Today was my first dentist appointment in about 2 years. After class I rushed around with a number of small but urgent errands and just barely made the subway. I grabbed a quick lunch at the train station and set off on the walk to find the dentist's office.
(There are quite a number of dentists in my neighborhood, but I selected this dentist off a list from the US Embassy of English-speaking doctors and dentists because I'm afraid that with my bad German I might unwittingly agree to a root canal.)
I was running late and it looked about to rain. Then I saw a strange memorial. There are memorials all over Berlin, even, disturbingly enough, a memorial to citizens killed in a bombing in the IKEA parking lot. But this one caught my eye-- it marked the spot where the first person died attempting to cross the wall. His name was Rudolf Urban. East German soldiers shot him, and West Germans looked on as he bled to death in "no man's land."
As I got closer to the dentist's office I saw many more memorials, including an old guard tower that was left standing in front of what is now an apartment building. A large part of this "no man's land" area is now a graveyard.
It was all very interesting, but I was anxious to find the dentist's office quickly so I'd have time to fill out my medical history in German. I turned onto a small street and found the number. It looked like an apartment building, but I read the names on the buzzers anyway. No Dr. Shulze. I checked the next building's buzzers. Nope. An elderly lady exited the building and I approached her.
"Excuse me, but is this Kielerstrasse 1?"
"Yes." She said as she loaded a package into her bicycle's basket.
"Are there any dentists here?"
"I don't know, many people live here."
"Do you know if there are any dentist's offices here?"
"No no. Just apartments. There are 3 Kielerstrasses in Berlin, you know."
"Oh really? Shoot." I checked my planner and realized I didn't write down the dentist's phone number.
"One minute, I will help you find it." She took her package and went back into the apartment building. I called Ryan and he managed to track down the zip code and phone number for me.
I called the dentist and rescheduled my appointment. I took down the name of their subway station. Then the woman popped out again with her package and a large map book. I told her I made a new appointment and she looked up the postcode of the dentist's office. It was not in central Berlin (as the embassy listed) but rather in Berlin's extreme southwest.
"Where do you live?" She asked.
"Why do you want to go to a dentist all the way over there? That's too far for a dentist. Go to a dentist by your house."
"But my German isn't very good, and this dentist speaks English."
"Its not such a problem. Old people can speak English too, you know. I speak English." And then she did.
She told me about traveling to Ireland and made me sing "Molly Malone" with her in the front yard of the apartment building. We talked for a good half hour or so, about her retirement, what I'm doing here, what she'd seen in the states, the progress of computers in the last 30 years, etc. Then she showed me the path through the graveyard and sent me back to the train station.
So my teeth remain covered in tartar for another week or so. But I did get to see a new part of Berlin and practice some German. It feels good to blow off appointments once and a while.