Tuesday, December 19, 2006

 

One of Those Days


One of those days - I was just writing those words when the power flickered and jumped, and another fifty computers from the Lower Almanzora sent out a puff of smoke and, simultaneously, in ASKII, they shouted, well, fuck it, I'm outta here. Sevillana's master-plan to persuade our local politicos to allow them to string up a fresh new high power line across our view is to have leetle cuts about once a day. Not ee-nuff power, they sob over the phone if you yell at them; but, oddly, there's enough power in the middle of the summer when fifty thousand air conditioners are being goosed.
There is the Mother of all Power Stations in Carboneras, recently voted by Greenpeace as being the forth dirtiest in Spain (twentieth in Europe) and, of course, one of the biggest. Enough power to burn the entire province off the map. We have other power units locally, including a modest solar power station (well, it's the biggest in Europe, after all, we do have a lot of sunshine) and two diesel burning power plants respectively in Palomares and Antas. Roll on, the German takeover of Endesa (Sevillana) says I.
Anyway - I was going to make a small point over the Andalucian tax authority.
They sent me a letter saying I owed them some money, which I signed receipt of in triplicate, adding my special tax number and inside leg measurement. So today, finding myself at a loose end, I went to their office in Vera (you wanna try parking in Vera), pockets just abulging and abursting with cash, to be told by an ill-dressed looking specimen in the forth office I went to that, thenkyou, no not here I had to go to Almería. A day wasted. The problem, it turned out, was my name. In keeping with most foreigners, I have a first, middle and last name. In Spain, and vive la diference says I, you have various first names ('nombres') ending usually in María - regardless of sex, followed by two surnames, a patronymic and a matronymic: your father's and mother's first surnames respectively (called 'apellidos'). My own name might be something like Lenox María Chuckleberry Smith, with the Chuckleberry being the vital name, registrywise, even if I prefered to go by the more pedantic Smith. As our colourful president, José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero does. You probably know all of this, but then, you probably don't work among those dozy people that make up the tax-collectors.
So, having looked me up under Chuckleberry in three different offices, to which I was passed with a singular lack of interest on their part and a rapidly increasing amount on my own, to say nothing of the 4.5% compound figured out by some computer deep in the bowels of the earth somewhere in out Capital City, I was eventually told that I must away to Almería if I wanted to pay, or, at any rate, to leave them in peace in their comfortable crib in Vera.
In real life, creditors are always much more taken by the idea of relieving you of a few readies. Not when the dazzling institution of la burocracia española gets involved. The fun is all in the paperwork, the needless turns around the city, the 'gone for coffee' or 'come back tomorrow' appointments.
Once, in Huercal Overa (a grungy town that doubles as our main tax office), I went to pay my five bob. You must collect a form from them, go to the bank, their bank, and pay your cash and then return to them with the receipt. This puts off quite a lot of citizens and makes the funcionarios life easier. The bank they had an account in was closed for repairs. I had to drive to Puerto Lumbreras, in the next province, to pay my shillings and obtain a ticket. Now, how much time do you have to waste?
I return back to the office, where, after a great deal of telephoning both Almería and Vera, and explaining that my name was really Chuckleberry, they graciously allowed that I could pay, both locally and tomorrow. But to hurry, before they charged me extra interest.

Comments:
Thank you for this article on Spain's World Class burocracy. I deal with it almost every day at work having to sort out our expat engineers' lives for them. I know the inside of La Línea's police stations better than most áchis dealers I guess.

The only piece of burocracy that I found some customer service for was when registering the birth of someone else's baby at San Roque. The staff there seem to change attitudes when children are involved. Not that this will help me - I'm not planning any more additions to the family.
 
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