Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Small minded bureaucracy that can't get out of its own way is maddening wherever you're forced to deal with it.

And far from "changing everything," the Internet turns out to be a way for bureaucracy to continue torturing you even with no actual bureaucrats present, e.g. ObamaCare.

Imagine our surprise to discover that in Mexico, where we presumed such miseries would be squared or even cubed, the systems we've had to use -- both virtual and actual -- have so far worked the way they're supposed to, much better than we're used to in the U.S.

For example, we pay a property tax,  or predial, on our home that comes due every January. Our property manager used to pay it for us and several of our neighbors, to spare us the trouble of standing in line in the municipal building to talk with collection authorities back when our Spanish wasn't ready for prime time.

But sometimes we'd forget to remind the manager we wanted him to do this, and we'd go delinquent for several months. So a few years ago when the city put its system up online, Pam started paying it that way. I did it myself this year.

It's easy as pie, even for the idiomatically challenged, and produces a nice printable comprobante, or proof of payment document, which we occasionally need for other purposes.

Once we failed to print out the receipt, and later when we needed it we found we couldn't bring up our account on the web site. With a heavy heart I headed for the tax office, now located in a new building in a remote suburb.

But it took only minutes to find the special section that deals with online payers, and just a few minutes more for the helpful lady to fish out the original hard copy of my payment record and hand it to me with a smile.

A few weeks earlier I had the same sinking feeling as I drove to the motor vehicle office for late renewal of my Jalisco registration, recalling how our DMV back home had flogged us for weeks with our own frustration before it finally coughed up our plates.

A throng sat waiting in chairs for their turns at the window. But sing glory, it turned out not to be the window for renewals, where there was no line at all. Five minutes later I was driving home in a legal vehicle, whistling Cielito Lindo.

Our current status quest is for residente temporal visas for Pam and Elizabeth through the local immigration office, the eternal object of gringo fear and loathing. The process has been lengthy, its true. But each step has at least made sense, the waits haven't ever been long, and the national website for tracking applications has worked like a dream.

I'm sure we've been lucky. The expat blogosphere is riddled with horror stories and complaints about unresponsive or incompetent functionaries. No doubt we'll run into some of those eventually.

But I pondered all this yesterday as I was enjoying an alfresco home-delivered pedicure on the balcony and watching the bay for whales. You might think a pedicure is a little precious for a retired guy, but only ever wearing flip-flops on the uneven pavement around here is hard on our feet. Poor us.

Anyway, I had the stray thought that even if securing local documentation was a lot more infuriating and left us with a bit less time for staring into the gorgeous middle distance, it would take a singular lack of grace to bitch about it.

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