We met Eberhard and drove to the Landratsamt to get our new/used German car registered, by the police station and other government offices where he worked as a cop for 40 years.
We took a number and sat, and the ticket stub estimated our wait time at 11 minutes. And we watched the reader board change over with the sound of a casiotone each time it announced a new window was available for service, most of the others waiting, senior citizens.
Eberhard asked what I wanted to put on the license plates and I chose Dawn’s initials (DP) and year of birth (1969) since it’s her birthday tomorrow and we should get the car then. In just one week from starting our search, we found a car, negotiated a price, the dealer got it checked and found a leak he’s fixing with the AC, and we should get it tomorrow, seven days later, with new plates, an insurance card, and breakdown insurance from the European equivalent of AAA, ‘ADAC.’
The woman at the desk gave us a plastic card for payment, which we took to a machine and inserted to pay our bill, got a receipt, walked across the street to a small trailer that makes the license plates, and watched as they set the typeface and stamped out the plate, done in the time it took for me to count out the money and get my change from the cashier.
Back to the Landratsamt, the same woman who helped us before put the stickers on our plates and had us sign some more things, and we were done. But on our way out, Eberhard insisted we stop and ask about a visa. He said it costs nothing to ask, and there are always exceptions, always ways around things.
I really didn’t want to ask about getting a visa since we’ve been down this road many times before. We hired immigration lawyers out of Frankfurt, had early morning conference calls, created graphs illustrating the rules of the Schengen, and now that Dawn has spent roughly two weeks straight coordinating rentals throughout the UK for the next three months, I’m ready to stick to our plans and leave.
But Eberhard knocked on a door and excused himself and we all went inside and he started speaking German, gesturing to my mom and me, and the woman looked apologetic and explained probably not, but we should wait while she talks to one of her colleagues.
And so we waited outside, and I half-hoped there would be a way we could stay or return before the 90 days was up — and Eberhard explained that if they hadn’t stamped our passports when we came in, none of this would matter: we could say we had been anywhere and no one would know or care about us staying in this small town, or probably even notice.
We went back in a different office and they all started speaking German and I understood none of it, but picked up on the tone and Eberhard’s expressions and increasing use of his hands, and they said we should wait again while this other woman went into a different office to talk to her boss.
And when she came out it was the same story: we need to leave for 90 days. And part of me was relieved, though Eberhard was annoyed with Germany’s position as a welcoming country to all the migrants from other places, and why it should matter if we stayed here six more months, none of us taking jobs from Germans.
It couldn’t work out better we’ll get our new car tomorrow for a drive east to Prague, a four CD changer and wallet of discs my friend Loren made for us before we left and mailed to me from Portland — discs with drawings and pictures, custom fit to fall and winter driving across Europe and the UK. It will be the longest Dawn and I have been alone together, apart from our kids, since 2009 when we celebrated her 40th in Paris.