As a birthday present to myself, I got tickets for this summer’s Wacken Open Air which, due to everything going on in the world right now, has of course been cancelled. Bit of a bummer, sure, but in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal, especially since I’ve been able to carry my tickets forward, and will be taking myself (and Ron, mustn’t forget!) next year, instead. As I write this, according to the website countdown, it’s only 432 days away. It’ll be here before we know it!
Anyway, with all the online forms to fill out and emails to send to rebook everything for next year, the festival’s been on my mind a lot lately. It’s a fairly big change – an extra year’s wait, a whole new festival theme, and of course what will be a large gathering in a post (we hope) pandemic world. But it’s not always about the big things. Sometimes it’s the little ones.
Like, for example, a few pieces of foam joined together to form a box.
Ron and I were a little green the first time we went to Wacken. It wasn’t the first festival for either of us, but it was the first time we wouldn’t be bringing our own stuff: no vehicle, and we were renting a tent and sleeping gear that would be already set up for us on the grounds when we arrived. Plus, I’d never camped in a tent before – well, okay, I did once, but I don’t speak of that – so I didn’t have the faintest idea what we might need.
While things went well overall for our first time, there was one thing we didn’t have the we really could have used. A cooler.
We did our best to improvise, but a cardboard box, a garbage bag, and a bag of ice can only go so far. I struggled, because the beer for sale at the campsite was never any colder than lukewarm, and not-cold beer makes me gag a little. I was never able to drink more than half of one before giving the rest to Ron. And while no, drinking wasn’t the be-all and end-all of things, it’s much more fun to get into the mosh pit with at least a bit of a buzz on.
So the second time we went to Wacken, we planned ahead. There’s a Bauhaus, a big box home improvement retailer, very near the place where we catch the festival shuttle in Hamburg.
Now, after having given what feels like about three lifetimes to that particular industry, I absolutely love going to Bauhaus. Not only do I find it interesting professionally, it’s a gorgeous store, way bigger and nicer and cleaner than any of the Canadian versions I’ve ever seen, let alone worked in.
Me being the “expert” and all, it was my job to locate the coolers, which I guessed would be somewhere in the seasonal department, at the opposite end of the building from the entrance. As we walked through the store, me trying hard not to slow us down too much while gawking about, Ron saw a staff member partway down an aisle and suggested we ask him to save time. It was a good idea, but it turned out the staff member spoke very little English and, since we speak not a lick of German, Ron began the tricky task of explaining what a cooler is without using the word cooler.
Knowing if I jumped into the fray it would just add to the confusion, I stood back and kept my mouth shut. Until another customer a bit further along the aisle asked me in perfect English if I wanted a cooler that plugged in. I told her no, we were just looking for something simple for a weekend of camping. She then spoke to the staff member in German, and translated his answer for us. The coolers were, indeed, in the seasonal department.
We thanked them both enthusiastically and continued on our way to the end of the building. When we got there, we walked the length of the main aisle, doing that side-to-side head-swivel thing one does in a store when not wanting to walk up and down every aisle to find what one is looking for. (That was Plan B.)
We were almost to the very end of the store, about to implement Plan B, when I heard a voice behind us calling, “Guys! Guys!” It occurred to me that, being in Germany and all, someone speaking English was probably talking to us, so I glanced back over my shoulder. There was our translating fellow customer, pointing down an aisle we’d walked past, saying “They’re down there!” And I realized she’d followed us to make sure we found our cooler.
For such a little thing, that cooler made a huge difference to our festival experience. Instead of paying festival prices for lukewarm beer at the campsite supply tents, we got a flat from the village grocery store – an experience all its own. Our cooler worked way better than a cardboard box and garbage bag, so a bag of ice lasted longer than an hour and our between-show beers were properly cold. As was our mix.
But our little cooler had more far-reaching effects than the festival. Because while I’m sure helping us out was a little thing to our fellow customer, it was a big kindness to us.