First, he takes an inordinate amount of time to check and double check my documents, compares them with the originals and scrutinizes the notary stamps while I am standing there – now impatiently, shifting my weight from one foot to another. He doesn’t in the least react to any of that. Not even a cursory glance at me watching intently his every motion.

‘Na gut!’ He says finally, taking out an A4 size instruction sheet and circling # 4 – requiring me to have my car checked out by the federal auto agency in Augsburg and from what I understood, have her brought up to the German technical standards as recommended by the agency. Then have it re-inspected and certified by them and bring back the paperwork for him to issue the license plates.

I have not anticipated anything of the sort. Suddenly feeling dismayed at the realization that just like my residence permit debacle that is still going on, this simple registration too may turn into a an intricate bureaucratic web, I am horrified and don’t know whether to scream and shout or breakdown and cry. What he wants me to do would require me to take off some time, drive sixty some kilometers (36 miles) one way, have the car inspected and then have those technical details changed to conform to the German automotive standards. As it is, in Germany owning a car is outrageously expensive at every step of the way and I haven’t a clue how much it would all cost. Or even if there were places that worked on American cars. All this rushes through the screen of my mind faster than a runaway train. I know many Americans who drive around forever with their American license plates, though majority of them issued by the US Armed Forces and those cars don’t have to comply with the German standards. This is what I get for wanting to make everything legal.  It feels like a nightmare into making.

On the other side of the counter, the clerk is trying to explain to me something. I no longer hear what he is saying. The wheels in my mind are whirring frantically trying to figure out, how the hell I get out of here and forget all about registering my car in Germany. I am also thinking, if I do have my car technically altered, what then when I return back to America, no longer in compliance with the U.S. standards?

‘Excuse me, but I’ve got to go. I didn’t realize it will take this long. I’ve got to pick up my boss from the Riem (Munich International Airport) in half an hour. I’ll come back in a couple of days and you can then explain to me how I go about doing all that needs to be done.’ I say all of this in one breath and in fluent – if not grammatically correct German – but clear enough for him to understand every word I say. There is some truth to what I say. Lee Hall is indeed on his way in to Munich. But within hierarchy of our American staff of three, it’s Franz Spelman’s privilege to pick him up. Tim and I won’t even see him until we meet him for dinner that night. But my excuse sounds as good and honest or better than anything else I could have dreamt up! This throws off the poor clerk.

‘But you can’t do that?’

‘Why so?’

‘Then you’ll have to start all over again. I can’t refund you the thirty DM you have already paid.’

‘Never mind. I’ll pay again. My boss is coming all the way from America and I’ve got to be at the airport to greet him.’

I don’t wait for him to answer me. I swiftly pick up the pile of paperwork still sitting on the counter top between the two of us and dart out of there with quick danke and tut mir leid, aber ich muss mir beeilen. (thanks. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to hurry.’) And I am gone. It’s important that I take my paperwork back with me, just in case, should they get the idea and decide to follow up and come after the applicant who fled?

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