Heartbreak and Warm Champagne
Charlie Parker, in his biography Bird Lives is quoted: “I see a doctor for my pain, he gives me medicine but it don’t make me feel any better. I go see my man and buy a ten dollar bag, that makes me feel better.” (Look at his eyes in the photo.
I saw a doctor Monday for my sore throat and cough. I thought that would be an easy cure. I would feel better and my doctor would feel good knowing he cured me. On the flights to Amsterdam then Berlin, the dry air must have messed with the throat and the cure.
By Thursday, the sore throat was worse. On the way to the conference, passing a drugstore, and I decided to go in and see if I could get something over the counter to soothe the pain.
I entered the Apoteke, and a young woman (I really want to say “girl”) asked what must have been “What can I do for you” in German to which I am always embarrassed to answer with “Do you speak English?” You know how all day you run into people in shops, and while they’re waiting on you or arranging a service or whatever it is they do in life, you can tell they’re phoning it in, thinking about their weekend, or how they wish they had another job? And doesn’t it make you feel a little uncomfortable? Well, this was the opposite. This charming young person was dealing with my malady in the most serious and conscientious manner possible, with a smile capable of melting the arctic ice caps. She was like a one-woman global warming threat, not just the raising the world’s sea level, but also buoying up my own spirits. I felt an uptick in my Berlin life, my cares dissipated like the thin morning Bordeaux fog when the sun comes up.
“Yes”, she said with a radiant smile, “I speak English.” As she asked me a series of questions about my sore throat and cough, her warm and soothing smile didn’t fluctuate like a candle, but burned steadily into my heart as she nodded with each response. I was basking in the glow of that smile. “Dry, very sore?” mimicking pain and distress to punctuate. And so I left with lozenges, a spray and a complimentary pack of German Kleenex. (Did they always give this, or was a secret gift, just for me? “Here, I had a tree killed for you.”) During that day I thought of her each time I sucked on a lozenge or sprayed my throat. In the end, like love at first sight, neither medication worked, and I found myself awake at 4 AM, my throat racked with pain and knowing there were two more flights in front of me.
Sometimes the cosmos surprises us with a fortuitous combination of events that bring some sense to life and the universe. And so it came to pass that at 4:34 AM Saturday of the flights and the airport security, I decided to drink some water. Reaching for the complimentary glass bottle of water that the Park Inn Radisson kindly provides — the same four star hotel that asks you to pay 0,50 € to urinate in the men’s room of the lobby — my hand found a larger bottle, half full of Moët and Chandon. It was left over from the big dinner and I’d put it in the minibar that night. I took it out that night before dinner, thinking everyone would come up and polish it off, but that didn’t happen and the warm bubbly sat there, next to the bed. If it could talk, it would be making some snarky comment about how I was forced to buy Champagne that we wouldn’t finish. “What the hell, can’t really hurt, can it?” so a took a small swig. Warm Champagne isn’t great, I’ll grant you that, but you know what? It made my throat feel a little better than the water I’d had twice in the night when I got up to urinate free in my own toilet. (If RyanAir ran hotels, would they charge extra for a toilet?) I took another tug off the heavy bottle. It was helping!
“Don’t send me no doctor. Cause doctor can’t do no good.” Jimmy Oden (Saint Louis Jimmy).
✔ Doctor didn’t soothe sore throat.
✔ Charming pharmacist didn’t soothe sore throat
✔ Losanges and spray didn’t soothe sore throat
✔ Warm Champagne soothed sore throat
I’m writing this at 5:30 AM in a hotel that charges $0.66 to pee in the mens’ room of the lobby. I’ve told these young woman stories to many friends. Yes, this is only the latest in a series. And to the men I always say: “One day, this will happen to you, and you’ll remember me telling you this story.” It’s a look youngish women give you. A look that says, you’re not a contender anymore, you’re safe. It’s a look that says, “You look like a kindly man, a good man.” They never hesitate to ask you for directions in a big city. They smile warmly, knowing you won’t take the smile as flirtatious. They treat you like royalty and give you their full attention. Because when they look at you, they see their grandfather.
It’s 6:03 AM. Shoot me now.