I’m happy to announce that I now drive a Mercedes-Benz. It’s true. A real in-the-steel-and-glass Mercedes. The model is a C-180, which is the 4-cylinder, 4-door model. The smallest engine they make (great gas mileage). To boot – it’s green, my favorite color.
I’m a doctor now, people. Apparently helping sick people entitles me to the high-life.
Truth is, here in Germany, the term “hooptie” is a known, legitimate noun. The term is used to describe nice German cars that are (usually) bought by Americans and then run into the ground. You can pick up BMW and Mercedes hoopties for 500 euros.
My car isn’t exactly a hooptie. In the States, it would probably have cost at least $5,000, maybe more. I don’t really know because I’ve never been in the market for Mercedes-es. But I got mine here for a few thousand bucks. It’s still in good shape and as long as I take care of it (an expensive proposition in Germany), it should get me around for at least a few years.
That is…unless it takes a few years until my new monument to affluent living is allowed to take me anywhere.
Take the Army’s torrid and longstanding love affair with bureaucracy and combine it with 1000 years of rulership of the masses in Europe, you get the process I dealt with just to be allowed to drive a car.
Buying the car is easy. But in this Germo-Americo Funkenthink, the quagmire starts there. You first need a special driver’s license, which requires a half-day class and then a 130 question test ( which I immediately failed by about 15 questions).
You also have to have insurance on a car before you actually register it. And, the car needs to be inspected. But you can’t drive it to the inspector’s unless you have it registered and insured. But if you fail the inspection, you’ve just registered and insured a car that sucks. So, you have to de-register it (I did that – twice – before I settled on the Mercedes). De-registering requires a trip to the local customs office (American) plus a second trip to the other customs office (German, 35 min drive), numerous forms, money, waiting and…all the while you still need the insurance.
So, I’ve been a little reticent to drive much unless I have to. I’m always wondering if I actually have all the paperwork and proof that will allow me to stay out of jail were I to get pulled over.
Instead, I came up with an alternative (heh, heh):
Through some highly unfortunate events in my brother’s life, I ended up with his Harley motorcycle. Now, make no mistake – I owe him for this very expensive bike. It was a ‘take-care-of-my-hoss-for-awhile’ kind of proposition. Of course, being a deeply loyal brother, I immediately agreed to “help out”. But, not being a big Harley-lover, I…well, I sold it. And I bought a BMW motorcycle instead. Initially, I sold it to help fund out trip out here, and a portion of the Harley money was a HUGE help in getting us here. That said, I GUESS whatever money we had left over should have been sent back to my saintly bro. But with all these fantastic German road machines around, you sorta just get Beemer Fever. What was I supposed to do?
And anyway, my bro is about 10,000 miles from me. Is he really going to come get me when he realizes I sold his Harley? I mean, c’mon, I did the guy a favor! BMW vs. Harley is a no-brainer.
So I now fly along the German Autobahn on a R1150 RS BMW. Riding a bike like that, in this part of the world (any part of the world if you worship BMW bikes) is an experience that is hard to replicate. Harder to describe. At 80 miles an hour, I blow by stunning autumn trees, taking in their blurred resplendence in shimmering hues of gold and yellow and red. “My” bike purrs along effortlessly. When I lean over the gas tank and duck behind the faring, the engine sounds something like a sewing machine, but even softer, maybe more like two feathers rubbing together.
There’s only one problem…Germany is COLD. The other day I left for work in the dark, road sparkling with frost, at a temp of -2.5 Celsius. Buh-rrr. And this is only OCTOBER.
The night before, I had received a notification in the mail that my car did not have the correct license plates due to a dating error in the – you guessed it – insurance policy. So, should I be pulled over in my esteemed Mercedes for any reason, I could expect to be hog-tied, whipped and sent back to the States crisply folded into a shoe box.
Thus, while my longsuffering wife dealt with the paper-pushers in Hiedelburg, I rode the bike to work, frost and chill notwithstanding. I do have some decent riding gear I picked up when I first got the Harley. I have a jacket with armor in the shoulders and arms, and pants with knee and hip pads. I have big thick gloves – also a “gift” *ahem* from my bro – and good riding boots. All the gear is made to withstand serious wind and rain.
But I’m not sure any gear will hold up for long when receiving a direct 80 MPH sub-freezing air blast for 40 straight minutes. Mine didn’t. By the time I got to work, I was so cold most of joints wouldn’t bend. I walked into the clinic like I was in a body-cast. I don’t think I even spoke to my first 3 patients that day because I couldn’t unclench my jaw. I just nodded compassionately with my hands buried in my armpits and gave ’em whatever drugs they wanted.
I probably should have just sold the Harley and given whatever money we didn’t need back to my brother. But instead I chose to buy a Beemer with the extra cash and freeze my face off in Germany. If you love BMW motorcycles, you’ll understand completely. You’ll probably applaud me for such a wise and intelligent idea.
I’m cheering, anyway.