Once upon a time in Spain, I went to the immigration office in an attempt to receive my NIE (numero identificacion extranjero). If you recall from previous posts, I need this number to function as a resident in the country. For a bank account, for an internet account, for paychecks, for life. The junta (government) made us appointments, and mine was today at 8:45 a.m. Behold, my day.
- 8:15 a.m. Arrive at la Oficina de Extranjeros (Office for Foreigners). Stand outside in the cold and the dark with a mix of immigrants speaking French, broken Spanish, and other languages I don’t recognize.
- 8:45 a.m. Actual appointment time, still standing outside.
- 9:15 a.m. Realize there is a side door with a guard, and present myself for entrance. Admitted into the waiting area.
- 9:30 a.m. A gorgeous man stands up and says that students will work with him today (we are considered students). He starts by taking several girls that are sitting in a separate section up front.
- 10:15 a.m. I’m killing time with the 10 other students waiting to fulfill their appointments, and the security guard makes eye contact with me, and points to the open sit in front of Mr. Wonderful. I sprint over to the desk with my things. Appointment begins.
- 10:22 a.m. After exchanging niceties and reviewing some of the paperwork, my new friend Jose declares that la linea (the intranet / network run out of Madrid for these offices) is down.
- 10:37 a.m. The intranet is still down, and Jose goes out for a cigarette break. I stay put with my things and open my book.
- 11:05 a.m. One of the other men working at the office addresses the group in the waiting area. Non students have taken numbers when they arrive, like at a deli. He says that if you have a high number, you should go home and come back again tomorrow.
- 11:06 a.m. Panic ensues.
- 11:17 a.m. Jose returns from his extended break and the intranet remains down.
- 11:20 a.m. One of the auxiliares asks for an appointment change, and Jose takes a stack of 10 passports from her to change their appointment times ….. to next Thursday.
- 11:37 a.m. The last American leaves (he works in my town and has to catch the bus back, despite the fact he didn’t receive his paperwork either).
- 11:40 a.m. Jose friends me on Facebook.
- 12:15 p.m. I know everything about Jose, his family, his house, his basketball career and his dog Lola.
- 1:17 p.m. Jose takes me out for coffee at a nearby cafe and we have an English lesson for half an hour, during his work day.
- 1:43 p.m. We return to the office and I chat with the old men about this mess. They are pleased to hear I will return in the morning and perhaps I can teach them some English. There are several choice vocabulary words for this situation, but they all sound better in Spanish.
- 1:52 p.m. We spend some time online looking at photos of Merida (his home town), Bethlehem, Lehigh and Linderman (he likes architecture). I hope all of your ears were ringing because I was talking about you!
- 2 p.m. Jose swings my backpack over his shoulder and proceeds to take me out for ice cream. He is my new best friend.
- 3:30 p.m. I am still at the cafe with Jose and we have talked about trading, basketball, my students, English, his dog, his ex girlfriend, my family and Andalucian Spanish.
- 4 p.m. Andrew shows up in the plaza and Jose takes his leave after I decline an invite (or three) to return to his house and hang out. He agrees to come to work early tomorrow and will help me out, first thing.
In review: the inefficiency of this office is not the fault of the people working there (policemen like Jose). This crazy intranet can’t stand up to all the simultaneous requests all over Spain and reportedly fails at least once a day, sometimes for a long time and sometimes only for a few minutes. So we can’t blame the people, we blame technology.
.. and then we go have ice cream with the good looking immigration officer. Oh, Spain.
To Be Continued!