(This will be Part 2 of 3. See here for Part 1. It was supposed to be just two parts, but apparently the emotional scars run too deep to be handled in two entries. Or I don’t know how to keep my writing short and sweet – whichever.)
It was clear from the moment we walked in that this
would not go well. Could not go well. Was not allowed to go well, by decree of the stars. Against all odds (as we had been told), we had only dealt with impossibly nice people at the Rathaus up until this point. This was not normal, we were told. It’s normally much worse, we were told. Well, karma is a bitch, even in Germany. Possibly especially in Germany.
We approached the desk and sat down gingerly, waiting for this woman to finish shuffling her papers and rearranging endless items on her desk. Eventually, she glared up at us. Our cue to begin speaking?
“Hi,” I started, shoving the number towards her desk. “We’re here to extend our residence permits.” (Please note, this is only what I meant to say. I’m sure that it really came out as something more like, “We now here are for living cards prolonging please.” It’s called creative license – deal with it.)
“Let me see your papers,” she snapped. I spread them out on the table.
“Where are your photos?” she asked. My husband and I glanced at each other.
“We don’t need photos…” I started to explain.
“You must have the photos! I cannot process it without the photos. I need something (here she smacked a piece of paper with her hand) to attach to this sheet of paper.”
This went on for a while. But, and this is the important part, she didn’t tell us to leave. She got angrier and angrier (and I wouldn’t have minded if she told us to leave due to the whole “angrier and angrier” part) but she just continued flipping through the papers. She forgot to continue to act huffy about the photos, however, since there was so much else to come that would occupy her wrath.
I thought she was going to have a hernia when she realized that we had two different last names. My spirit was already pretty broken by that point, so I had just stopped caring. “We always came in together before,” I said quietly. She got up from her desk, rifled through a cabinet just behind her, and tossed my file onto her desk, spilling the contents. Then she huffed around the corner to another row of cabinets, which were technically closer to another employee’s desk.
That’s when I realized – there was no actual reason why we were supposed to be separated, except for the fact that she did not want to walk the extra ten feet. It was technically more efficient to have this woman handle the “L’s” and the next one over handle the “Z’s” because the cabinets were not right next to each other. It didn’t matter that one of us speaks only a little German and the other speaks even less German and that we could not possibly communicate at all if we were separated. The ALPHABET couldn’t care less. And since this is Germany, rules are rules are rules.
To be continued, soon enough!