lunedì, ottobre 20, 2014

I am just a humble tenant of the Kafkaesque state

Yesterday had this trifecta of good stuff - a fucking HUGE tax refund, Godzilla getting his Italian passport super-fast, and my Yankee bosses officially approving giving me a German contract - that I can't help but be pulled out of my funk to a high degree. The passport, somehow, was the most gratifying one, though also in a sense the most meaningless, since Godzilla's Italian citizenship was already processed and in any case he has the right to come to Europe, live with us there, and go to school on the basis of both my nationality and his father's. But when we finally got it, something tight and nervous in me just dissolved into ahhhhhhh.

I'm pretty intimate with what the right passports are able to do for you, and have enough South Asian and non-EU Mediterranean friends to get a broad picture of what happens with the wrong passports. But us -  we have our papers. We can fly out of Casablanca now. Didn't even need to fuck the chief of police. (Casablanca is a really fucking good movie, by the way; we watched it for the second time the other night. Just throwing that out there again. One of those underrated obscure gems.)

The other thing with the Italian passport is that all of our interactions with the consulate have been really smooth, while the other people there at the same time as us got into shouting matches and tears with the officials. Well, the applicants were shouting and in tears. The consular officials were calm to the point of zen.

During the last round of paperwork for Godzilla's passport, at the next desk over an official dealing with a furious woman who was trying to get her daughter's citizenship sorted out and came up against the brick wall of the slightly different spelling of her own first name on her and her daughter's birth certificate - she was just laying into him, insisting there had to be a form he could give her that would sort the whole thing out.

And the fury was bouncing senselessly off him, as though he was Andre the Giant getting wrassled by a kitten. At the point where he said to her soothingly (in English), "Madame, this is nothing personal between you and me. I am just a humble servant of the Italian state . . ." I strived not to make eye contact with the F-word because I knew I would break down in laughter if I did. On the tram away from there he told me the same thing.

I guess you can't help but thanking your lucky stars to the point of schadenfreude when that sort of thing happens. Not least because when I say that when our dealings with the consulate have been smooth, I don't mean well-oiled machine smooth; I mean not-making-me-cry-or-yell-at-anyone smooth.

At one point, the consulate actually stripped the F-word of his citizenship until he handed in further documentation (years ago, when we were living in Europe no less, and he needed it quite badly). Last year I got a huge freak-out from the information on the website that suggested it would have taken until Godzilla was more than three years old to process his citizenship (well after we planned to leave). The lag between when Godzilla's citizenship was certified early this year and the February 2015 appointment then made for the one-hour process of his passport being printed was also remarkable, and needed to be addressed once we picked a February departure date.

All those things were resolved quickly, though, after some personal inquiries, and I think it really helped that those inquiries were made in Italian, when most of the people the consulate deal with here are monolingual "Italian" Australians trying to do all their business in English.

There's more, though; when I think back on the comically Kafkaesque problems driving the other people at the consulate to distraction, and the resolution of our own problems, I realize that those years in Belgium really broke us into this kind of thing. All the other people there asking for things were Australian, and besides the problem of monolinguality, their brains just popped like cumin seeds in a hot pan when faced with the slow pace and seeming intractability of European bureaucracy.

But we - well, we spent years dealing with a bureacracy that makes Italy look simple. Unlike full-time Australians, who are served by a madly efficient federal government that falls all over itself with apologies at the smallest hiccup, we don't expect things to go well. We expect that every visit to a bureau is only one step in a process, that the delays and issues that crop up are down to the game and not the players, and that when a resolution to a problem comes, it will be all at once and unexpected, so anything that needs to be done by a certain time needs to be addressed well before that time draws anything like nigh. We know what we are doing when it comes to this sort of thing. We have the technology . . . and the patience.

Realizing that has made me a little more - not relaxed - but less fretful about Godzilla's school next year. We will find a solution. We are on six or seven waiting lists, and we will simply keep working to make that work and to make alternative solutions work if that one doesn't work. And anyways, because of my job, he only needs to be in care for half-days; if things are bad, only three hours at a pop. He'll be okay. We'll be okay. We'll just keep being the gentle drip of a European citizen against the limestone of European bureaucracy until our family makes its own happy little European stalagmite.