Stories about Spanish bureaucracy are legion among the Expat British community here in the Canary Islands and with good reason.
Anybody who has attempted to transact any form of official business, whether at the town hall, local doctors, hospital, or even the ferry services for God’s sake, will know the feeling.
As a general rule, we don’t go anywhere without passport, residencia, (or nowadays, the worse than useless piece of green paper), social security number, empadronamiento, (after registering at the town hall), passport-size photographs, a myriad of forms and, of course, photocopies of everything in triplicate.
Living with the ‘witch’, whose every waking hour seems to taken up with battling her way through this sea of bureaucratic paperwork, I thought I had seen, or heard about, just about everything…But I was to be proved wrong.
The ‘Witch’ had to go to Trafico yesterday, together with three people’s passports, consent forms and enough paperwork to have been responsible for the destruction of at least two trees.
I went along for the ride, to keep her company, poor dear…But mostly, I confess, because I needed a new hard drive for my computer from the Saturn store.
Anyway, Trafico can be a nightmare for the unwary or uninitiated at the best of times and yesterday was no exception.
What was different was that the ‘Witch’ was trying to get an international driving licence for a client going on holiday outside the EU with their Spanish driving licence.
Now I know Spanish civil servants love their rubber stamps and use them with gusto, along with bank workers and others but yesterday I believe I witnessed a record.
Firstly, the cashier charged the wrong tasa (official fee) – quick as a flash she’s on the case; “er, this should be for 9 euros 60 cents not 8 euros” says the “Witch”, “Oh should it?” says cashier, “I’ll just re-do that then”. There’s 2 stamps right there and nothing achieved yet.
Next despite this being Trafico, the place where they actually process licences of all kinds, the new guy behind the issuing counter had no idea what to do and a three or four-party conference ensued.
One colleague came over to help, “Oh its her, she always brings in something weird” said a young woman sporting the largest dangley earrings I’ve ever seen in my life, much laughter between the “Witch” and functionary number 2 and some talk about where the earrings could be obtained.
Vast reams of paper were exchanged, with the ‘Witch’ challenged at every turn; at one point she asked “Don’t you want a copy of the passport then?”, only to be told “no” followed 30 seconds later by “have you got a copy of his passport?” Wonderful, I thought, we’re getting somewhere now, we’ll be out of here in no time, a breeze.
Then the stamps came out.
More than 20 were applied as I stood mesmerised by the process and, I have to confess, impressed at how so many stamps could be applies to such small pieces of paper.
But we weren’t done yet. The licence was taken away and four more stamps applied. A stapler appeared and a photograph was added to the licence, partly obscuring the face of the holder.
Finally the process reached its peak and, like a crescendo of orchestral timpani heralding the finale of a symphony, the stamps began to fly.
Despite feeling almost catatonic by this time, I had been counting and the grand total? 57!
Yes. This one innocent document, issued simply so that someone could drive in New Zealand, had been covered in 57 official stamps, before being handed, triumphantly to the ‘Witch’, with a quip about “aren’t you glad I didn’t do it wrong and have to start all over again”
The ‘Witch’ had taken all this in her stride and wished everyone a cheery ‘Good Day’ while I, on the other hand, felt the need for a stiff drink…But settled for the new hard drive.