For a week or so there has been a blocked drain in the flat I'm subletting. Whenever I ran the washing machine water came up through the kitchen sink, which had to be bailed out to avoid overflow. This was stressful, because getting it fixed required either getting the landlord to take action or getting a plumber, either of which required getting a mobile phone. (The horror.) This, in turn, involved making a decision among one of the many seductive plans on offer, most of which require a 24-month commitment. I hate that kind of decision, so I kept putting it off.
Yesterday I went over to Saturn, a five-storey electronics store in Kurfurstendamm, to look at cellphones. (The horror.) I would wander among displays of cellphones, make a bolt for the street, force myself back into the store, leave, force myself back. (I really don't want a cellphone.) Finally I told myself: Look. Just GET a PHONE. So I bought a Samsung for €19.99 ohne Vertrag (w/o contract), bought a SIM card on prepaid plan at Edeka, got the thing going.
Wrote to the guy I'm subletting from, who is now in Istanbul and seemed unhappy with developments: said his landlord was largely unavailable except when he wanted to raise the rent. Looked around online for local plumbers (it was now well into evening), sent off an e-mail, woke up this morning, found a new message on the phone, tried to call back. The person at the other end kept saying: Hallo? Hallo? Hallo? Ich höre dich nicht. (I can't hear you. (As I say, I hate cellphones.)
Consulted the manual, which was unhelpful. Procrastinated. Forced myself, after an hour or two, to call again. The person at the other end was able to hear! We conversed. She agreed to send a plumber between 2 and 3. At 2pm I got a call from the plumber, who had been unable to find my name on the door. (Forgot to mention.) I let him in. And now--
Now the problem was in the hands of the kind of person who makes domestic problems in Germany an unexpected source of joy. Someone who was unbelievably good at his job. Der Klempner went into the kitchen, made sardonic comments at the expense of Ikea (the under-counter fridge was nearly impossible to extract, attempts to unplug were foiled by the position of the outlet behind the washing machine), manhandled the fridge into the room, made further sardonic comments on the coupling of sink pipe and main pipe, separated pipes, fed cable from rotorooter (generic term?) into a pipe, separated pipe at wall into bathroom, fed 10 metres of cable through the wall... Checked, with an attention to detail rare in my professional life, on drainage of sink with tap going; with full basin; when both kitchen and bathroom sink were full; when washing machine went through a cycle... Perfekt. Perfekt. Perfekt. Perfekt. And was funny and charming throughout.
All done in an hour and a half. All this for 80 euros. Nicht zu fassen.