Fingerprints: A Case Study in Spanish Life

Whenever I talk to people about my ex-pat  life (otherwise known as European bumming), they will constantly ask me to explain the significant differences between Spain and America. I usually talk about the partying hours (2 a.m. until breakfast), the complete lack of efficiency, or the shitty employment rate.
But yesterday I had a little adventure that perfectly illustrates how Spain is, and it didn’t involve discos or politics.

I went to get fingerprints. Continued

It Takes (At Least)Five Visits to get a TIE

On Thursday, I made my fifth trip to the Spanish police station. And it was completely efficient and productive!
Yeah, you read that right. Apparently I fell into the Spanish twilight zone.

After waiting A MONTH from my last useless trip to the Extranjeria, I reverted to American methods of problem-solving. Namely, I started annoying the shit out of the bureaucrats. And by “I,” I mean my boss, because it takes him 2 minutes to do what takes me 10. Damn stupid funcionarios…Side rant: If your job description is working with foreigners, you ought to be able to handle talking to people with non-native speaking abilities. Maybe?
Back to the point…My boss called the idiot in question last Wednesday and (after 10 minutes of runaround which culminated in him shouting “We will never be competitive if we continue functioning like this!” plus or minus a few swear words) was informed that yes, I could come in. Finally.

After the clusterf**k of the last two times, I no longer trust Pontevedra’s comiseria. Last year I could get there at 10 or 11 and be fine…Grrr. So I woke up at 630 AM (I should only be awake at this hour if I’m in a club!) and caught the 7:30 train, getting to the comiseria 10 minutes before they opened their doors…And I was the FIRST person there.

I barely got two words out of my mouth when the funcionario interruppted me. “You’re Jeannette, right?”
Oh, apparently my phone calls made an impression.

Twenty minutes later, I’d paid the fees, gotten fingerprinted, and my card would be processed as soon as possible. Yeah…TWENTY MINUTES!  Take note people, this is how bureaucracy needs to function.

The big difference between this time and the last time I’d been there? The employees were actually trained and knew how to do their job. Yeah, who’d have thought that having untrained substitutes handling governmental paperwork was a terrible fucking idea?

So, now I wait for my TIE and hope that I get it before Christmas vacation. Because I’m going traveling and would rather not have to haul all my paperwork around to make sure I don’t get any nasty surprises at border control.

I’m Going to Burn Down a Spanish Police Station!

Disclaimer: No, not really. It’s far to rainy here for anything to effectively catch fire.

My dears, Jeannette is still in the process of getting her TIE (Spanish Green Card). That process has hit a snag, one known as “the Pontevedra extranjeria* is staffed by morons.” And yes, this is a two-part saga of incompetence.

Part One: I received a phone call last week commanding my presence at the police station, at my earliest convenience. My earliest convenience was last Friday. Which was the Friday following my house-warming party. Yeah…
Naturally, I was really hungover when my alarm went off at 8:30 a.m. However, I am stubborn and will not be defeated by wine-hangovers! I made it onto the bus to Pontevedra, barely. (Worst. Bus ride. Ever)
Upon my arrival in Pontevedra, I found the police station while both hating the sun and hating mornings. I went inside and tried to psych myself up for a long wait. And then I saw the sign…NO HAY MAS NUMEROS HOY. No more numbers today. My brain took a long second to process what the hell this meant. And then…
Shit…No fucking way. It was far too early for them to have stopped serving people. And there wasn’t anyone waiting in line.
What. The. Hell?
Lucky for my hungover self, a nearby bureaucrat explained: there was no one to staff the foreigners’ office today. Nope, not a single person. I’d have to come back on Monday.

<insert cursing, bad tempered ranting about bureaucracy>

Part Two: Monday morning, I hauled my sleepy self down to Pontevedra, AGAIN. Got to the police station sans hangover and was greeted by the following: about 15 people waiting in line, and that fucking sign, NO HAY MAS NUMEROS HOY. Translation: if you arrive after we stop giving out numbers, you are fucked.
Oh hell no, I was not going to waste another day.
So I found the ever-so-useful person from the other day and asked her what the hell was going on. She admitted that they were going slow today and that if I waited, MAYBE they could get to me after everyone else. I waited, fumed, and made friends with another American stuck in the same mess.
90 minutes later, I was still waiting. And then the guy next to me apparently decided he had better things to do with his life and left. Leaving me his number and the hope of actually doing something productive with the morning. Score!
Yeah, my good mode lasted 10 minutes, until I actually got to talk to the bureaucrats. They promptly (lies, it took them 15 minutes) informed me that an official document of awesomeness (called a resolución) wasn’t in my folder. Or anywhere else. And that the only person EVER who could reprint and restamp this mystical paper was out sick. Indefinitely.
Very apologetically, the bureaucrats ask if this is terribly inconvenient for me.

Yes, fuckers–I don’t come down here cause I’m bored! And more importantly, no I’m not worried about being deported due to your stupidity. I’m worried about not getting paid!

Oh really? That’s too bad, but we can’t do anything until Sick Supervisor comes back. We’ll call you when that is. It should be less than 8 days…

Yeah, I need that paper in 48 hours.

One phone call to my principal later, I had him on the phone with the bureaucratic morons. I don’t know what was said, but it took 25 minutes and got HIM nowhere. Except for the fact that my school is going to move heaven and earth to make sure I get paid on time.
So…Not a complete disaster, but I am still going to take out my rage on the Spanish government somehow. Plotting, plotting, plotting…


*extranjeria=foreigners’ office at the police station

Renewing Your TIE, an Adventure in Run-Around

Spain didn’t invent bureaucracy, France did (another reason to mock the French) but Spain has taken theirs to a new level of obnoxiousness.

Today I took the first (of many) step in renewing my Tarjeta de Identidad Extranjera (TIE) for the coming year. This little piece of plastic is my Spanish green card, allows me to legally enter and exit European countries for the next 12 months, and scores me some fabulous discounts on touristy things. It is also a colossal pain in the ass to obtain.

To renew your TIE in Galicia you must go to the police station that has jurisdiction over your region. In my case, going to the police station means an hour-long train ride and 15 minute walk, because I technically work in the province of Pontevedra, even though I live in Santiago (and not too far from our police station). Efficient, no? So I made the trip, almost getting lost in Pontevedra because I hadn’t been there since last December.

Once I got to the police station, I waited 10 minutes and then was informed by the funcionario that she had no f**king clue how to process my renewal because she was new. And her supervisor was on a coffee break. “Come back in 30 minutes” she suggested, ever so helpful.

I decided to go get passport photos (which I’d probably need anyways), muttering unpleasant things about the Spanish government while I left the building. When I came back, 40 minutes later, the supervisor in question happened to be wandering in the door behind me. Great, I think. I can get something done. She proceeded to tell me that I needed to fill out another form, go down the street to copy it (why the office has never bought its own copy machine, I’ll never know), as well as give her copies of my passport. No problem on the last one. I already had several copies of my passport.
“No, copies of all the stamps too.”
“The stamps?”
Misunderstanding my question and pointing at the stamps, “Yes, these are stamps.”
“The stamp I got when I entered Spain last week?” I asked, to confirm.
“No, all the stamps. Even if they aren’t for Spain.”

Head. Desk.

I have 4 pages of stamps in my passport. Most of them are completely irrelevant to my presence in Spain this year.

So…50 cents for all those stupid copies, and of course it was raining outside.

Went back to the office, AGAIN, and took yet another number. Wait, twiddle thumbs, mutter curses against the Xunta de Galicia.

Finally, finally, I got all my papers okayed and stamped, signed and glued (yeah, don’t ask). Then, of course, they inform me that they will call me in a week or two so I can come back and do other things. Like pay them. And get fingerprinted. And still not get my card until late November.

Total estimated trips to Pontevedra this fall: three.
What the funcionarios said when I explained why Santiago-living me was at their office: You totally should have been able to do this in Santiago!

Head. Wall.

I. Hate. Bureaucracy.