Germans and customer service do not go hand in hand. This became tragically evident on Friday in a few separate incidents when I had a mere few tasks to do.
And before I forget, it was also evident the day before when my German-bought vehicle failed inspection because the German inspection that was done immediately before I purchased the vehicle must not have included things like “operational reverse lights.” A stern talking-to later and that is being fixed so I can trade out the dull U.S. plates taped to the front of my car for those svelte European long plates that actually fit where the screws are supposed to go… I used a German-speaker for the stern talking-to part, because most of the impolite words I wanted to say I did not know the proper translation for, and my German friend pointed out that I would probably not want to trade having operational reverse lights for, say, having inoperational brake lines.
But I digress, as usual, from the fun that was my Friday afternoon. I had gone to the shop on post, sponsered by the Army (should have been my first clue something was amiss), to set up my internet and telephone service. As I have mentioned, these people are several sandwiches short of a good picnic, or even a moderately bad picnic, but since there were no important World Cup games to be held on Friday I was reasonably certain that all would go smoothly.
Two and a half hours into the six-hour window of waiting for the technician, I got an inkling that something might in fact be amiss. I called the company using my outrageously expensive pre-pay cell phone and sat on hold for a time until a very pleasant lady came on and told me that no, no one was coming out today, no, no one had intended to call and inform me of such, no, no one would provide a modem and I would have to go downtown and purchase one, and no, she didn’t particularly care that I thought this was the most absurd business practice ever. On top of that, she also told me that the technicians didn’t even have to come out to my house, so she didn’t know why I was home in the first place and it wasn’t her fault that no one had told me that I didn’t need to be there, and that they were just too busy today for one of those techicians to flip a switch somewhere to make everything go. I did hang up the phone before I wasted my euro with the extremely long stream of words that my elderly landlord probably would have found most amusing if his English were a bit better.
I then packed up and went to the orthopedist, who was located on a different floor than the one on which the Army had told me his office could be found and no one else in the building seemed to speak any English whatsoever so I got to puzzle out with my limited German skills exactly where I was and where I was supposed to be. Finding the office, I sat remarkably close to a man with hair exactly like that of David Hasselhoff and waited for my tall, blond, cloned-looking German doctor to wiggle my foot around and go “hmmm” a lot. He determined that Tanzania is not cold enough for frostbite (and did not want to hear what the temperature was next to the glaciers 6000 meters up from the Tanzanian plains), he had no idea what had caused the nerve damage to the foot, the ankle must have something wrong with the ligaments, and that the Army had failed to release my imagry records to me or to him so he was simply using his Jedi powers. I assumed the last part, anyway. He poked, prodded, and muttered in German to himself and his assistant, then said “The ankle is loose and your foot is less responsive than the other,” the crucial statement of the obvious that then led him to instruct me to find a German neurologist, someone to analyze blood samples, and to find a way to get my original imagry, and to then return to him with the results from all of this as soon as possible so he can arrange for ligament surgery (what?). With a swoosh of his heavily-styled mane, he then left the office.
I would have sat there a bit unnerved, but his non-english speaking assistant handed me a photocopy of my instructions and waved me back to the front desk. I went home, used the rest of my phone time at over 2 euros per minute calling my husband, watched the not-as-good-as-the-book movie of Catch-22, remembered that this is all the Army way, and went to bed comforted that I only had 75 more missions to fly…