Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Driving in Switzerland - part 2

Since we brought our BMW from the US, it had to go through examination before the Swiss would consider it road ready and give us Swiss license plates. Governmental forms are not in English so Tom handled gathering all the necessary paperwork and submitting it. We received a letter giving us an appointment at their version of the DMV. It was yesterday afternoon at 1:51 pm. That is NOT a typo. Really? Who gives an appointment time like that? 

We had already purchased the European navigation DVD, so I plugged in my destination address and allowed twice the time. Traffic is often horrible here and we were also told that if you're late, a fine starts accruing. I arrived about 20 minutes early and got in what looked like a queue although I wasn't sure why we were waiting. Eventually the car in front of me moved and went to the small building (like drive through bank) that was some kind of entrance control. I followed him and watched. A drawer came out, he put something in. The drawer went in and came back out. He took something out. Now it's my turn. The drawer comes out and the person inside speaks, but who knows what she says? I put in my paper with my appointment time. Yay! That was the right thing to do. She gives me a whole stack of papers and tells me to go to aisle 6. (I already knew about aisle 6 because my letter said that and Tom had translated it for me.) 

I am now the second car waiting for aisle 6 to be allowed into the building. When the doors open, I don't know if I should follow the car in front of me inside or not. There are two cars in the aisle 7 line. Since they both go in when the door opens, I go in too. No one yells at me and tells me to back up. Phew! I watch the other cars and realize I will be asked to open the hood. Never having had the need to do that with this car before, I look around for how it is done. When I'm asked, I am ready! I give my person at DMV the stack of papers given me by the drive up window. Evidently these are all the papers Tom submitted. He asks me if I have the originals. Of course I do. But really, why is it necessary to now see all the originals? I keep this thought to myself.

He then gets down on his knees with the car jacked up slightly so he can turn the wheels. He has a flashlight in one hand and a long handled mirror in the other. He puts the mirror through each of the spokes of the wheel and examines them closely. I have no idea what he is looking for, but the car did not have anything bad there. Next, he goes down some nearby stairs so he can inspect the underside of the car. He then has me drive up a little bit and I get out again. He takes the owner's manual of the car to a desk. He sits there for about 20 minutes filling out a form while I stand waiting. He must have a slight appreciation for what I'm feeling because the owner's manual is in English. He has to find the right information for his form in an unfamiliar language. Ha. I know how he feels.

After he is finally done, he tells me that the front turn signal light bulbs can't be yellow and we will have to change them to white (just like Belgium). Then he tells me to get in the passenger seat and put on my seat belt. He gets in the drivers seat and drives out of the building. He proceeds to drive like a complete maniac around a track they have set up outside the building. He screeches around curves, slams on the brakes, stops on a hill to check how the brake holds and then starts up again. A joy ride? Not. Oh yeah, it was snowing too. He signs off on the papers and sends me on my way to another small building.

I hand over the stack of papers to the person behind the counter. He reviews it, stamps it and tells me something. All I understand is "4 to 9". Great. I tell him I didn't understand and don't know what I need to do next. He tells me the languages available are German, French and Italian. He says that in German, but "that language is for holiday" he says in English! Obviously, he speaks English and is just being an #$%^*@!!  I believe he is a member of the "I hate foreigners" political party. (Yes, there really is one.) So I ask him to repeat himself in German, but slowly. I don't understand any more than before, but I leave and head for the building he gestures towards. 

Since it's snowing heavily, I decide to move the car up to the building. Not a good plan. The parking spot I pull into is labeled for driving school vehicles (some kind person actually points to the ground to notify me). Lots of other parking spots have reserved numbers. I can't go back where I came from because there is a do not enter sign. I find a spot farther away from the building and hope that I'll be out of there quickly in case this is also a reserved spot. 

I head into the building muttering to myself that I really don't know where I'm supposed to go. Another kind person heard me, looks at my papers and tells me where I need to go. He gives directions that I at least partially understand. I find windows " 4 to 9" and only 6 is lit up. I went to #6. The woman there was able and willing to speak English with me. She informed me that the computer system was down and she would not be able to print my "permit" (which I guess is similar to a US registration). I was going to tell Tom that I wouldn't be coming back and he'd have to go, but that was unnecessary. She hand wrote a temporary permit and said the printed one would come in the mail. Then she gave me license plates! They don't have holes in them so I'm not sure how we attach them to the car, but that's not part of my assignment. Now our car will not be so conspicuous driving down the street. Yay! Mission accomplished.