The straw that broke the camel’s back

Look. You don’t want to be here, I don’t want to be here, but the problem is that there is still so much I have to tell you. In fact, for every thing I talk about a dozen new things happen that I also have to talk about and so there’s this enormous backlog now, you see. Like my pile of unsorted tax documents, I have been putting it off for so long, but recently I had a day where so many things – baffling, unbelievable things – happened in such a short space of time that it was frankly impossible to put it off any longer: I need to revive this blog (again). I need to revive it because you need to know. You need to know what I have seen.

So okay, it all started when I had to show up at a flea market on Sunday in a futile attempt to sell some stuff in the ‘pre-Christmas rush’. I had this foolish idea that there might be a few people out there who would be interested in buying the kind of jewellery that appeals to twelve-year-olds. The first surprise was that in order to have a stall at the flea market one must show up at EIGHT IN THE MORNING. At EIGHT IN THE MORNING on this particular day I arrived punctually at the market square with my breath a fog machine and my toes already smarting from the harsh cold of the frozen ground.

I asked a couple of trendy and half-awake teenagers if they knew who I had to speak to to get my stall. They said, “Oh, you need to go and ask the guy in the green coat.”

“There, that guy,” they added after a beat, pointing at a man in an unquestionably black coat. So I guess the first thing that I need to report is not an announcement but a question: is it possibly the case that there is some kind of physical symptom like colourblindness which makes you see intense colour where there in fact is none? And if so, how do I acquire this symptom because I want it??

I spoke to the guy in the mysterious coat and he showed me to a stall directly in front of a huge, dark, swampy puddle.

The interesting thing about running an unsuccessful flea market stall is how intensely uninteresting it is. When no one is buying your stuff, or even pausing to politely glance at it, there is really nothing you can do other than stand around. Not the kind of person who can just stand around, I instead turned my mental energy to the kind of hyper-aware people-watching that requires sincere concentration. And, boy, nine uninterrupted hours of focused people-watching will reveal some seriously concerning truths about Berlin, its people, and indeed the human race as a whole.

Who even comes to shop at a flea market at 8 in the morning? The answer to that question is twofold: sketchy women in threadbare baseball caps looking to buy armfuls of cheap stuff, clearly with the intention to sell that stuff for slightly less cheap elsewhere; and mothers with kids in their early teens, who presumably were dragged out of the house directly after breakfast with the promise that they might be allowed to get a hip pair of second-hand sneakers if they agreed to such activity at such an early hour. But I speculate. Who can say.

Slightly later, around 10am, was when the real weirdos started to arrive. One woman in a smart outfit was walking along chatting to her friend when she stopped abruptly in front of my foyer-puddle, having not noticed it until she almost got her shoes wet. “Ah, this bougie lady is concerned about the puddle messing up her footwear,” I thought, but then she pointed at something floating in the puddle and bent down to fish out a trampled, mud-blackened tube of some kind of cream or cosmetic. She showed it to her friend and then got out a tissue and cleaned it off to see what it was, then made a noise of delight. “Mascara! Don’t mind if I do!” she said, then PUT THE SCABBY TUBE OF USED SWAMP-MASCARA IN HER HANDBAG.

I don’t know, guys. I just don’t know.

Briefly after that the puddle came into its own once more. A woman and her two kids were skirting around the puddle when the woman bent down to pick up something in the mud on the puddle’s shore. Let me just take this moment to confirm that yes, my flea market stall was the one right in front of the puddle filled with trash. The woman extracted a gold metallic condom wrapper from the mud and swiped it with her finger to show whatever motif was on the front of the wrapper. She presented it to her children for them to marvel at it: “Look kids!” Then she flung it back into the puddle without a second thought.

You may think I’m making this up, but ask yourself this: why would I make up anecdotes this specific and inexplicable?

Oh, the things I saw. I saw a man strutting around in a pink nighttime onesie that was clearly made for a young girl judging by the insufficient length of its sleeves and legs. He had the onesie open to the navel, revealing the kind of hairy chest reminiscent of iron filings on a piece of paper with a magnet underneath. That was the only garment he was wearing other than his ballet pumps.

I saw a man dressed as a cowboy. I saw a dude drop a baby buggy (incl. baby) down the stairs because he just couldn’t be arsed to gently lower it step by step. I saw women dressed as Harajuku girls with hotpants and tutus suffering greatly in the extreme chill of the winter air.

Finally, just after sundown, the market began to wrap up. I packed my wares away and loped off home, exhausted by the hours of unproductive distraction. I needed to do something active, something envigorating, so I went to the gym. A blander, less unsettling place. But alas: as I was going through my weights routine, a man walked past me. He was big and burly, with a long brick-shaped beard and wearing a military cap.

He was drinking his energy drink out of a little baby’s bottle with a rubber teat.





Rose T