Wednesday, April 16, 2008

13 December: Apartment Handover

John picked me up around 11:00 this morning to go over to the house for the official handover of our apartment. We were supposed to meet Monika, our relocation rep from Professional Organizing, but she was late. While we waited, Frau Dörr arrived. I had warned John that I thought Frau Dörr was going to have her own painter come, because she didn’t understand that Daimler was bringing their own contractors. Sure enough, both painters showed up, along with a guy from the cleaning company, and quite a bit of confusion ensued. I basically told John to keep quiet until Monika arrived; it wasn’t our problem, after all. Monika explained the situation, but of course Frau Dörr still wanted to use her painter because he had done all of the work on the house previously. Monika finally said that he was welcome to put in a bid for the work as well. I was just happy that we didn’t have to do any of the talking!

So, the apartment handover is just a formality – give the place a once-over and hand over the keys, right? Wrong! We were not prepared for them to go over the house with a fine-toothed comb, but this is Germany, so what did we really expect? I had thought we were in good shape: the floors and walls were all in good condition; I left the picture-hanging nails in the walls so they could patch the holes; and the place was virtually spotless. There was some discussion about the fact that we were leaving some of the curtains and light fixtures behind and I explained for the umpteenth time that we had not been able to sell them and the new tenants were welcome to use them or get rid of them, but we were not taking them down and throwing them out ourselves!

Then the cleaning guy came out of the kitchen and said he wasn’t sure they could get the oven door clean. I can’t for the life of me remember the condition of the oven when we moved in, but there was certainly some baked-on gook on the door that I couldn’t get off. There was much discussion over whether the new tenants had looked in the oven or not (I don’t think they did) and finally Frau Dörr pointed out that the tenants were buying the kitchen from us, so the issue was really between us and the tenants. Monika suggested that we might want to talk to them about whether an “adjustment” was called for the in the price of the kitchen and I wanted to blurt out, “They’re already getting it for a steal!” Let’s just say there is no way I am giving them any money back for a dirty oven door.

Other miniscule details were pointed out, like some marks on the doorframes left by the pets brushing up against them. Monika stated matter-of-factly that painting the walls was included in Daimler’s refurbishment package, but painting the doorframes was not. I pointed out that I thought the marks could simply be wiped off, but Monika insisted that if painting was required, we would have to pay for it. There were also a couple of dings in the wall in the outside stairwell from carrying furniture up and down – these were also our responsibility. Finally, we wound up down in the basement, where Frau Dörr muttered something about the washing machine not being exactly spic-and-span. Oh brother!

While we were at the apartment, Dorota F. called to say she was still at the hospital with her mother and was not going to be able to make it. I made arrangements with Frau Dörr to leave Dorota’s things in the garage so she could pick them up later.

Suffice it to say, we were feeling rather deflated by the time the meeting finally came to an end. Usually we are the ones to leave everything in better condition than we found it. Heck, I’ve always done a better job of cleaning apartments when I’m moving out than is called for. We still don’t know how much of the damage we will be held responsible for, but hopefully it won’t break the bank.

We handed over the keys and the garage door opener and had Monika take a picture of us with the Dörrs. Despite the regrettable disagreement over the kitchen, which left things on a bit of a sour note, we could not have asked for a better relationship with our landlords. I know plenty of people in Germany with absentee landlords who have a heck of a time getting even minor repairs completed. We were lucky enough to live next door to our landlords and have a very amiable friendship that encompassed trading dog-walking duties, two memorable dinners, fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, and many enjoyable conversations. I know Frau Dörr would have liked me to do more work in the garden, but we never used the yard and frankly I did a lot more of the clean-up work than our downstairs neighbors ever did. In the end, we parted on a high note and well wishes were extended all around.

And that was it – we walked down the familiar stone steps one last time, shut the gate behind us, and said goodbye forever to our little green house in Botnang.

I drove John back to work and then headed downtown to have my last heisse Schokolade with Beth at Café Deli. This was our last chance to talk face-to-face about my novel, and Beth gave me the best advice in the world: to stick with the story that I wanted to tell, not to worry about what other people thought, and to stay true to myself.

This evening we went over to Jürgen’s house for pizza and beer with Gert, Volker (another of John’s friends from work) and Jürgen’s girlfriend Sonja. Volker used to work at smart and John had told him how much I loved my smart forfour, so he made me a wonderful little pen & ink drawing of the Brabus. I was very touched! Jürgen also gave us a nice coffee-table book about the Nürburgring. The highlight of the evening was driving the Nordschleife in Jürgen’s elaborate video-game setup, which includes a real car seat and realistic pedals. I only did one lap because quite frankly, it made me sick to my stomach! I think I will satisfy myself with memories of driving on the real track. I think Jürgen was about ready to cry when we finally said our goodbyes. He is a great guy and we are really going to miss him!

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