Using the Deutsche Post is a little bit like programming: even if everything is super obvious and very clearly laid out, if you don’t follow the protocol e x a c t l y right down to every line break and every little bracket, you’re going to have a fatal error on your hands.

For instance, German apartments do not have numbers. The only reason that your mail gets to you instead of any of the other, say, hundred people in your building is that there is a bell for every person at that entrance (each entrance does have a unique street number), each one labeled with the resident’s surname. Once the postman gets into the building there are mailboxes–again, labeled with names, not numbers.

So as long as you have your name on your mailbox and the street number of your address is correct, you should be golden, right?

Wrong. Even though the name on the bell is not necessary for mailbox-identifying purposes, if your name isn’t on the bell, you aren’t getting your mail. Even though the postmaster knows that you live in this building, is going in anyway, and will see your name on one of the mailboxes, he will not put anything in your box if your name wasn’t on the bell. In this way, a postman is as helpless as a poorly-programmed robot, only less hilarious.

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But let’s say that you learned all these hard lessons last year, so you made sure that your labels at the new apartment were in order even before you bought your first groceries. There’s still a catch.

For security reasons (it’s always for security reasons), Deutsche Post will only deliver packages into the hands of an actual human. If you’re a good little German, you designate a Desired Neighbor, and when you’re not at home, your mail will be left with them for you to collect at your (in)convenience. If you, like me, are equally ambivalent towards all your neighbors, they’ll leave your package with whoever happens to be nearby.

And that’s how the hardware for my Internet connection wound up in the room of a person by the name of Min Song, of whose existence there is no evidence other than a name on a bell and a mailbox.

Helpfully, the postman left a note instructing me to pick up my package from Min Song in room number xxx-xx-xx-xx. This may be a good time to point out that we don’t have room numbers. Or rather, we do, but the rooms aren’t labeled in any place that’s visible to residents. And the number that I was given is so long and inscrutable that I thought it was a phone number until I called it and was told (by an only-slightly-more-functional-than-a-postman robot) that the number didn’t exist.

So I started asking around. No one knows who Min Song is. Well, one person confirmed that she exists, since that person accepted a package of Min Song’s the other day, but no one knows what she looks like, where she lives, or how to contact her. I’ve asked everyone I know, and I made 4 new acquaintances by popping into the kitchen and saying “Hello! Do you know Min Song?” They never do.

Now, this is a bit of a problem. You see, my Internet appointment is Friday. And the set-up  is free–UNLESS it’s unsuccessful. Then I have to pay 30 euros and reschedule the appointment. The appointment that it took me 6 weeks to get in the first place.

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2. to give money to in return for goods or services not rendered (Ger.): pay the Internet man.

After discovering that this wasn’t going to be as simple as sending a text, I left a note in Min Song’s mailbox. Two days later, it was still there (all these security measures are pretty pointless in light of the two-inch slot in each mail slot, through which I was able to not only see, but read the cover of the magazine Min Song had received, and through which I had no problem retrieving the note I had left her in order to make revisions).

So now I’m getting kind of desperate. While standing helplessly in front of the mailboxes, I notice that the last part of my room number is 02.10, and I’m on the second floor (although it’s a split-level building, so it’s hard to be sure whether it’s the second or fourth). I assume that must mean I’m room 10. So if Min Song is room 01.10, surely that means she’s directly below me, right?

Nope, that’s an American guy who moved in yesterday and could not quite handle the conversation I tried to have with him (I am assuming he was American because of his jeans and the deer-in-the-headlights look he wore when I addressed him in German).

I’ve now taped a note that says MIN SONG and has a nice note inside and a map directing her to my room to the front door of the building, the bulletin board outside the kitchen, and in the mail area. No word yet.

If the super weren’t on vacation, I could ask him. But he is, and his replacement is only here on Monday and Wednesday. We’ll see tomorrow whether he’s any help.

 

The moral of the story, my friends, is that you should all thank your local postal workers this week! And while you’re doing that, drop a letter for me into their bag. At this point, that’ll probably reach me before an e-mail would.

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Min Song’s senior photo. She was a late bloomer.

 

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