Thursday, December 21, 2006

Max loves the bureaucrats

An sms sent from Max’s phone Wednesday night at about 6.30:

“Just for your amusement, a report after the živnostenský úřad: if I had had a semi-automatic weapon in my hands, they’d all be dead. Luckily I had Kuba with me and he remained calm. I nearly cried. For real. We achieved neither success nor failure, just an ascent to a new and higher level of absurdity.”

I had gone to the Czech embassy in Bratislava on Monday to turn in an application for a new visa based on my trade licence (živnostenský list). The Czech Republic has a rule that you have to apply for a visa from outside the country. It’s perfectly logical that I should go from Prague to Bratislava to submit my paperwork because, you see, what they do in Bratislava once they are sure that my application is complete, is send it from Bratislava to Prague for processing. And then – get this – when my visa is ready, they will send everything from Prague back to Bratislava so that I can again travel from Prague to Bratislava to pick it up. That must make sense to someone.

I thought that things were finally looking fairly good. It had taken literally a year to get things straightened out with the trade licence office, the financial authority, the social insurance office and the health insurance people – all prerequisites for my visa. I went into work on Tuesday morning feeling pretty proud of myself.

There was some communication with the embassy in Bratislava on Tuesday – just a minor complication with my application that was all straightened out by Wednesday morning. But then on Wednesday at 16.22 I received a fateful email from the embassy informing me that the printed version of my trade licence I had submitted was over 180 days old and I would need to submit a new one.

It did not seem like a serious problem. Kuba had already been on the phone to the trade licence office in Prague 3 to find out what I would need to do and what documents I would need to show in order to change my registered address from Prague 5 to Prague 3. (Since I moved over a year ago, I thought it might be time to make it official.) Kuba had talked to a very nice lady who had said that it would be no problem at all. But suddenly it was an urgent mission, so we left our office at 5 o’clock to go to Prague 3.

I should not have gone. I am usually polite, but generally only when things go my way. I hate bureaucracy, I abhor having to jump through official hoops, and I have no patience for the stupid people that always work in government offices. But because we had gone by tram, Kuba couldn’t tell me to wait in the car.

All I wanted was to officially change my residential address, and I had the requisite notarised statement from my landlord. Then I wanted them to print me a new piece of paper so that I could send it to Bratislava. Easy, right?

The woman was perturbed that I did not currently have a valid residency permit in my passport. Kuba and I explained that I had submitted an application in Bratislava and they just wanted a more recent printout of my trade licence. The woman was perturbed that my trade licence had been issued without an expiration date. I explained that I had had permanent residency when I got it. The woman was perturbed that I had had permanent residency in the past, but didn’t have any residency at all now. I explained divorce. The woman didn’t understand, she didn’t know what to do. She wanted to cancel my trade licence that is good forever because I no longer had permanent residency. She went to talk to her colleague in the next room. The colleague didn’t know anything either.

I begged Jakub to make the woman see reason. Not that he hadn’t been trying.

We went back and forth and round and round and I was just getting angrier and angrier. And frustrated. I don’t hide my feelings well. At one point I just figured I was never going to get a visa or anything, and I threw my folders down onto the table. It was frustration, and not aimed at anyone, but the woman took it personally.

Kuba, bless him, remained calm and cool and smiley and friendly for the entire 30 minutes we were there. He had the presence of mind to ask about the woman’s supervisor. She had already left the office but would be in tomorrow so he left his card for her and took hers. Finally we left.

And as soon as we got outside, Kuba started swearing and he was as angry as I was and as disgusted by the woman’s stupidity and lack of sympathy and unwillingness to help us. I was surprised - he had been so perfect inside the office.

And nothing was solved today – the supervisor was no help at all. In fact, she seemed to be as totally clueless as her worker bees. Tomorrow we try a new strategy – appealing to Bratislava.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also hate bureaucrats! We spent a lot of time on these paper work and nobody really needs it. They like to say ask somebody else, we can't do it, and next one says the same. I got frustrated when I meet it.