Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

The Day The Bastards Got Me Down

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If you’re a person in need of letting go or just relaxing a bit, I have a solution for you. Allow yourself to be completely broken down and then build yourself up again. This advice may seem counterintuitive, but, having gone through it personally, I can tell you that becoming a shell of your former self and having all your ideas about what is good and true beaten out of you can be totally liberating.

This happened to me on June 21, 2007. I’d been in Spain for almost two years at that point, butting heads with people over just about everything and getting nowhere. I wanted to finally have all of my Spanish IDs issued properly (nat’l ID, passport, health card, etc.) but everyone in every government office was dead set on hindering my progress.

My American go-getter attitude wouldn’t stand for this kind of run around, so I quite literally spent all of my free daylight hours in federal buildings, waiting for my number to be called so that my paperwork could be rejected based on a technicality or have the teller windows close on me or be told, after sitting for hours in non-air-conditioned spaces, that no more people were being seen until the following day.

The bastards beat me that hot June day, but I lived to tell the tale and the whole nightmare taught me that, even though I may want to, I can’t control most things in the universe.

INT. GOV’T OFFICE BARCELONA— EARLY AFTERNOON

A GIRL wearing bicycle gloves runs in. She is sweating slightly. She looks excited. She approaches the main desk.

GIRL

(fumbling with her bag, extracts several sheets of PAPER)

Sorry, um, I, ah, was here last week to pick up these papers…

GIRL hands PAPERS to WOMAN behind the desk.

GIRL (cont.)

… but when I went to get my ID across town, they said it was missing a stamp, so, I, ah, want to get it stamped.

GIRL smiles. The WOMAN has tightly permed orange hair and red wire-rimmed glasses. Despite the heat outside, she is wearing a sweater that began to pill several seasons ago.

WOMAN

(looking over the papers)

Right. OK. They should have done that before. Hmmm, that has to be done in Madrid.

WOMAN turns as if to leave, though the office is scheduled to be open for another 35 fucking minutes.

GIRL

(clearly tense)

Wait, what? What do you mean? I requested these papers for the specific purpose of obtaining my ID and you’re telling me that they forgot to stamp it?!

WOMAN

(not giving two shits)

Try Door 8 upstairs.

INT. MAIN AREA, SAME GOV’T OFFICE. GIRL is looking around at signs, many handwritten, trying to find Door 8. GIRL sees an elevator and gets on.

INT. ELEVATOR. GIRL is now sweating more heavily than before. Theme music from “BRAZIL” begins to play softly in her head.

INT. GOV’T OFFICE, 2ND FLOOR. GIRL continues to follow all manner of signs promising the proximity of Door 8. GIRL turns a corner and is, no shit, confronted with this:

You can't make this shit up.

You can not make this up.

GIRL laughs quietly under her breath, though she is not amused.

INT. ERROR CORRECTION OFFICE. There are several CIVIL SERVANTS sitting at desks and standing around a coffee machine. As soon as the GIRL enters, they all scatter off into corners like the cockroaches they are…except one rather portly OLDER CIVIL SERVANT. GIRL approaches his work area.

GIRL

(trying to sound casual, but not succeeding)

Ha, I have an “error” I’d like “corrected” please. You see, it appears that a stamp I need on these documents wasn’t put on and I’d like to have that done now.

OLDER CIVIL SERVANT

(gives a cursory glance to the documents, flipping each one over carefully in a studied manner)

Yes, I see. Mmmm-hmm. Ah. Well. Yes. You need to fill this form out…

OLDER CIVIL SERVANT pushes a practically blank piece of paper at GIRL.

OLDER CIVIL SERVANT (cont.)

… and then send it to the Madrid office for the stamp.

The GIRL‘s body sags, as if suddenly under an enormous weight. GIRL begins to tremble slightly. GIRL inhales sharply, as if gaining strength from an unspoken mantra (“Don’t let the bastards grind you down”) and then…

GIRL

(speaking very slowly)

There must be some mistake. I have waited for one and a half years — that’s eighteen months — for these papers. It is not possible that they have to go back to Madrid. That is just not possible.

GIRL shakes her head forcefully, refusing to accept what has been said to her. The theme from “BRAZIL” becomes a roar in her ears.

OLDER CIVIL SERVANT

Well, it may not be “possible,” but it is so. Should take. . .

At this, OLDER CIVIL SERVANT looks off into the middle distance, feigning the act of thinking.

OLDER CIVIL SERVANT (cont.)

… six months to process. You should have your stamp in six months.

GIRL

(visibly shaking)

No, no, no, no, no. These papers. . .

GIRL flaps the pile of PAPERS she brought.

GIRL

… were supposed to take six months and they took three times that. I can’t wait another year and a half. I can’t.

OLDER CIVIL SERVANT

(not a care in the goddamned world)

If you go to Madrid it won’t take as long. Maybe a month.

SMASH CUT TO: GIRL running out of GOV’T OFFICE building towards a bicycle. When she reaches it, she begins to take great big gulps of air but there is not enough oxygen in the Milky Way to calm her. She collapses on the ground next to her bike and starts sobbing. “BRAZIL” theme swells as camera FADES OUT.

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

2 thoughts on “The Day The Bastards Got Me Down

  1. Perfectly marvelous post. Though I feel a bit bad about being entertained by the day the bureaucracy broke you down. Query: did you ever get those papers stamped?

    (It is also very pleasant to have the theme to Brazil stuck in my head)

    • Don’t feel bad, the whole point of this blog is to amuse people, generally at my expense. Comedy is tragedy plus time, after all.
      Someday I may write the next part to this adventure as it’s super Spanish-y in its annoyance.

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