From Lithuania With Love: Vilnius
Hotel Sarunas in Vilnius Lithuania was very adequate, if not humbling. I felt helpless and confused with what I knew were otherwise simple everyday activities. Nothing looked like it was supposed to. I did not understand the lock on the hotel door. I couldn’t locate the light switch in the room or on the wall. I was confused about how to use the hotel telephone. I could not figure out how to plug any of my electronics into the wall. I was perplexed by the climate control device, and leery of the bathroom equipment and fixtures. Nothing was intuitive. It was all third-worldy and convexing. Sort of how you’d expect Vilnius Lithuania to be.
I, uh, also, had a bit of an incident with the shower nozzle upon my arrival. The fancy shower nozzle was the type you use in the kitchen sink to rinse dishes. Imagine me in my first shower in Lithuania. Finally rinsing off the repressive hours spent in tangled positions trapped amongst strangers on myriad airplanes and hard plastic airport chairs. Praying to dilute the stress and London public transportation funk from the previous day. Suddenly, the shower nozzle transformed into a wiggle worm completely soaking the bathroom and all my belongings inhabiting the floor, as there was no countertop. I was wrestling to tame the writhing beast but it broke loose again. I narrowly escaped, laughing, to run, dripping wet, to answer the ringing telephone. Thank the stars the ring resembled a U.S. telephone or I may have mistaken the sound for a fire alarm and run shrieking into the hallway dragging my towel behind my naked body. Panting, I picked up the receiver. It was Teresa, in the room next door, frantically concerned by all the ruckus clamoring from my room. Defensively and without thinking I confessed between breaths, “I couldn’t hold it! It was everywhere! There weren’t enough towels to clean up afterwards! I was naked and everything was wet!” I was thereafter forced to put on my rubber-soled shoes to ground myself to use the hairdryer whose only speed was blasting high. I looked like the news anchor from that stupid Batman movie that looked progressively uglier as a result of the city-wide boycott of chemical beauty products. I suffered the electronic death of my first cell phone within twelve hours and had to replace it. I highly suspect it was an aftershock of what I have come to refer to simply as “the incident”.
Vaidus, the unlucky driver/escort assigned to us, spoke very little English. He was a strange combination of a WWF wrestler and a Russian wise-guy. Most of the men I saw in Lithuania of Lithuanian or Russian descent dressed like they were in Goodfellas. Vaidus was in his early twenties, stocky, with a black burr haircut. He dressed the part by donning mostly black attire and kept his trench coat fully buttoned at all times no matter what the circumstance or weather. He inhaled four cigarettes every time he stopped the car. I mistakenly called him Midas the first three hours of his indenture to us. There were only a few tourist attractions in the capital, so Vaidas drove us directly to Vilnius Cathedral and Vilnius Castle to pass the time while we waited on the later arrival of a company consultant. The structures were very historic by the look of the indecipherable Cyrillic literature on display, but bleak. I labored up the cobblestone hill and looked back to see Teresa panting half way back, irritated at my short-lived spurt of energy to reach the top of the tower. I think Midas, I mean Vaidas, missed us after weeks of chaperoning giggle boxes. Teresa and I were hopelessly sophomoric in the car, unable to let any observation go unspoken; pointing out all manner of weirdness we saw off the roadway. Teresa might say something as we drove like, “Look! Lithuanian cows!”, and I would burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. After a week with Vaidas, we verified that haws packing heat. He listened to AC/DC amidst the popcorn musak to which he subjected us on the daily drive to and from the sterile building where we worked fourteen hours each day. In true Monty Python and the Holy Grail fashion I would periodically exclaim to no one in particular, “I’m being repressed!” Punch-drunk from the long weekday work hours, Teresa and I did manage to pick up some inexpensive amber jewelry from street vendors on the weekend. A token to remind us of our serfdom.