No matter the language of your destination, sometimes it's hard to say no, writes Neil Porten
Nothing says "successful holiday" more than a souvenir to remind you of a wonderful trip to [insert Dream Destination here]. But what if the souvenir is for someone who isn't going with you to DD? Instead, they want you to bring back something, a particular something, something particularly fragile and awkwardly shaped — say a German cuckoo clock, from Germany. And, no, they don't want to buy online and have it shipped to them in a few days, thank you. They want a genuine German cuckoo clock. From Germany. From you. Ach du lieber Himmel! (Good Heavens!)
How to react to such a request from a loved one, whose feelings you would never want to hurt? What to say, when your intention was to travel light and fast, bringing back only memories and a belly full of beer and bratwurst?
Of course, you know the right answer to this question. But let's at least make a show of exploring the options while that pendulum swings, the tiny wooden minute-hand ticks toward the hour and the little birdie sits behind its door, waiting to tweet.
On the face of it, to any normal person, this looks and feels like a request that can and should be quickly rebuffed. It's not practical; you are taking only a small suitcase, you are in Berlin for only three days and your itinerary is jam-packed. You are rightly known as a reluctant shopper and terrible judge of the appropriate gift.
But let's throw away the nuclear option straight away: if you even want to make it on to the flight to Europe, any suggestion that this request is ridiculous/unreasonable/irrational is a Very. Bad. Idea.
You could try to ignore it, hope it is not mentioned again and that it is, ideally, forgotten. This is possible: your trip is several weeks away, you're both busy people with a lot on your minds. You ought to be able to pick up a nice souvenir at the airport before your flight home. A nice scarf, perhaps. But do you really want to risk this option and the potential consequences? How likely is this based, on past experience?
I thought so.
Maybe you could convince them that online shopping is not just the future, it's the present too. And there's no time like the present to shop for a timepiece. Ha ha. If dodgy wordplay fails, pointing out that online you have a bigger choice might swing it. Explain that you can relax on the couch at home, looking at the pictures and videos, comparing prices, before finding just the perfect clock.
It's a plan, but it's unlikely to scratch the itch.
Honeymoon hashtag hell: Is that Instagram shot really worth it?
If you've done your research, you might suggest a drive to a shop in a town a couple of hours away that sells fair dinkum German cuckoo clocks. Just like they sell in Germany. The shopkeeper looks nice on the website so you're guaranteed to get friendly Kiwi service. Let's take a leisurely detour and have lunch at that wunderbar German bakery in Waihi. It'll be fun. We can make a day of it.
But, come on, you just know that Kāingaroa Forest does not equal Black Forest.
Finally, you could appeal to their altruistic side: wouldn't you want me to have a hassle-free trip? There are all those logistical difficulties: finding a shop, negotiating a good price, having it packaged up, worrying about whether the precious memento will make it safely back to New Zealand. Would you really wish all that on me?
The silence will be deafening.
Cuckoo! Time's up! The correct answer, liebling, is: none of the above, because none of it deals with the fundamental issue, which is: when your other/mother/lover can't be there, only a direct physical connection to the Dream Destination, through you, will make up for it. And there's nothing cuckoo about that. Buying an actual clock, in actual Germany, and actually carrying it home to place into the hands of your darling is a sign of love. And that, actually, is timeless.