Last Wednesday, I got a surprise visit: a guy from Bewag, the power company, holding a turn-off notice. This was odd, because I always get two warning notices before they send someone out and I hadn't had one yet. In a very loud voice, he told me, almost as if he were reciting it, that I HADN'T PAID MY BILL and that if I didn't HE WAS AUTHORIZED TO COME BACK IN A WEEK AND TURN OFF MY ELECTRICITY.
Wow, Mrs. B must've really enjoyed that performance.
Anyway, I realized that it had been a while since I'd heard from Bewag, but, since they've just been taken over by the Swedish firm Wattenfall, the bills might've gotten lost in the mail during the change-over.
But the next day, I got a printed bill in the mail that included the €42.55 charge for the guy's visit. That was absurd; it must have been mailed before he showed up. Trouble was, I didn't have the money to pay the bill. Best to have some ammunition before you go talk to these people, I reasoned.
This morning, though, I got an e-mail which indicated that I'd have plenty of money by week's end, so I figured, okay, I'll go all the way across town to the Bewag offices and see if they'll let me pay the whole thing by Friday, which seemed reasonable. I had to change trains twice, and the weather was cold and wet, but I made it down there to Bismarckstr. and took a number. You always have to take a number.
Mine was only three away from the number being dealt with, though, so it only took a half hour for me to get to the desk of the guy who'd hear my case. Which he would have if he'd bothered to listen. I asked him why I'd been billed for the guy's appearance on a bill that must have been mailed the day before, and he clicked around the computer and told me I'd gotten three warning notices, which, in fact, I hadn't. "You must have," he said with a smug expression. "The computer says they were sent." Impasse.
Okay, I told him, I would have the money by the end of the week, because I was getting more than enough to pay it. "Congratulations (Ich gratuliere Sie)" he sneered, "but you have to pay by the 26th." Can't you be a little flexible? I asked him. "You can pay half of this by the end of the day tomorrow in cash," he said, fixing me with a steely gaze, "or we turn you off on the 26th."
Well, if I pay half of it I won't have any money for food, but I can scrape it together. The guy spoke in rapid German, even though I asked him several times to speak slower. This only make him speak louder. You know, foreigners understand better when you yell at them. So I have to repeat this tomorrow and hope for the best.
The dancer was over for dinner yesterday, and at one point we started talking about how there were two Germanys, one made up of people who had no social mobility, who were in the working class with no chance of escaping it due to the class system and the educational system, and another Germany made up of educated, aware people. The first class also includes the bureaucrats, people like this guy, whose face slammed shut just as soon as he realized I was a foreigner. These people use their minimal education to secure jobs within a system from which they can't be fired, but can, if they play by the rules, be promoted. Some day, this guy may wind up in a cushy job like the fat gentleman with whom I had to register to get my number for the line. Until then, he gets to be completely inflexible, unfriendly, and severe. That's what pays off.
And hell, I've gone without food before, and I can do it again.
It was a weird trip there and back. On one train, a girl was crying uncontrollably, as people edged away from her. The billboards at the stations were loaded with "Bewag is now Wattenfall!" ads showing happy Germans doing this and that, happy, no doubt, because the city's deficit-ravaged company had been sold off to merry Swedes. I hope they make their invstment back. They're doing it on the backs of people like me, and at the expense of our good will.
I knew there was one item I forgot to post yesterday. I recently criticized the Berlinische Galerie for mounting yet another show about the group of painters known as Die Brücke, after the Neue Nationalgalerie had had a boffo show on just this group a few months earlier. As it turns out, on closer inspection of the BG's posters, they're housing the Brücke Museum, which is usually located in the borough of Dahlem, at the moment. No doubt the Dahlem location is being renovated or something. So the BG gets out of having to mount a new show for the fall and winter, sure, but it's not as confusing or stupid as it appeared. My apologies to all concerned, and if you missed the NNG show, you might want to go check this out.