Our daughter Ellen (not her real name) and her husband, James were living in Amsterdam for two years partaking of an NSERC (National Research Council of Canada) Post-doctoral Fellowship in Theoretical Chemistry and Physics that James had won at the University of British Columbia. Susan and I were in a somewhat similar circumstances at the same time, living for six months in Tuebingen, Germany enjoying a Senior Scientific Fellowship at the University of Tuebingen arranged by Professor Hartmut Stegman in the Chemistry Department. This was summer of 1997, 30 years later, and a few months after the University of Guelph had retired me because of age (65).
Because of my insecurity with traveling by train in a foreign country we bought a used 1987 BMW 4-door sedan equipped with a 4-speed standard transmission. Excellent car! Ellen asked us whether she could come and visit. Since she had no misgivings about travelling by rail a week-end was selected and Ellen arrived.
Because we had a car Ellen wanted to see a variety of places in Germany. These were easy day trips, mostly south of us. The first was Ulm. The tallest church in the world resides here with an internal old staircase to the top of the tower. People were lining up to scale these old steps and so did we. I have problems with claustrophobia and heights which I completely forgot about in my enthusiasm to follow my daughter up these narrow stairs. Shouldn't a father at least be able to keep up with his daughter? Not so. It didn't take long and I was exhausted and afraid. The staircase was not situated in an enclosed inner space. Most of the climb was exposed to the outside. This I could not deal with. Finally I had to say to Susan that I had to go back down. She agreed although she could probably have made it to the top herself. Now this was a problem. The stairs are narrow and in some places sagging towards the outside. Whole families from grandfather to grandchild were coming up. Careful sideways passing was slow and scary. It took a long time but finally I was free: on stable ground zero. Never again, I vowed.
It took quite a long time. I wished for a fine coffee bar to sit and meditate but there was none. Finally Ellen appeared all flushed and radiant. We asked her how it went.