5 ‘Britt [should not have been allowed] in Brussels’ moments from the past week… Enjoy 🙂

1. Britt [is underestimated] in Brussels.

Everyone who works in client service gets a car. I work in client service, so I get a car.

Do I speak the language? No.
Can I read the signs? No.
Do I have a clue what the funny little blue circle with the red cross through it means? Still no.
Do I get a car? Yes.

Why? I have no idea. Apparently the powers that be have underestimated my ability to screw up all things automotive. This was mistake #1.

Mistake #2 was signing me up for a Mini-Cooper. At first glance, this seems like a smart idea since they are getting 500 of them at a great price and giving them to all the new Juniors. The catch is that the cars won’t come until all the new Juniors come – in September. So. For the next 7 or so months, I have to drive a rental. Since I can’t drive a manual, they had to give me the only automatic car they had – a Mercedes.

All I can think as they hand me the keys… “This is going to be bad.”

And it is.

(The car someone was dumb enough to give me. Clearly it’s not as fancy as the Mercedes you find in the states, but it is still WAY too nice for me…) 

2. Britt [is lost] in Brussels

I can’t believe I am saying this, but, I miss the streets of Cleveland. Seriously. Just the thought of the well-marked roads, the wide lanes that people (generally) stayed in and the logical placement of street signs brings a tear to my eye – potholes and all.

No, seriously.

After 6 years of driving in the ‘mistake by the lake’ I became accustomed to a city based on a grid pattern that clearly informed drivers of approaching major roads (‘Cedar Rd. 500 Yards’) and then, incredibly enough, put up big, green signs that gave the name of the road. This is a concept that is clearly beyond the grasp of the Belgians.

Here, road signs are an afterthought – the closest things to actual signage are little plaques half the size of a lunch tray that are put on the sides of buildings. Sometimes, these ‘signs’ are placed 50 meters down the building so you have to drive down the road itself to figure out what road you are on. Sometimes, they don’t even bother with a sign. Or they only give the road name in Dutch (and your map has the French name). Or vice versa.

Naming aside – the roads themselves are a complex mix of one-ways and roundabouts filled with drivers who consider the little white lines marking different lanes a mere suggestion rather than a rule. Sidewalks, tram tracks and the opposite lane are all fair game for a Belgian driver.

These factors combined have left me completely and utterly lost in Brussels.

One example: had a 9am appointment 6 km from my apartment with a Belgian bank in the center of Brussels (I need to open a Belgian account to get semi-important things like my paycheck).  I left my apartment before 8am. Figured I’d have enough time to find parking and walk around the Grand Place. False. So completely false. At 9:00 am I was lost. At 9:30 am, still lost, the banker called me and said she saw no point in my coming in and lectured me about how ‘it is common courtesy in Europe to arrive on time for appointments.’

Right. It’s a similar thing in the U.S. Except we actually make it possible to arrive on time. F#%*&()$%!!

Moral of the story: I’m getting a GPS.

3. Britt [pantomimes ‘my car was towed’] in Brussels

As a general rule, I highly, highly, highly recommend learning how to read the days of the week and words like ‘forbidden’ in the local language of the country in which you live. Not that this would ever happen to me, but if an American were to move to Brussels and live on a road where there was a market on Sundays, it would be a good idea to make sure that parking was allowed on their street on Sundays. If they aren’t sure, they should read the signs (which might be hidden behind trees) that say things like ‘Verboden op Zondag 5ur to 16ur’ and know that this translates to ‘no parking on Sundays from 5am to 4pm.’ Otherwise, their cars will be towed and they will spend 3 hours, 3 trips between the police and the towing company, one verrrry long walk and $350 in getting their car back.

And, they will have to do thing like pantomime ‘you towed my car. I’d like it back’ to policemen who only speak French.

But maybe that’s just me…


Cute market? No. This stupid thing is the reason my car was towed. (clearly it’s the market’s fault and not mine…)

4. Britt [forgets key items] in Brussels

If I were to be stupid enough to have my car towed in Brussels, I would probably be so frazzled from the experience that I would forget trying to find LEGAL parking near my apartment and instead take a drive out to the apartment Boyfriend picked out for us. It’s supposedly only 25 minutes away and has free parking. 

As I’ve been dying to check out the place I’ll be living in for the next 3 years, I head in the direction of Leuven. 1.5 hours and one 9 Euro map later, I finally get to the apartment. Very cute. Good location. A legit CASTLE just 10 minutes away. I’m thrilled. I go to the front door, reach into my purse and realize…. I forgot the F*%$#@& keys!

5. Britt [is scarred for life] in Brussels

After a long and stressful day filled with pantomiming and key-forgetting, I bought a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir and a jar of nuttela and decided to curl up in front of the tv and stay up to catch the kickoff of the Super Bowl at midnight.

Watched a few episodes of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and Providence (the only two shows available in English) and then searched for the Super Bowl at 12. Yeah… all I found was CSI and Law & Order dubbed over in French and… several channels of, uh, ‘adult entertainment.’

How is it possible that Naughty Nurses #2 can trump the SUPER BOWL???

Only in Brussels.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 4, 2008 10:36 pm

    The topic you have chosen Is really amazing and I am reading your posts since long …but this is really something exceptional . I like the way you are writing … Its really awesome ..I hope to see some new more and encouraging posts from you .

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