The hotel itself is impressive, located in the former East Berlin and the concierge in particular was sympathetic and very helpful. Since I had no way of knowing if and when my clothes, cables etc would arrive, my first mission was to get a change of clothes and cables. My iphone was almost dead, the ipad was ok and could message with it through wifi. So all was not lost. So, first things first.
One of the advantages of the hotel is its location across the street from the very good Berlin transit system. Both trams (M lines), and S-Bahns were immediately available to Kufurstendam to the Apple Store for charging cable and then to Alexanderplatz for some clothes. It turns out that the S-Bahn system is part of a ring around the city, the S42 towards the west and S41 to the east. What a pleasure it is to use a transit system where it clearly surpasses that of a car. As in a previous life in Montreal where I didn’t own a car, many Berliners don’t either. It’s easy to see why.
Because my iphone was now practically dead and needed for navigation if necessary, I wasn’t able to take pics of this first day in the city. But something important occurred to me though. While I certainly had gotten cleaned up from the trip, I was unhappy about having to wear clothes that already had more than 24 hours of travel in them. And to top it off, I had acquired a pasta sauce stain from supper that just seemed that much larger than it really was. This was not the end of the world by any means and it seems silly now to dwell on it. But it led me to an important insight into those who live on the street.
I wanted to be invisible. I imagined that my clothes gave off serious odours. I felt vulnerable. How much we value cleanliness, the suppression of natural body smells and how easy it is to fall through the cracks. I imagined what it must be like for someone without funds to descend to having to wear the same clothes day in and day out, with little opportunity to stay clean and even fewer moments of respite from a hard existence. If my brief experience was a measure of any kind, one that reflected the far worse circumstances of really having no resources, the desire to be invisible, the undermining of self-confidence, the sense of being an object of scorn, then it taught me to reconsider poverty once again and the state of homelessness. And how there really are just a few degrees of separation between the person lying on the street in tattered clothes and me.