So there I am at my vet’s office in Berlin. The dog has just undergone bi-lateral orchiectomy (poor tyke) and a couple of days of post-OP work. And so I find myself stood at the reception desk hoping to make an appointment to have the stitches removed in a week’s time.
“And how would you like to pay your bill?” I’m asked.
“Well,” say I, “seeing that you don’t accept credit cards and that your debit card machine is not working, I would suggest you send a bill to me so I can transfer the money to your account.”
“Is it not possible to go to a bank machine and withdraw the money and bring it to us today?” I’m asked rather cheekily.
Now, this is beginning to get a tad annoying. I had already tried to find a bank machine en route to the clinic and found none working. I advise the receptionist that of this fact and that a bank machine safari at this point in the evening was not something I really wanted to embark upon. Perhaps she could send me a bill after all.
The receptionist then asks for my ID, stating that she cannot give me a bill in my hand. That might just be a bit too simple perhaps? She would need to send one to my home address.
And so, rather proud that I had remembered to bring it with me, I hand over my British passport. I had noticed a lot of people being asked for ID during the past week, something I found a little unusual.
“No, I need to see your ID” she quips.
“That IS my ID” I quip back.
“I can’t send you a bill. I can only send you a bill if you have a German ID.”
“Whaaaaa?” I respond with. “You mean you cannot send me a bill because I am not German?”
“We can’t send you a bill without a German ID, I’m afraid.” She looked rather lost in my direction, embarrassed for sure in the now very crowded waiting room area.
“You have two options,” I advise her, “either you send me a bill or you wait until next week for cash, when I am back to have the stitches removed. You can make the decision or I can make it for you.”
She looks once more at the computer screen.
“But yesterday you told my colleague you would pay cash today,” she says.
“Indeed,” I reply. “That was yesterday when I had expected the bank machines to work. This is today when they didn’t. You have only those two options.”
“Then cash… next week…?” she gingerly whispers.
As I leave, another client whom I met earlier in the week, also not German, asks me in English what on Earth that was all about.
“You’ll find out in a moment…” I tell her, “No credit cards, as you know (we are in Germany) and the debit card machine doesn’t work. No bills sent without German ID so you’re in for cash or a big fight!”
Her look of astonishment, coupled with the expression of embarrassed fear from the receptionist and disbelief from all the other clients in the waiting room who understood anything of what had happened, reminded me. I will never fit in here.