An Encounter with the “Hausmeister”

I walk back to my room still thinking of my “telephone action” and how to raise some money for my cousin’s school fees in Nigeria.

“Ol boy, did you see the guy who just left the room now?”, my roommate asks as I enter the room. “No, I didn’t see anybody”, I reply a little irritated at the interruption of my calculations and at the same time grateful for the momentary opportunity to abandon my ultimately fruitless thoughts. “Who was that?” I ask. “The Hausmeister just sent someone here, a new roommate for us” he replied smiling. I looked at him in disbelief, “You are joking, right?” “No this is no joke” he replied quite serious, “I told him there is no space in this room and that he should go back to the hausmeister and tell him so”. “That’s good” I reply, “But why should the Hausmeister send us a new roommate when he knows there are already three people here?” I wondered aloud to no one in particular. My roommate shrugs his shoulders, an unspoken questioning look on his face asks how he could possibly know the motives of the almighty Hausmeister when he is just an Asylum seeker like me too.

Actually our room of 13 square meters is meant for four single adults and there are now only three of us in the room. However my roommate and I know that there are other rooms in the refugee camp which have only two occupants. The room directly opposite our room actually has only one occupant who is single and has been staying alone for about one year now. We also knew that he seemed to be very friendly with the Hausmeister who happens to be a very unfriendly sort. This strange relationship has lead to suspicions among the camp residents that this refugee who has a whole room alone to himself must be an “informant” to the Hausmeister. The possesion of 13 square meters of space is a rare luxury in a Refugee camp which can sometimes lead to exotic conspiracy theories, founded or unfounded, but this is a topic for another day.

After “reviewing” these facts and the fact that our room with three occupants has become too tight, my roommate and I decide to go and see the Hausmeister so as to at least confirm that there has been a mistake somewhere. Upon getting to the Administrative office, the Hausmeister, upon seeing my roommate and I, exclaims “Ah, I have been expecting this visit”. I must describe our Hausmeister a little bit. Our Hausmeister is someone who obviously has a very high opinion of himself and his position. He usually walks about the refugee camp for most of the day with a ponderous and fearsome mien, looking into rooms and taking stock of the items in them, looking into strange corners of the compound apparently searching for things nobody has any idea about. Our Hausmeister is usually around when the Police is doing a general control in the camp even if its by 3am in the morning although he does not live within the camp. Such apparent diligence gives one the impression that our Hausmeister is a man who does not sleep due to the mountainous responsibilities involved in running a refugee camp. Despite this apparent hardworking and serious attitude, our Hausmeister is however notorious for not getting things done. In 2004 the window of my room got broken by kids playing outside and despite repeated appeals to the Hausmeister for repairs to be done to the window, he always replied that the Government had no money. The result was that my roommates and I had to endure eight months,including a whole winter season, with a broken window. This was despite the fact that during this time I was working and paying monthly rent to the Government of Oberbayern who actually owns our camp. The toilet facilities in the camp are deplorable to say the least but the Hausmeister in his daily wanderings round the camp apparently does not notice them and repeated complaints only elicit the same answer that the Government has no money. Throughout the last winter the common men’s bathroom in my block did not have hot water with the result that inmates of my block had to walk through the snow to nearby blocks, sometimes in their bathrobes, to take a shower. After a few months of enduring this situation, my other roommate who is fairly elderly and has a much lower tolerance for the cold weather went to the Hausmeister and told him that in case he fell down in the snow while going to another block for a shower, he would lodge a complaint with the Police that it was the fault of the Hausmeister. One day after this threat, the hot water in our men’s bathroom suddenly started running again. It is actually no wonder that our Hausmeister is regarded as unfriendly by almost all inmates of our camp.

For this reason, I was not ready for any jokes when the Hausmeister jokingly told my roommate and I that he had been expecting our visit to his office. I therefore went straight to the point “You sent a new roommate to our room, why?” “Yes, your room, according to the laws of the Government is meant for four single adults and there are only three persons currently living there” he replies still with a smirk on his face. I get this feeling that the man must be very proud of the Government and the fact that he works for the Government. This must be the reason why he calls on the Government both when he does something, as in this case with our new roommate, and when he does nothing, as is usual with him. I did not tell him this however since I was not really interested in his psychological problems, at least not today. “Yes I know that our room is meant for four persons but we are here to tell you that we will not allow a new roommate because, as you know quite well, the room has become too cramped for us; secondly, as you also know, there are other rooms in this camp with just two occupants. There is even a room opposite our room with just one occupant for almost a year now!” I reply, getting angry. The Hausmeister looks at me, a bit surprised. I think to myself, did he actually think that we do not have any idea who lives where and how many people live in a room within the camp? If so then he must really take us for very stupid people!. “Well my job is to assign people to rooms and I have assigned a new person to your room” he says as a form of dismissal. “Well we are not here to interfere with your job” I reply, “we just want to inform you that we do not want any new roommate and that there are other rooms with more space than ours where you can send any new person”. Seeing that my roommate and I were very serious and that we had a very sound arguement, he decides to change his tactics, “Listen” he says, “the fact of the matter is that the new man had been assigned to your room for some weeks now by the Administrative officer (Verwaltungs Leiter) but he could not move in until today for personal reasons and the “Verwaltungs Leiter” is presently on holidays but will resume next week Monday. Please just allow the new man to put a matress on the floor in your room just to sleep; when the “Verwaltungs Leiter” resumes work on Monday, we can then assign him to another room”. With this statement it becomes obvious to my roommate and I that the Hausmeister actually takes us for brainless idiots. This of course makes us more annoyed. “Listen” I tell him “there is no space in our room for anyone to put a matress on the floor and you know it. If you need a room for the new man to put a matress on the floor till Monday, then send him to the rooms with only two occupants or better still, to the room opposite ours which has only one occupant!”. Finally he realises that my roommate and I are not as stupid as he thought and says “Ok, when the new man comes to your room again, ask him to come and see me”. “Thank you!” my roommate and I reply simultaneosly without the slightest feeling of thankfulness and leave the office.

On the way back to the room we discuss about our encounter with the hausmeister and conclude that he is not actually interested in the comfort or wellbeing of any refugee living in our camp. Infact it seems to us that his job actually entails making life as difficult as possible for the residents of the camp.