Tuesday, 16 September 2014

First world problems

The first world is supposedly a place where your worries go away and you can lead a successful, trouble-free, and even happy existence. Legend has it that people do the impossible to get to the first world: some have tried boats, others - planes, and some even pretend to be invisible, sneaking in through the educational system, like me. 

In the beginning this world is a magical place. It looks tidy and well mowed, abundant in goods and services, pleasing to the ear with its unfamiliar sounds. My years as a student in Scotland, still United Kingdom, allowed me to soak in this magic and made me feel like this is the place where I belong, this is the place where my troubles go away. Minor woes were attributed to the fact that life is not perfect wherever you are. The weather is too cold and frankly horrid? It is ok, I never liked scorching heat anyway. It takes 3 months before you can get an appointment with a doctor? It is ok, it’s free, plus my GP can always prescribe me Paracetamol. It is bloody expensive? It is ok, jobs in the first world are well paid. Just wait and see, wait and see, I told myself. And so, my 5 student years were coming to an end and I could almost feel the goodies of the first world rain on me. But like in any moderately good utopian story, something happened.

I can’t really tell when things stopped being what I thought they are. Maybe when the internet allowed me to discover (and follow) people who don’t work and have a life much more glamourous than my first world life will ever be. Or maybe when I had to move flats once again.

You see, for me moving house has become almost a ritual, which is celebrated at least once a year. And the more you do it, the less scary it becomes. This time, however, I neither wanted to leave my old apartment, nor did I have many options where to move. Edinburgh Fringe had eaten up all apartments and rooms and unless I was willing to pay close to a £1000 for a one bedroom flat, it was quite the pickle. Running about town, calling agencies and landlords countless times a day, filling in ridiculous flat application forms had become a routine for nearly a month. One day, however, I got to view a super central sunny flat, which, of course, had the major disadvantage of being completely unfurnished. No beds, tables, chairs, fridges, mashing machines, just a nice soft brown carpet and an unfinished bathtub. As time was pressing and homelessness was knocking on my door, however, this unfurnished ugly duckling of a flat it was. After the compulsory ridiculous flat application form and the signing, B and I moved (it took several attempts) to our new place. How wrong I was to think my saga was over.

The things you actually need in a flat amount to a lot more than a table and a bed. So our first stop was IKEA where we decided to grab ourselves a bargain and go for a sofa bed (a sound solution to a small flat and a small budget). For kitchen appliances we resorted to Argos, where the phone gentleman nicely let us know we won’t get our things come next month due to their busy delivery schedule. Meanwhile, the IKEA delivery team ‘delivered’ the components for our sofa bed one by one as the box fell apart in the van (where one of the guys exclaimed ‘Oy, this parcel I find here, wasn’t it for the previous guy we went to?’).

I have heard that IKEA leave out or place additional instructions in their manuals to mess with their customers. After 4 laborious hours of following the manual to the letter we ended up with a part that neither fit anywhere, nor did anything, just hung there lifelessly as a metaphor for my hopes and dreams. The conundrum was solved when I went to the store to inspect the bed, only to come back and find out that our part had been bent and cannot be placed where it belongs. A lot of cursing and sweating later, the bed was complete and (almost) all parts were in place.

Argos, however, were not so willing to let us have a happy ending. After weeks without home cooked, or a fridge to store take-away (or beer), our flat felt more like a tent in the woods rather than an abode in a first world country. Especially when it came to doing the laundry. On the very special morning when the Argos delivery was expected, we were ever so politely informed that since we did not have a lift in the building (quite unusual for Edinburgh, apparently), and one man would not suffice to deliver the items, we had to reschedule. Who would imagine that it required more than one person to deliver a washing machine, a cooker, and a fridge?

Compared with this experience the fact that our sockets were burned and needed an electrician to change the cables felt like a prick with a needle on a finger you had just bashed with a hammer. And things would have been ok, finally coming to their places, finally allowing me to enjoy my first world freedom, when I was told today that the flat agency had lost their electricity cupboard key and we cannot have internet installed for several weeks…

Welcome to the first world, where you beg giant corporations to respect your human rights and ‘borrow’ internet from the cafĂ© across the street.


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