Accident no.26


The mailbox next to the door of my new flat is too small and has a broken lock. I buy the biggest version I can find so that I can receive packages when I’m away. I take the old one down and mark the position on the wall where the new screws need to go. The first two holes go ok and I start to drill the third. The spinning head of the drill starts to enter the plaster. In the guts of the wall there is a small ‘phut’ sound – the rim of the emerging hole has turned black and there is faint smell of burnt plastic.

I have a problem.

I’m leaving for the UK in three hours but I have blown all the lights in the stairwell and the landings, of two Berlin housing-blocks. Worse, I have also blown the bells that let the inhabitants know that somebody is visiting them.

The Turkish Hausmeisterin seems to hate me (mostly because of my dog) but, even though she scares me and we can barely communicate, I have no option but to knock on her door. I manage to explain and she shrugs. I persist. I manage to mime “fuse box?”, “trip switch?” Grudgingly she takes me down to the cellar. By the light of a torch I can make out a set of trip switches with one switch in the wrong position. Gingerly, I press the black plastic lever back up. It clicks into place and the lights come back on.

I release my finger very slowly… And it stays.

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