lunes, 14 de enero de 2008

Catch 22.2


Quoted script from Fight Club

Edward Norton is at the intenational luggage claim area, it's night. There's no one except Norton and a security force man. The security guy is smirking, holding a receiver to his ear from an official phone on the wall.

Edward Norton
- Was... was it ticking?
Security man (to Edward Norton)
- Actually throwers don't worry about ticking 'cause modern bombs don't tick.
Edward Nortong
- Sorry? Throwers?
Security Man
- Baggage handlers. But when a suitcase vibrates, the throwers have to call the police
Edward Norton
- My suitcase was vibrating?
Security Man
- Nine time out of ten, it's an electric razor. But every once in a while...
... it's a dildo. It's company policy not to imply ownership in the event of a dildo. We use the indefinite article: "A dildo". Never " Your dildo".
Edward Norton
- But I don't own a...
Security man tells Edward to hold as he listens to the phone receiver.

CATCH 22.2

When you arrive here on Erasmus, or anywhere else, there are things you don't expect to really get in contact with. Like the firemen. Or herpes. Or in my case, the police. I mean let's face it, we're here on a big holiday. We expect food to be bought with coupons and entertainment to be provided by the same young and healthy animators who were teaching us the theme song just this afternoon at the beach. So no, I didn't expect to call the French embassy of Valencia to tell them I lost my passport. What I didn't tell them is I THINK I lost t. I haven't seen it since madrid and I can't find it in my tiny room. The advantage of a tiny room is it's like looking for your key in a one-pocket jeans. It doesn't take long to draw conclusions. You stick your hand in the one pocket, feel your thigh, nothing in between, and go 'Yep, it's lost'. I called the hostel too, and they didn't have it. So yep, I think it's lost. That's what I told the embassy. Also I told them I had a flight to catch back home next month. And that I didn't have any other papers. So if they could just start the procedure that'd be great. And get me some temporary papers in the meanwhile. Be helpful and efficient, for once. I'm sure no one would mind the change. I maybe didn't say the last things, but here's what they said; "You have to go to the police station and get a declaration of loss, then come back to us with that, and a birth certificate". I told them I'd get one faxed to me. I heard an administrative snarl on the other side of the receiver and then 'Hmm (more like Grrr), normally you need an original copy of your birth certificate, but ok'. I hung up, looked on internet for police stations. There's aren't too many in valencia. Somehow, there aren't any fucking one in my neighbourhood. Here's a mental excercice: picture the map of Valencia (any imaginary map will do), put a little flag for my house somewhere North-East. Now, if the council has decided that no house should be farther than 5km from the nearest police station, start spreading them all at least 5km or farther away from me. Good! Now here I am, monday morning, on my bike to the police station. In my mind, I'm expecting a 1-2-3 fix. Go in, say 'I've lost my passport', get a piece of paper shoved into my hands, friendly goodbye, and voila. Here's what really happened.

I get inside, and surprise, there's a fucking waiting line. I look around for the familiarly dreaded number-ticket-machine, but there is none. Instead, there's a guy with a coupon booklet to his right. I tell him
- Hello, I've lost my passport and I need to make a declaration about that
And he says
- Sure, can I see some ID?
- Euhm, well no, that's what I'm here for, cuz I lost it.
- Well I can't help you until you identify yourself
- Uhuh, well that's exactly my problem too. Now please, could I fill in the form?
- Now look, this is Spain, and in Spain, the police can't help you without knowing who you are, now can we?
- Listen, the embassy already told me they can't help me, so...
- Well we can't either...
(Fuck shit piss cunt ass grmbleefukcdshifbthc)

I step out, get on my bike and drive back to the French embassy, luckily not too far away from the police station. I swear, I think the two offices are close to each other because it's not the first time they play human ping pong with paperless people)
I get to the building and there are two old people waiting in front of the door. I say 'Aren't you guys gonna go inside?', and they tell me 'The guard won't let us go inside' I say 'what?' and they say 'Yeah, we have to wait for some people to get outside first before we can get it' (I'm sorry, is this the entrance to the ladies room or to my goddamn embassy?). I go 'Uhuh', and sit my ass down, take out my macbook (never enter the adminstrative labyrinth without one) and start watching an episode of How I met your mother, a tv serie whose last episode I luckily and randomly downloaded last night. As I watch my episode, the old man repetitively makes old people's mild guerilla attempts at getting in. Someone leaves the embassy talking on her mobile phone, and the old man peeks inside to see if they can enter yet. Somebody must be saying shouting something from behind the door, because as far as I can understand with my earphones on, the old couple is being told to back off. The old man tries to keep a half-bemused-hal-irritated smile on his face as he comes to terms with the cold fact he might not be be able to sneak in to his own embassy. Meanwhile, the lady with the mobile phone goes back inside. Another couple arrives and they ask who the last one is in the unofficial waiting line outside the mystery door, and the old couple points towards me, as I eat my banana. A bunch of people come out the door while the old couple's face lights up. They make a run for it to the door, but this time a woman guard appears at the entrance (again?) and tells them to back off. She says she only has room for one person. (I'm sorry, is this my goddamn embassy or a fucking luna parc attraction?). I raise my hand and say 'I'm alone' but the old man turns towards me and barks 'We were here first!' and I lift my shoulders, put my earphones back on and continue to watch my serie. It's not like I mind waiting that much, as long as my episode lasts. More people come out and we're finally allowed to enter the holy site.

The woman guard wants to go through my bag first. Tells me to remove any metallic objects before I pass through the gate. Now understand, the gate is INSIDE the office room. I mean, if you ever go to the Israeli Embassy, they'll strip you naked 300 meters from the entrance. They'll probe your cavities with a tiny camera and ask you what you ate for breakfast 4 days from now while measuring your pupil dilatations. Then, they'll ask you what you're here for, and just to be on the safe side, ask you to describe the texture of the last falafel balls you say you ate on your last visit to Israel. The French Embassy, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be too worried. Their worst case scenario is probably a burning Citroen 2CV down the street. They're survival kit for a gas attack is a suitcase with jasmin scented air fresheners. You get the point. I friendly participate in the guard's less than secure search through my bag. She compliments me on my participation, and I tell her I'm Israeli. We're used to these things (well not these, I mean these measures are a kindergarden knock-knock joke, but I mean safety searches in general). She finally lets me in, and I sit my ass down and figure this might take a while still, so I might as well watch the end of my episode. Then it's my turn and I go to the counter and say

- Hi, I've lost my passport and I need to make a new one.
- Alright, do you have a declaration of loss?
- No, look, the police station won't give me one without papers...
(Will they understand the obvious loophole?)
- Ahm, well we need that paper to start the procedure
(OK well I'm obviously dealing with administrative single-braincelled clerks)
- But they won't give me one, they won't even talk to me before I show some ID
Can't you guys fix me some papers that I can show them?
- I have to ask about this...
(Lady walks away to talk to other coworkers behind a corner, comes back and tells me)
- We can't help you without the declaration of loss. Which police station did you go to?
- The one across from here
- Well you have to go try another police station
- I'm sorry, what?!
- Maybe you'll find a nicer policeman there
- Wait, what?! Never mind...
Fuck shit piss dumb goose bighdkùjkdjkmdmjk

Out I go, on my bike, cross the bridge, park my bike, enter same policestation, same policeman. I decide to go for the alzheimer-strategy, maybe induce a collective amnesia on the whole thing and start fresh
- Hello, I need to make a declaration of a loss of passport
- Sure thing, do you have some ID?
(What are you, fucking amnesiac? I already told you I don't!!!)
- No... that's the reason I'm here
(Policeman raises his tone)
- Then we can NOT help you!
- But I went to my embassy and they said they can't help me before you do
- Where are you from?!
- I'm French!
- Well then you go to your French embassy and you have them help you out, it's their problem, not ours
- But I'm also European, and you are the local police, and I lost my papers, so YOU have to help me!
- Not before you identify yourself!
- I can't! that's why I'm here
(there's a line of politely scared people waiting behind me by now)
- Go to your embassy!
(The administrative equivalent of Go to your room!)
- I just come back from there, and I'm gonna keep going back and forth!
- Don't come back before you have some ID!
- I will come back! So SEE YOU LATER!
- No you don't!
-Later, I'll see you later!
- Goodbye!
Off I go :)

I think we're reaching a new level in our relationship, me and mr policeman.
On my bike, cross the bridge, back to embassy.
No line this time, I go inside, the guard is friendly and apologizes for having to look into my bag again. I say 'no problem, you'll probably see more of me today'.
She struggles with my bag's zippers again and decide it's easier if she just digs her hand in there. I smile as she allows me to grab my bag back.
Sit my ass down again, wait for my turn.
Go to desk, say

- Hello, I've lost my passport and I need to make a new one?'
- Did you get that declaration form?'
- No, listen, how about you call the French embassy in Amsterdam and have them send you my file, and you can identify me as being me and voila, we'll be of each other's back in no time?'
- You're matriculated there?
- Yeah, I lost my passport three years ago, same thing, so now I'm registered there, cuz I study in the netherlands.
- Ahm, just a moment
(more waiting, wondering if they'll manage to communicate with their dutch colleagues, and should I offer to do some translation work... A younger woman comes back and says
- I spoke to you this morning, didn't I?
- Yes! (big smile)
- You're still matriculated in Amsterdam
- Yes! (bigger smile)
- Look we can't help you
- Yes!
No excuse me what?!
- We can't ID you without the papers
- Ok, wait, I got some student cards with my picture on it
- Oh can we see them?
- Yeah yeah just a sec
(Rumble through my bag, get wallet out, shove cards through glass window)
- Hmmm, that won't do actually... Listen, you're gonna have to go round by the other police stations. Maybe wait for another shift at the same police station...
- Yeah I'm not very interested in going around Valencia's finest selection of stations
- Hmmm, wait, when you made that student card here in Valencia, didn't you have to present a photocopy of your passport?
- Ahmmmm, yeah, I think so!
- Good, well go get that copy!
- Yeah!
- And try another police station with it
- Oh...
- Well I'll be back tomorrow morning then
(Shit piss goddamn mothekjkdjmfjs...)

Out I go, on my bike, to the university, get to my faculty, enter international office, ask for the copy of the copy of my passport (by now the picture on the passport could be anyone's) and out I go again. I figure I better get some food. And then, I'll bike only as far as the metro station, and hit the other police station that's a good 10 minutes metro ride away. I get out at the right stop, walk around, find the police station, there's a huge line of people waiting outside a door with a sign that says 'VISAS, Passeportes' and I think 'shit...' and decide to try the 'Denuncias' door, where people apparently go to denounce crimes. I say 'Hola, I've lost my passport can I fill in the form?' and the guy doesn't even speak a work, and just turns around, flips through some papers, and hands me a form. (I tried to hide my smile as heavenly light shone through the clouds upon me and angel were playing divine horns).

And that's the story of how I got to one tenth of the procedure of getting back my passport. Now all that's left to do is get my brother to scan my birth certificate, send it to me by e-mail, print it out on my housemate's printer, go to the embassy tomorrow, have my bag checked, convince them that a printed scanned birth certificate older than three months is a valid document, groom and shave myself, go back to the city, make 4 passport pictures (no smiling), go back to the embassy, have my bag checked again, hand in 4 pictures, assure them there is no simply way for me to get a better birth certificate document, pay 60 euro's in advance, guess my height at 1.64m, tell them my eyes are brown, ask how long it will take to be ready, insist that I need to catch a ryan air flight next month to go home for my mother's birthday, ask again how long it will take, ask if they'll call me when it's done, insist I can not come by at random times to check if my passport is there, ask again how long it will take, are there any student prices on passports? no? fine, shake hands, say goodbye, go home. Maybe pass by that first police station and give him a european middle finger. Run out, jump on bike, go home for real :)

Tal Benisty

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