You walk into a foreign environment (extremely overdressed) and instantaneously all eyes are on you, judging, staring, comparing, and assuming your volume.
What can you handle and how thick is the glass encompassing your true brew?
My volume was tested my first day at Reuters TV in Berlin - a birthday party and a competitive invitation to test my abilities.
I arrived to the celebration wearing my game face, ready to prove that I was not just a quick shot glass or a dense heavy stein, but rather a form-fitting mug who likes Bratwurst and kraut.
Kegs were tapped and our containers were filled to the brim. We quickly cut through the hasty pour after making San Francisco connections and discovering overlapping friends. Conversation was flowing and the layers of fermentation were pealing away. Laughter ensued, glasses clinked, and story ideas were splashed around.
The once icy mugs were warming with the relaxed grip, exposing the wild ones who were lining up Yagermeister shots; the heavy lifters, untouched by the liquid consumption and shouting “ein bier mehr bitte”; the fearless ones, starting the dance floor; and the attached, who could not depart from their blackberry (until an intervention occurred where the bberry mysteriously took a dive into Hefeweizen goodness).
Realizing the early morning hour and that my mug was beginning to fog over with jet lagged eyes, I cashed in my container and cycled away (in an unknown direction) with my newfound deposit of connections.
It was the blaring alarm that made me realize I had reached bottom and was sucked dry of any lingering Berlin Pilsner drops.
After a dizzy shower (where my knee learned about the elevated German showers), a jerky train ride, and a huff up the six flights of Reuters stairs, I flopped in my chair to find it was only me and another on time.
As if this wasn’t a test enough, an assignment three hours away in Hamburg to cover a story on defected Cuban boxers tested my character.
I was craving to rewind the night -- refill my empty mug, suck the booze back through the hose, top off the keg, seal it, and bury it in the darkest cellar.
Instead, it was all accelerated as we shifted through the gears and reached maximum speed on the autobahn. Without traffic, it would have been a smooth ride, however at 9am, it was filled with VW and Mercedes grills. It was 180 minutes of gunning it, sitting on someone’s tale, frantically flashing lights, and punching it into triple digits for 200 yards to find yet another bumper.
But with the windows down, a misty rain, the techno beat, and an excitement for my first story, I reached my equilibrium and the morning pain was just a haze.
After assisting with the interview of Castro’s nemesis (a Hamburg promoter who is taking Cuba’s top boxers) I was floored with ideas.
I returned to the bureau fired up, laughed over last night’s debauchery (stunned to hear that some stayed out until 8am), and found my confidence as I pitched two stories that we will pursue.
And so the tale goes, day four and Reuters sent me out solo to conduct my first German interview with the organizer of Trabant’s 50th Birthday celebration (tiny, notorious East German automobile). No, I did not fully understand the interview (he had a thick accent), but I managed to smile and nod at the right times and fire off countless questions.