Monday, March 26, 2007

A treatise on the lust for efficiency, bureacratic idiocy, psychological torture and questioning your last, greatest major life decision (Part 6)

Day 8 (Tuesday: God performs his Miracle in 8 days this time)

We show up around 9:00 am. We go to our guy, Officer Mendez, and show him our ticket from the other day. He looks in the system and finds us there. The brilliant rookie did not let us down. However, he says with a smile that he can’t help us because we didn’t get a ticket. We say the ticket in his hand is our ticket. It says we can come any time of day. He says that was true yesterday. Today, we need a new ticket. Violent thoughts I won’t share were now flashing through my mind. Sylvie’s on the verge of tears again. We see his supervisor. Supervisor’s supervisor. After 15 minutes of begging the beta supervisor she decides to give us two of the tickets she's holding in her pocket, like candy for good little boys and girls. It’s numbers 58 and 59. That’s 1:00 pm on a good day. But today is special. Remember, I told you about 6 de Diciembre. Well, Tuesday is the day before 6 de Diciembre. So, the workers are now actively lobbying their supervisors for a half day ending at 12pm. The supervisor who gave us the ticket is not sure if they’ll get it. Of course, we can wait and see. What else can we do? We wait. If we don’t get it today, we most likely won’t get it until the following week.

We talk to Denise from Pittsburgh who’s lived in Ecuadorfor 30 years. She assures us this is par for the course. In between regaling us with her stories, she talks to her husband about getting him to bribe someone so she can get her censo more quickly. She’s got number 93. Around noon (about 10 turns before ours), an officer announces that “the system is not working”. You think I’m making this up. How in the world could I make all this up? “The system’s not working”. We can wait if we want. Maybe it will start working again. Now, if this doesn’t sound like a reason for a half day of work, I’ve never heard one. Despite this, we wait. Some others leave. After a few minutes, numbers start getting called again (the numbers of people who have left because, unlike us, they have no faith in the system). Before we know it they’re at 46, 47. And then our number gets called. We go, this time to a different officer in the booth next to Officer Mendez. We hand over our stuff. He checks the system. We’re there. Sylvie says something about Officer Mendez having told us everything was in order. He says “why don’t you have him help you?” Sylvie answers, “because you seem nice and like you want to help us.” He answers, “and so you punish me for being nice.” This moment confirms for me that these guys are just looking for a reason not to help us. Not like a needed that, but I mean it really drives home the “$%@ you” point being made over the past week. I tell Sylvie “stop talking, he’s doing it”. We’re silent. He snaps our pictures. Some Japanese guy is all up on our necks trying to get in next, busting line. I tell him to back up. And then, Officer whatever-his-name-was does IT; something we didn’t believe could actually happen. He hands us our censos. I’m sorry there’s not a better, funnier ending to this long, long story. But the truth is that, that was it. The anticlimax here is the same that we felt at that moment. There was no jubilation; no sense of victory. Just disbelief and heavy pondering to fill the rest of the afternoon. How in the green earth did we just waste so much time for a poorly laminated photo id? I still don’t quite know. I hoped telling the story might help me figure it out. It’s not something I could even do for the first few weeks after it happened. But now, after a few month’s separation from the pain and frustration and rage I can at least talk about it. I don’t think there’s a moral to this story. I don’t know that we handled it the right way. In fact, any insight or advice is welcome. If anything, we learned something about ourselves and a little word called persistence. I think we tell kids something about character building when things like this happen. For us, we can only view it as some sort of national hazing or cosmic test. Could it be that, in the end, our toughest test in Ecuador will have come in the first two weeks? We won’t bank on it, but we can always hope.


mdcphilly said...

Doing a good job a making me appreciate good old US bureaucracy. Now I want to hear about the beautiful latinas!

Umi said...

To a previous reader's point I'll remind us here that Philly bureacracy is damn near as corrupt and slow. In terms of beautiful Latinas, I'll remind you that I'm married and you, my friend, are trying to get me fired.

mdcphilly said...

Entiendo. Diga discupla a tu esposa bella.