I’m going to sneak it in here, our personal biggest announcement ever, Dave is retired! We are no longer Army. It is weird. The day came & went with a whimper. Just a midnight text from Dave while I was in Ohio:

“I’m out of the Army.”

After 30+ years for Dave as a soldier; 20+ years for me as an Army wife; we are suddenly free. And alone. It is liberating & scary.

Dave is taking a little much deserved time off, and then he’ll go back to work as a Government employee… just not in uniform. In the meantime we are transitioning to life in Germany. Before we had life in Germany, but with the full support of the Army. Now we are on our own.

The hardest part has been our cars. Our cars are all old German Volkswagens, but they’ve been registered on the US base nearby because we get fuel rationing cards, and because it’s easier. So. Much. Easier.

I’d done a bunch of research before I left for my birthday trip. I’d left notes for Dave & Cole. My plan did not go smooth. Dave & Cole ran into obstacles beyond our expectations. By the time I returned, 5 days into Dave’s retirement, not a single car was registered and I had two very frustrated men.

I assumed they hadn’t followed my instructions to the letter, so I picked up all the paperwork, and Dave, Cole & I headed back out to the Zulassungsstelle at the Landratsamt (DMV). I was surprised to see a new paper in each packet. A COC (certificate of conformity). A paper I didn’t know we needed. Dave explained that one lady had told them they needed it, but he only had it for 2 our of 3 cars. Two is better than none, so we kept going.

But my car, Veronica, for some really unusual reason, didn’t have an owner on the title. This was not possible, so no registration for us.

Cole’s car, Ruby, had only a copy of the title. We must have the original. So no registration for us.

Dave’s car, Greta, was missing the COC.

All three cars were missing German TÜVs (safety inspection), the American ones didn’t count.

So Cole & I applied for German Drivers licenses. That went fairly smooth. Until the end:

“You’ll get a letter in two weeks.” It’s been two weeks. No letter.

We made appointments for Ruby & Veronica. At two different Mechanics, to get the TÜVs done again as quickly as possible. Both failed. In the meantime, it was time to turn in our license plates & deregister completely from the US system. Dave picked up all three sets of license plates and turned them in.

Ruby was fixed first, we drove by the mechanics and picked up the new TÜVs paperwork, then drove back to the Zulassungstelle. We had the original title. The COC. The TÜV. My passport. But our insurance verification was more than 5 days old. Dave & I ran outside to call America, to call Frankfurt, to get the new temporary (permanent?) insurance code.

Finally Ruby was approved! Did I want a custom license plate? I did! I wanted: TOINY but that’s not what they meant. They meant I could pick the first two letters & the last 3-4 numbers. Um, okay. At least picking those I will now remember the license plate. That’s a bonus.

We received a temporary “card”. We had to go to a machine in the lobby, stick in the card and pay for our registration. Slight hiccups here & there, but we did it! Then we had to go down to the basement, the bowels of the Landratsamt, and find the license plate office. We found it! This was the best part!

I knew we had to have license plates to bring back to the mechanic in order to drive Ruby home & finally have a car again…but, URGH, I’d ordered a custom license plate! I was panicking on the inside as I turned the knob and walked into the license plate office. I handed over my long receipt from the machine (that swallowed my temporary payment card) upstairs. The wonderful woman behind the counter smiled and said:

“One minute please” in her best English, with a proud smile. Dave & I relaxed, a little, and smiled back. Then she turned, grabbed number & letter dies and stamped a brandnew license plate right then & there! Dave & I were flabbergasted. Germans make license plates AT THE DMV! To order. In minutes. I asked to take photo’s & a little video. And Dave & I both asked so many questions about the process. It was so fast. So efficient. This. This is one of the reasons we love Germany so much. This was great!

She handed our stamped license plate to her colleague, who quickly & easily inked the numbers on his machine. First our front plate, then our rear plate. All with a smile &  happy chatter.  We thanked them profusely, dropped some money in their tip jar (it’s a pig! It’s always a pig here!) and ran upstairs for the final part.

Our patient & helpful customer service rep checked our work, our payment, our license plates, our paperwork one more time. Then she stuck the registration stickers on, shook our hands, and the whole office cheered! After 7 weeks, 5 office visits, tons of help, we had finally registered one car successfully. GO US!

I can’t wait to do it again on Monday.