Mrs. Moldovan was going to be here this afternoon to accept delivery of a new refrigerator and microwave oven for the apartment, so last night I swept up a bit and mopped the kitchen floor. I knew McDonald's would be open, as I had seen a big "(24/7)" oval sign on their facade. So I rose, dressed for work (and for walking in the rain) in a shirt and tie, khakis, and my rubber-soled boat shoes and leather jacket. In the black of night blinded by the flashing of a godawful electronic Sony billboard, I walked through the rain across the rough cobblestones of Piata Mihai Viteazul, past my waiting car at its weekend spot near the square, and across a big roundabout to McDonald's. It was almost 6:00 A.M. I tried the door. Locked. Lighted inside, but locked. Another early bird arrived, and expressed his ire. What does 24/7 mean?
I drove on into the office, making it there in about ten minutes through the nearly-empty streets. I read Wednesday's Labor Management case study, organized an assignment for the following week, then tried to call my TA, to arrange for her to make copies for the students. No cell phone. Hence, no way of knowing her number, which was stored in its memory. Had I known it, or had I noted it down, I could have used my new desk phone. Damn! Home I went. For without a cell phone over here, one feels cut off from the world.
As I still hadn't eaten, and had taken my morning medications an hour before, I drove home through rain and worsening traffic, feeling pretty lousy. I decided to try again at Mickey D's. This time it was open, but there was only one breakfast item displayed, and the entire lunch menu was otherwise available, even at 7:30 AM. So, I had the only thing there was, a "Breakfast Menu," which consisted of a ham and cheese melt between circles of french toast. Small, but tasty. And the coffee was very good. Unsatisfied, I went back to the counter, and ordered a Big Mac, which was by far the best I have ever had. It came close to looking like its picture! I asked the manager about the 24/7 sign. He said, "The window is always open for business." Silly me. Of course.
Having retrieved my phone from the apartment, I beat my way back to the Faculty of Economics through the peak of rush hour. This time the drive took about 50 minutes. Back in the office about 9:00, I contiinued my preparations for classes, and called Melinda to discuss the needed copies. At 10:00 I went to Julius Mall, where I had been told on Friday night that I could open an account on Monday. Greeted by the same lassie named Mihaela (a common name here), that I had seen Friday, I sat down and filled out the forms for accounts in Lei, Euros and US$, all for an initiation fee of 3 Lei (about $1.25). Why three accounts? Because if you don't have an account in the currency you deposit, you get hit with an exchange charge at once. That is a bit contrary to the concept of banking one's money to preserve it.
During the process I found out that young Mihaela's good English had benefitted from a summer's work in Maryland, and one in Wisconsin. She was quite nostalgic, and said she loved it in America. (Of course, if ever she returns, she has an invitation to visit New Hampshire.) She is at least the third youngster I have met in the past two weeks who has been to America on these summer work programs, clearly another good idea of the U.S. government.
I could have probably survived the year without a Romanian bank account, but the Fulbright Commission requires us to have one. The living stipends from the Romanian government are paid in Lei, and are only available as direct deposits to Romanian banks.
After my banking, I debated... back to the office, or is it time to do some necessary shopping? Since I had already had a pretty productive morning, I decided to go to the other end of the mall to Auchon, the Hipermarket, and buy some milk for my ovas (oatmeal) and some Piper Negru (black pepper) to ad zest to my soups. Next thing I knew, I was 140 Lei poorer, and was carting about twenty Kg of groceries to the car. I bought pasta and sauce. I bought twelve beers, lest a friend come over. (Florin Moldovan prefers beer to wine.) I bought bread, and sausages and canned vegetables and way too much else. I think I must have been getting hungry for lunch.
The car was parked under the store. The cart had to go down an escalator. Coolest of designs! The escalator was a ramp, not a stairway. A slidewalk, like those in airports, but tilted. The rear wheels of the cart are designed to jam in the grooves on the ramp, so it won't roll until the "comb" at the bottom pushes them out of the grooves. Down my cart and I went, in perfect control.
So I load the groceries, and now face my next problem. Once in my neighborhood, should I park illegally across from the apartment, schlep the heavy bags upstairs, then run back down and take the car to its weekday parking spot at the Faculty of Letters, or shall I drive straght to that parking spot, then carry 40+ pounds of groceries about one Km home, in two bags with handles, in a light rain, hoping the handles and my heartpump don't break on the way?
Readers may guess which path I chose.
When I arrived home, at precisely 1:00 PM, I found the doors locked but one turn, rather than the double-turn that Florin had insisted I use. Someone had been there! Yes. A delivery crew had been there. For in the kitchen were our new appliances! They are not yet functional, as Florin has asked me to wait for Victoria to be here to decide how to place the refrigerator. She will come Wednesday.
I e-mailed my bank account information to the Fulbright Commission, added a can of spinach to my last night's bean-and-tomato sausage soup, caught up on my e-mail correspondence, and shot my insulin.
It has been good Monday. Moreover, today is Shirley's and my 35th Wedding Anniversary. We have agreed to go for 35 more. That makes it a perfect Monday.