I am getting married, in Germany, and this means a small cascade of administrative tasks to tick off one by one. Today that brought me to the U.S. Consulate in Berlin, to procure a certification that I am not already married.
This is how it went. Arrived at the consulate in the woods of Zehlendorf, where there is a line, and a security notice that says no one will be allowed in with electronic devices (including cell phones) or large bags. I have my backpack with lunch, bike helmet, and cell phone, so the solution is to go back across the street to the U-Bahn, where the nice older lady at the newspaper kiosk will watch your stuff for you for 1€ and remind you to take all of your paperwork with you. If Hannes hadn't told me about doing this when he applied for a U.S. visa, I think I would've been flipping out over the ridiculousness of this system, but being forewarned I found it rather quaint. Back at the consulate, I find another sign saying that U.S. citizens should go to the front of the line. Woowhee!
Inside I go to the room for U.S. citizen services, which feels just like a doctor's office waiting room. I see two people wearing American flag scarves - is this to suck up at the embassy or do they dress like this normally?? After a little bit of flipping through magazines promoting USA travel, I pay $50 and have what I need, which turns out only to be a signed and sworn oath that I am indeed not married. I had assumed the whole reason I needed to go to the consulate was that people there would actually look up and confirm that I am not married, but nope. Apparently it is important that I swear my single status in front of my countrymen.
On the way out I talked to a guard, who told me that as a U.S. citizen I would've been allowed in with backpack and phone after all, and seemed genuinely sorry that I had given up my stuff like all of the poor non-American suckers. Moral of the story is, if you are American and headed to the U.S. Consulate in Berlin, bring whatever you want (okay, no weapons) and go to the front of the line. If you're there to apply for a U.S. visa, bring an old-fashioned book to entertain yourself while waiting!