I went to Romania for almost two weeks. Excepting the two days in Bucharest during which I attended Alina’s wedding and visited a wonderful museum that I strongly recommend (Romanian Village Museum, located in Herastrau Park, Bucharest), I spent most of my time in my home town- Focsani. I was quite busy with doctor appointments and annually health checks (because I am strongly convinced that Romanian GPs are more competent than the Belgian ones) to beautician appointments (because Romania is a lot cheaper when it comes to beauty treatments) and all kind of administrative institutions. And speaking of administrative institutions, this was a good occasion to test my capacity to remain calm and to comfort myself by saying “Gaby, this is Romania, well-known for bureaucracy and inefficient procedures, so calm down, breathe, yeah breathe and be patient”.
I needed a new passport as my old one had expired. So I went to the local police office to ask about the procedure and the costs. A rather bored officer told me that I needed to pay some taxes at “Finante/ Finances” and then to come back. What finances? I asked but no answer was given. So I took a cab and said that I had to go to “finances” that turned out to be an institution where all sorts of taxes payment was done. Over there everything ran smoothly. I paid everything I needed to pay in order to receive my passport very quickly (in one day maximum). Of course, the tax for the passport delivery with “urgency regime” was three times higher than the normal regime (up to one week), which makes perfect sense.
But at the police office, there was no difference made between the people who wanted the passport urgently and had paid for this passport accordingly and the people who just wanted the passport following the normal procedure. First of all, there was no reception desk at all where to address in case you had a question. There was only a flock of over 70 people trying to queue on the steps of the police office’ stairs, outdoors, under a burning sun (32-34 degrees Celsius). They were all queuing for the passport. After making my way through the mob I entered the police building in order to leave quickly as some of the angry people filing started to shout at me. After having asked timidly to whom I had to address for the passport procedure, I was said to look for the “controller” police officer from the yard. Indeed there was a police officer in the yard talking to people and distributing the forms through which the passport demand was made. Amongst others, this policeman had the duty to control whether the forms were filled out correctly. He was asking for the form to be handed and should he found the slightest error, e.g. writing with two different colour pens or any erasing in case of mistake, he would have made all kind of nasty comments and asked you to fill another form. Because I try to erase a word and ended up scrabbling it, I was told the following in an ironic way: “What have you done, sugar? Were you angry or pissed off with this piece of paper? The computer won’t be able to scan and process your form if you have this kind of scrabble. Have another form and fill it up and then give it to me to check it!”
Having filled out my form carefully, I took a place in the queue which was not a row of people, but a pack of three or four rows where people were pushing and suffocating each other trying to advance in the queue as quick as possible. In all of this time, we were moving forward, making our way on the stairs of the police office. The form through which we were asking for a new passport had to be handed at a desk which was in the middle of the police’s hall, just in front of the entrance into the police building. So that is why we were queuing on the stairs. But because we were also blocking the access to the police office, we were told by the controller police officer (the one from the yard) to go down from the stairs, backwards, by keeping our spots in the queue. There is nothing more difficult than to try to go down the stairs, backward, trying to keep your place in the queue and having a bunch of people pushing you and shouting at you to move. It was hilarious! Some people were hesitating, others were pushing their way while others were quarrelling. And when I think that everything could have been easier with just a ticket mentioning your order in the queue and maybe a display system to show who was next…
We managed to go down the stars, but the order in the pack was completely lost. So quarrels about who was where in the queue started. I raised an eyebrow when an old lady suddenly appeared in front of me, trying to move faster in the queue. She smiled at me and because I was looking at her a bit surprised she told me she had priority because she was an old woman and had her two nieces with her. I beg your pardon? After waiting more than two hours in the burning sun, after the remarks of that police officer, I was about to outburst. But I kept my calm and told her politely that it was a matter of common sense to keep one’s order in the queue. She agreed with me but she stayed in front of me, smiling and holding hands with her two nieces. I will not mention about the other people’s reactions.
The end of the story: I got my passport, but only the second day, as I couldn’t bear to stand for another two or three hours after the handing out of the form, when it would have been released. I preferred to stay away from a heat stroke and came back the second day.
I am curious – are the passport procurement formalities different in other countries? I am very curious so share your story with me.