Monday in Monaco and my identity as a personal finance blogger
Just kidding! My Monday is being spent not in Monaco where I will no doubt seamlessly blend in – but in Brussels, the bureaucratic capital of Europe. For me blending in here is really hard: looking around everyone seems to be wearing a pinstripe suit and pulling one of these annoying suitcases with wheels. Dangerous thing, those; but what really gets me is the pinstripe. So, I also make a point of wearing my most colourful stuff when I come to Brussels to visit the European Commission. Today for instance, I am wearing my red trousers, my colourful scarf and a set of red bags – a large handbag and a backpack. There are many reasons for a woman over 35 to be invisible but I did decide some time ago that lacking colour won’t be one of these of me.
Usually, I don’t write – or publish – simply personal posts where emotion precedes reason. Today is an exception! Too many little things happened to excite my temper and I have to tell somebody about it. Unfortunately, I am spending all day in a meeting – a group of scientists discussing projects – where I am ‘the balance’. I am one of two women and one of two social scientists/humanities people (out of 14 people); and no overlap. The Chair has had it for me from the outset (it may be the red trousers); the guy across the table had too long legs and I feel bored. So it is you, my dear readers who will hear about the minor vexations of my Monday in Brussels.
Cash point machines abroad are a stress bomb
Yeah, I know; if I were a bit more organised I would have got my euros at the pawning shop in ‘the village’ (the best rate in town, though the way the British pound is going this is not too damn good either). But I am not that organised and my life at the moment seems to be an on-going nervous breakdown. I was packing madly this morning.
So, I landed in Brussels with six euro in my purse – which may buy me a sandwich if I am not very fussy. Found a cash point machine and…
…several things happened.
First, there were two people before me. Second, the guy who was taking money out finished, moved away, swung his backpack around and hit me squarely in the chest without apology.
Next a lady with a baby stares at the ATM; it starts making funny noises, she looks at me and says: ‘where is he, this is his card.’ I start shouting and running after him; he gets his card – no thanks, no nothing. Vexatious!
Then, it is my turn; and the blasted machine speaks Flemish to me. I start sweating and worrying that it will swallow my card and won’t have cash for a taxi.
It all ended well but gosh was it stressful! Next time I’ll plan better.
When a fine is not a deterrent
I hopped in a taxi and all was well. Then we couldn’t get in a round-about because the car in front won’t move.
‘Not a very good driver’ – I piped.
‘He is on his mobile’ – the drive growled.
‘Isn’t it illegal here?’
Well, it turned out it is illegal but the fine is…only 150 euro. So I am thinking, too many people in this city can afford the fine. So what do they do? They drive and speak on their mobiles. Make the fine 15,000 euro, I say, and let’s see what will happen then.
When getting a taxi is the cheaper option
I arrived at my meeting and said ‘hi’ to my colleagues. Just to learn that one of them has just had his computer stolen on the train from Brussels Airport to the city centre; common, guys, we are talking Brussels here, not the Wild West (or South Africa).
My reaction to the news really caught me unawares. Instead of offering sympathy I asked:
‘Was your computer insured?’
‘No.’ – came the answer.
‘Did you have your data backed up?’
‘Yes’ – he said.
Gosh, this made me feel so good about taking a taxi; at least the worst that happened to me was some guy talking on the mobile while driving. Fancy having your computer stolen? And your toothbrush?
Hotels and internet access
Ok, last one I do promise. You know how it is important to know the name of your internet service provider? And you remember how proud I was that I finally learned mine? Well, big fat good it is in this hotel. I will have to get dressed and go downstairs to ask about all this if I want to publish this. At least the Wi-Fi is free – there are things that are more annoying than having to pay for internet when you have already paid handsomely for your hotel room but these are very few.
After today it is official – my identity has changed to incorporate being a personal finance blogger and I may as well accept it. And no, the very nice fish dinner ending with chocolate cake won’t make up for it.