Yesterday morning, Bill got an email letting him know that he had been purged from “the system” at work. Someone down in Stuttgart thought we moved back to the States instead of Wiesbaden, so they wiped out his information and sent him an email demanding that he turn in his official credentials. Obviously, we haven’t left Germany, so this meant Bill had to take me to get a new ID card, as well as a new SOFA card. SOFA stands for Status of Forces Agreement. It’s what allows us to live in Germany and not be “ordinary residents” or pay German taxes.
This was a pain in the ass for Bill, since he had stuff to do today. Things are getting busy for him at work, so this chore meant he’d had to sacrifice a couple of hours taking care of this paperwork. We showed up at the ID office at about 7:50am, ten minutes before they opened. I was looking at my phone and immediately got annoyed by someone’s meme.
Yeah, I know. I sound really petty. I was a tad irritable, though. Thursday is vacuum day, a chore I really hate doing. Despite my former landlady’s erroneous assumptions to the contrary, I do regularly clean my house. Thursday is when I vacuum each week. And if I need to do it on another day because of an unusual mess, I will. The sooner I get my vacuuming done, the happier I am. Having to be at the ID office simply delayed my post vacuum joy.
We sat in the waiting room, where someone had tuned the television set to AFN Sports. AFN stands for Armed Forces Network. It’s basically a U.S. government run television channel for Americans overseas. When my dad was stationed in England, we did not get AFN. We got the usual British stations. I’m sure AFN was available, but I guess we didn’t use it because in England, most people speak English. My first introduction to AFN was in 1995, when I first visited the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia. They had a bar and a restaurant there, where there was a TV showing AFN. I used to watch the really horrible PSAs of the 1990s. I had no idea that just a few years after coming home, I’d be re-entering the wonderful world of government service/military.
Anyway, on the TV set, there was a sign. I noted in a recent travel post that the U.S. military is very fond of posting signs. Sure enough, the waiting room was littered with signs of varying quality. On the television, someone had posted “Please, do not touch.” I was slightly amused by the use of the comma, which I guess was technically correct. But then I got slightly grumpy at the sight of an official poster advertising the American right to vote worldwide.
We were soon called in to make a new ID card for me, since Bill had his done yesterday. The lady who took care of me was pleasant enough, although not particularly friendly. We went back into the waiting room to wait for phase two, having my new ID turned on so it would be in the system. I asked Bill who decided that the TV set should be tuned to AFN Sports. We were watching some show about the Oakland Raiders football team and I was getting really grossed out, since they kept showing pictures of the players’ torn up feet. Think huge blisters covering the whole sole of the foot, torn open with dead skin hanging. It was pretty nauseating, although in fairness, I guess I might be just as nauseated by being forced to watch “The View” or something like that.
Bill just kind of sighed and said, “This sucks.”
I said, “It could be worse. You could be at a proctologist’s office. Hanging out with me is only one form of ass pain.” Just after I said that, I noticed several children’s books on the shelf. There were maybe six of them. The most interesting title was “Once Upon a Potty”. I actually considered picking that one up and reading it, but then thought better of it, since there were others in the room and 47 is a bit old to be reading about the wonders of being potty trained.
The second lady called me in to be helped. Bill was already annoyed with her, since she and some Lieutenant Colonel were sitting there bullshitting about their travel plans when people were waiting. I was less annoyed by that and more annoyed by her choice of clothing. She wore a short dress, cardigan sweater, and pink leggings with polka dots. However, I have seen much less professional attire in government offices. I remember one lady wore grey spandex leggings with a beige, polyester blouse. It was kind of the clothing equivalent of a mullet– business on top, party on the bottom.
She was inputting my information in the system as I was admiring the funny poster showing how to properly take an ID photo. There were all of these examples of what not to do. Some were pretty funny. For instance, I learned today that you’re not supposed to open your mouth when you take an ID photo. The poster looked like it might have been fun to make, although it appeared that the person who made it could use some diversity training. Almost all of the people on the poster were white. Sorry… it’s not a huge deal, but something I did learn about when I used to have a job.
So anyway, the lady asked me if my recorded weight was correct. I, of course, hate it when people ask me about my weight. I have not been weighed since 2007. I do not get on scales and don’t even want to know what that number is. She said, “If your weight isn’t correct, you might not be able to get on the installation.”
I said, “Well, I don’t know my weight, and I almost never come on post.”
She said that was fine, took another photo, then took one of Bill. Then, she asked him his proper weight. He gave it, probably more accurately than I could even guess mine. Meanwhile, I was noticing the super old “boom box” that had an actual cassette player. Haven’t seen one of those in a long while.
We were soon finished with lady number two and back in the waiting room, where I noticed another sign. Someone had put it on a table that held a DVD player. The sign read, “Please do not sit or climb on railing.” I’m assuming the person meant the little table, which had a lower level that people must have sat on at some time. The table appeared to be AAFES quality and probably can’t bear much weight.
I didn’t have much time to think about that, though, because a very courteous and friendly young man called us in to update our SOFA cards. He left me with a very positive impression. I was feeling grumpy when we entered the office, but he was so nice and efficient that my mood improved as we were leaving. We were talking about how I don’t tell anyone my weight and Bill explained that there’s an automated side gate that removes the need for a live guard. The gate weighs you as you come through, and if you are not within fifteen pounds of your stated weight, it won’t let you in. Aha! Well then, that makes sense. Good thing I don’t live on post and never use the side gate.
Bill wanted to get me a donut because I was so crabby, but the Dunkin’ Donuts shop on post is being renovated. So we got in the car to come home. We continued talking about the gate and how I never go on post. I said, “I’ve only come because Bill made me. And he doesn’t make me come enough, which is probably why I’m so grouchy.”
Naturally, that bit of tasteless humor made Bill crack up. I think my penchant for crude jokes is why he keeps me around. I make him laugh by saying inappropriate things, particularly in front of unsuspecting strangers. Bill is, himself, one of those people who is very trusting and always sees the good in everyone. I am a bit more of a cranky pessimist. I expect people to try to fuck me over. When they don’t, I am pleasantly surprised. And when they do, I usually end up being better prepared than most.
Well, I’m glad to have that little bit of bureaucracy taken care of… at least until June, when we’ll have to update again if Bill’s job continues. Now, I think I’ll go back to reading my latest book, so I can write a new book review for y’all.