Tuesday, July 25, 2006
One small victory for Max
…or two small victories if you count the battle with the post lady.
The receptionist called me at about 11.30 this morning. “Max, you have post here that you need to sign for personally. Can you come downstairs now? And bring your ID.”
I told Soňa that I would bring whatever I could find. I grabbed a copy of the photo page of my passport, and my wallet.
The post lady had my envelope and the register I would need to sign sitting on the counter at reception. “Hello. Here’s my passport,” I said cheerfully as I put the photocopy on the counter.
Very predictably the post lady said, “Huh? What’s this? This is not a passport. Don’t you have your passport?”
I explained to the post lady that I don’t actually need my passport to get from Prague 3 to Prague 5 so I had left it at home. But it was her lucky day because I had the photocopy on my desk. She didn’t like any of that.
I offered her two photo driving licences – one from California and one from the UK.
“Huh? What’s this? Don’t you have an občanka?” Občanka being the Czech national ID card.
I spent the next three minutes convincing her that, where I come from, a driving licence is an občanka. The receptionists occasionally piped in to back me up.
Finally, as she mumbled something about how they would never accept a photocopy at the post office, she accepted my photocopy and let me have my envelope.
I took my letter upstairs and then forgot about it for about 40 minutes. Finally I opened it and it was actually good news.
The letter is an official declaration from the Financial Authority that I do not owe any back income tax. (I won’t say anything else on that subject so as not to incriminate myself.) I have been told that when I get similar declarations from social insurance and health insurance, we will be able to take everything to the Foreigner Police. I don’t know what happens after that.
The process of sorting out my old trade licence has been going on for about 7 months. The problem was that I had not used it since 1998 but I had never cancelled it because I didn’t know that I was supposed to. The whole thing has been superbly ridiculous and hilariously bureaucratic.
I could describe the whole exercise, Der Prozeß, if you will, as being classically Kafkaesque. The never-ending aspect of it, the unpredictability, the hoops to be jumped through, never knowing if you have done something to their satisfaction or if you will be asked to do it again, not knowing if and when the rules will suddenly change. And of course not knowing if they will suddenly take you away for execution. But I don’t describe things as Kafkaesque because that adjective is so overused in this town. An example: I read a restaurant review online in which the reviewer described the service as Kafkaesque. My conclusion was that the reviewer had never read any Kafka, but was simply a poser and a twat. The only way the service in a restaurant could be Kafkaesque would be if all the waiters suddenly turned into giant cockroaches. That never happened.