A Gem Noticed While on a Wild Goose Chase

Yes, if I hadn’t been on a wild goose chase to get a replacement drivers licence, I may never have seen this beautiful building now functioning as a cultural institute. Some of the architectural details brought parts of the movie “Lord Of The Rings” to mind. I’d love to see inside sometime, and might go back when I am in less of a hurry.

Way back last year sometime I misplaced my Uruguayand driver’s licence. I think actually it was stolen when we had an intruder in the house last July; but since I don’t drive a lot here I hadn’t been too fussed. However, now the police are really tightening up (for which read, coming into line with other jurisdictions in other parts of the world, possibly) so last week I decided it was time to go through the bureaucratic maze and get a replacement. I asked one of my close Uruguayan friends to call the Intendencia (town hall or city council) which issues these things and find exactly what I needed to do, and particularly confirm what documentation I needed to take. Just the identity card now, she was told, no need to have made a police report of theft or loss – just go with the identity card. She re-checked, and checked the office hours, and so I arrived there about 9-30am – which I now realise for an office that opens at 8-30 is almost too late to be dealt with that day, The place was crowded. When I made it to the front of the first line, Information, I was told to go straight to sector 2. At sector 2, a fairly scary lady simply told me they had run out of numbers, (run out of numbers?) so I would have to come back the next day – but, of course, I also needed the police report I didn’t yet have, anyway… so I should go back to Information. The information lady had another opportunity to practice english on me – she was very kind if a little stupid – and confirmed that yes, I certainly needed a police document – and at this stage with steam beginning to appear from my ears the person who seemed in charge of the whole chaotic department rushed over with the Duplicados form and said I could at least fill that out and pay the fee upstairs today, once I got my police document anyway, so that when I came back the next day I could indeed go straight to sector 2. By now rather stunned at how all this was not going, I thought it would make sense to get the necesssary police document from the nearest police sectional office, as there was bound to be one very close by, and with a bit of luck I’d have time to take all that upstairs and pay the fee before the office closed at 12-30. A uniformed police officer outside the intendencia said yes, the nearest was ‘two blocks along and then left and you’re right there’, but the door man at the intendencia argued ‘no, it’s three blocks along and half a block down’ . They tossed this back and forth and someone else intervened and said ‘three blocks and a half’. I thanked them all in great confusion and struck out in the general direction they all agreed on, resolving to ask someone a bit closer – such as one of the people who run kiosks and little cafes who really know their neighbourhood ! A fairly longish walk three blocks along and three and a half blocks to the left took me past this building, and eventually brought me to Policial Seccional No. 2. I found myself in a clean bright, airy waiting room/office with shiny white and blue tiles half way up the walls that suggested it was hosed out occasionally, like a diary, somehow. (But, it was meticulously clean, and even sported a few live potted plants here and there) After a while a very nice policeman came in and said yes he could fix that – but, then the printer for the form seemed to be out of paper or not functioning for some other reason – so he picked up a piece of what I would describe as 1/4 page of hand-torn scratch paper, stamped it with a date stamp and the official Policia Seccional no.2 stamp, and proceded to write out in longhand that this was my application for a document to take to the Intendencia Municipal de Montevideo (IMM ) for the purpose of obtaining a replacement licence to drive a motor vehicle, stating my full name, ID number and address, and then signing it with his number and rank. I also signed it, thanked him and left, making it back to the treasury in time to pay the fee that day, and resolved to come back early the next morning for the licence itself.

The next day, arriving just on 9am, I was clearly late again – the line of maybe 150 people stretched back up the stairs from the licencing office, through the IMM lobby and almost out to the street. No wonder the Information lady said come back early, very early … but I was grateful I had thought to bring a book. Thankfully the queue moved fairly steadily, and there at the top of the stairs was another scary lady directing people down to licensing or upstairs to pay first, according to how she assessed the paper work in their hands. She instructed me to go straight to sector 2 and obtain a number. The numbers were being hand allocated by the same scary lady as yesterday – I got #65, with #27 currently being served. I watched progress a while and estimated it would take a couple of hours, till 11am at least, probably – and retired to a bench with my book – looking up occasionally to see the numbers dawdle along. At 10-40, with still 6 numbers to go, I took myself to the loo, and hurried back to see that precisely one number had fallen in that time. It was 11-15 when #64 came up, but because there were people who had “11am appointments” waiting, I was kept standing aside, and it was actually 11-30 by the time I was seated at a desk in sector 2. It took 2-3 minutes to type in and have printed out the necessary information onto a card, which I then took to sector 3, photography, handed it straight in, and without any waiting had my photo taken. It took 10 minutes for my name to be called, and at last, 11-40am, I was walking out of there, still reeling from the impact of the whole experience, laminated replacement licence in hand. From where we live to this office is half an hour’s travel time, so over the two days, add 2 hours’ travel time, and 5 hours of various activities undertaken in pursuit of this licence (walking, liningup, waiting gazing, waiting reading, side conversations, and one bathroom stop) to give a total of at least 7 hours – SEVEN – to to get it. On the other hand, if I hadn’t lost the original I may have never found myself walking to Policial Seccional No.2, and may not have looked up to see the beautiful building of which I took a photo – it was the brightest spot in that dreary time. My close friend V was most impressed, expressing admiration for how I managed to accomplish the whole manoeuvre! Montevideoans would rather do almost anything than have to go into the IMM maze overstaffed by scary, underworked bureaucrats who do very little, and do it very slowly. Quite a depressing, totally draining experience. They have the computers, the modern photographic equipment, but still maintain the same antiquated bureacratic systems which have not yet streamlined and modernised in any way, except that now there is no smoking in any of the crammed slow moving office and bank lines anywhere in the country. Talk about the dead hand of bureaucracy –I promise I will never, ever, complain about any Australian government office again.

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One Response to “A Gem Noticed While on a Wild Goose Chase”

  1. marthaginn@bellsouth.net says:

    Alison, your saga of the replacement license made me say again “thank God I live in the USA.” I loved your finding beauty in the midst of all this two days’ worth of frustration. I know you will get back to see more of this beautiful building. This is how we should all address adversity–find the beauty!
    Martha Ginn

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