June 2004


Bureaucracy II

Friday was a pretty busy day. I woke up at some obscene hour-5:30, as I recall, and checked email and other mundane stuff before I headed over to the train station. I needed to catch the 8:08 train to Weimar in order to hang out with J and finish up whatever work I needed to finish having done.

I got to the train station bright and early: bright being the operative word, for the ticketing agents were not yet at work. I happened to notice the day before where the automatic ticket machines were at the Jena West train station so I carried myself and the bicycle down the stairs to the machines. At first I tried to use the older machines on the right that took paper money, but not plastic. I punched in the code for my exact destination, 451, and told it I wanted a round trip. The price came to €8,40 and I was on my way- sort of. I only had a €50 note and the machine was busy rejecting me, over and over- so I gave up and went to the modern machine.

The modern ticket machine is one of these touch screen wonders. I made sure I told it I wanted the screens in English and then I had an adventure. The sun was up and it was pointed directly at the screen, thus making it impossible to read. I must have looked like a freak as I would shade a small area every few seconds, followed by looking at it from the bottom, the right, the left, and then starting the process all over as I pressed a button and then faced a new screen with new decisions that I couldn’t understand until I had looked at the screen from every possible angle. Eventually I reached the screen where I could pay-a few seconds later I had won the ticket game: I was on my way to and from Weimar.

I rode my bicycle from the Weimar Hbf to the future home where J was awaiting my arrival. Naturally there was somebody standing exactly where I wanted to ride the bicycle. Rather than running them over I decided it would be better to ride around the block and just avoid an unpleasant situation. However this was a somewhat longer ride than I expected. There wasn’t a way to just “go around the block”-unlike most of the United States, blocks here are not really square. Quite frankly, I was rather surprised at how long it took to get back to where I wanted to be.

Eventually I got to the apartment (180 square meters; don’t ask what that is in terms of square feet), where J and I talked over breakfast before heading out to the great big world. We were in a rush as we had to meet somebody before the friend left town for the States. Once that was done, we returned to the T-Punkt Store-I guess I didn’t understand what had happened yesterday, but I was there again, and- this time we must have accomplished something: I’ve signed papers to have DSL phone service installed come August. It is expensive getting everything installed and when it is all said and done I will have a DSL line, 120 minutes of Germany call time a month, 1,500 MB of data transfer, and probably stuff I don’t need for less than €50 a month.

Before anybody seriously objects, I might note that the DSL service is my entertainment source: I have no use for German television-and I have only two English language television services on my television in Weimar: CNN International and CNBC. CNN International is, in my previous experience, a very repetitive channel. You can watch it in the morning for about 30 minutes, go away, come back and in the late evening, they will still be presenting the exact same information as they were in the morning. CNBC, of course, is a bit too financial for my taste. Really, how much can one watch stock reports?

An aside: the basic model for phone service in Europe is fundamentally different: you pay per minute for every phone call, regardless. That’s right: instead of paying a flat fee for phone service and then getting unlimited local area phone calls, you pay each time you lift up the phone and dial-the rates vary depending upon whether it is a local phone call, within Germany, or to another country. It’s free to receive phone calls-and that’s just a description of land line services-never mind the nightmare that is mobile phone service, where receiving phone calls is free, unless the person calling you isn’t in Germany.

By the time we left the T-Punkt store, it was time for me to rush back to Jena in time to give my seminar. It was scheduled for noon, but I didn’t get to the train station until 12:02, when the train arrived.

(Translation by MS Word: Punkt masculine point (also figuratively); Tupfen: dot; Satzzeichen: full stop, period; Stelle: spot, place; um Punkt zehn (Uhr) at ten (o’clock) sharp; nach Punkten gewinnen et cetera: on points)

Whilst I was doing this, J took my driver’s license and it is being translated into German for a small fee of €35. This translation, along with a few other documents, will be submitted to the appropriate authorities eventually resulting in receipt of my German Drivers License. I am already excited!

Random aside: I have had the television on for an hour this morning and CNN is already repeating (I am writing this at the hotel near the Frankfurt Flughaven).

The afternoon brought a nap-I was suddenly exhausted beyond belief and the nap was a much needed necessity if I were to keep my wits about me. After the nap I was went back to the office where I did paperwork related to my future employment and got my laptop.

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