20 August 2014

Bureaucracy in Death



Most of the civilised world loves bureaucracy. We need birth certificates, ID cards and Passports which tell us who we are. Then there are the licences we need to work to live or to drive. It is my experience from my travels around the world that many countries turn it to an art form. Germany is one such country, not as bad as some, but whole forests of paper are offered up to this hungry God called Bureaucracy. And woe betide you if you do not follow this path, or if you loose patience with a “jobs worth”.

Today I had to walk the path of bureaucracy for Hanna, in order to ensure her Last Will and Testament is finalised. This involved in the first instance a visit to the “Amtsgericht” or the Court that deals with Wills and Testaments.

My first hurdle was the security check at the front door of an imposing building. It is almost worse than that at airports. What was doubly annoying this morning was though there was no one behind me coming through, the guard tried to rush me when it came to collect my belongings from the x-ray machine and get dressed again. The result was that my mobile fell out of my jacket pocket and into the sum of its constituent parts!

Thankfully the woman that then dealt with me was pleasant it just took time as she serviced her own personal God, which in her case was a computer. Her typing was with two fingers, which needless to say takes longer than with a few more. Once she had everything typed up I was given a copy and then I have to say, why did it take so long for her to fill in a very simple form on her computer. I could have written the whole thing out faster than she filled it in. That’s the trouble with a well established bureaucracy, there is no room for original thought or improvisation.

From there I walked in the sun to an other bureaucratic institution a Bank. It was marginally quicker here, another very pleasant woman (to the eye also) quickly copied what I gave her, said she would pay the funeral expenses, but that was it. We had to wait for the Courts to do there stuff.

Then I got on my bike and went to the cemetery to check that the grave was properly registered as we had some doubts since there was no mention of it on the final bill from the Undertakers. Nothing untoward there, the bill for that was sent separately yesterday and we can bury another coffin (mine) and up to 4 urns on the plot.

The it was off to the stonemasons for a discussion and tasking and also to the Gardener that had looked after the grave and with whom I made an appointment at the grave, to discuss how it should be redone once the soil has settled.

The flowers on the grave are slowly rotting and returning to the earth, but the candle burned bright even in the daylight. While standing there and musing on things in general and Hanna in particular, I was pleasantly surprised by a visitor. One of Hanna’s English students a mature man called Bernhard. Hanna liked this chap very much as his hobby fascinated her. He is also a magician and had wanted schooling in his English so he could also do his tricks in that language. His day job is that of a teacher in a handicapped children’s school. They had just returned from holiday, which is why they were not at the funeral.

Hanna would have been pleased at the honour he did her by visiting the grave.

 I was too.