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Driving in Macondo and small-town bureaucracy

Monday, December 21, 2009

I wrote this post before the loss of my beloved bag last week. Some or all of my affection for local bureaucracy may be put to the test in the weeks and months to come.


License to drive

me: Good morning. I need a driver's license.

her: Give me two pictures, a photocopy of your ID card, and your blood type.

Notice the absence of the following requirements:
- a previous driver's license
- a current driver's license
- knowing how to drive

I guess that both Buenos Aires and Toronto are pretty good evidence that driver education and driving tests do not good drivers make....

Now I just have to laminate my flimsy, official little piece of paper, and I am set.


(Not) Getting paid

Breezing through bureaucracy is not the usual, here in Argentina. This is the reason that my kids are still here on overstayed tourist visas.

And my partner still hasn't been paid, for example, for the job that he officially started in April, with a contract not signed until August, followed by months of X-rays, psychological tests, dental exams, certified diplomas, waiting in lines and filling out forms by triplicate, all collected in a specific type of folder and submitted over two months ago. It may take yet another month, because one of the forms included his middle name, and, alas, the rest did not.

This is normal. Yes, all this is for a job. A normal job.

When he does get paid, it will be another several weeks until he will be able to stand in line all day to be able to withdraw it from his not-yet-in-existence bank account that must be opened and used for this purpose. He may or may not ever get a debit card for said account.


I could go on - it really is more absurd than you could probably imagine.

But my shiny new driver's license was painless, and no newcomer to Toronto or Buenos Aires can say that.


The small-town, Latin American bureaucratic office

The overly spacious or impossibly cramped room, big metal fan standing in a corner (not turned on, of course), naked light bulb with perilous wiring, two or three lone seats, thick binders labelled with fat markers stacked on the shelves, and The Desk.
The large, bare desk, with a telephone, an ashtray, a few pens and some scissors. Possibly a calculator, or a hole punch. Perhaps a small plant.
And, of course, a little pile of Important Stamps - the goal of visiting such an office is inevitably to have one of those stamps pounded onto one or more important pieces of paper.
But... NO COMPUTER. Possibly, in a corner, a typewriter. Yes, a typewriter. Think back to the last time you saw a desk anywhere without a computer. I know, it's crazy.

Sometimes, this small-town home of the ubiquitous tramite (bureaucratic process or transaction) reminds me of the slimy, moustached police officers and border guards on power trips from my backpacking days. Ick.

But, when it isn't way too hot and crowded to be sentimental, I also feel a bit of affection for these places, which surely are doomed to extinction, eventually.

And when I imagine what the lines would be like in Buenos Aires, I can't complain. I just load on the bug spray and wait my turn. And having a kid in tow means I jump to the front of the line.


Katie said...

I'm sorry I haven't been commenting on your blog, but I have been enjoying your posts and sympathizing with some of the trials and tribulations you've been experiencing as of late. Living in Argentina is often frustrating, but you seem to be taking it all in stride while doing what's best for your family. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

I hope the holidays bring peace and love to you and your family.

Hugs from your neighbor to the south.

macondo mama said...

Hi Katie,
Thanks for the pat on the back, and the holiday wishes. I hope you are enjoying the holidays too - and careful with all the fireworks madness!


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