I hit my limit today.

Normally with the Spanish bureaucracy I take an “all-in-good-fun” attitude. Acknowledge the inefficiencies, and move on.

But today I had had it.

I had a frustrated lump in my throat.

People are so RUDE.

People are so DISMISSIVE.

No one ever takes any ounce of responsibility, and nobody EVER apologizes for ANYTHING.

Cognitive distortion: Overgeneralization.

I had had it.

I was seething (for me that’s a bit like wanting to cry).

I had been sick for more than a week; I knew that the 24-hour general strike was going to mess up my day tomorrow, and I was tired of everything being so convoluted and impossibly drawn out. (Nine months to get a residency card? I could have had a baby by now. Let’s get HIM a residency card.)

THIS is what I mean when I say, “In Spain you don’t wonder why there’s a crisis. You just wonder how they managed to hold it off for so long. It’s a wonder that the country hasn’t ALWAYS been in crisis. It’s a wonder that anything gets done at all.” (There’s a reason why ranting is the Spanish national pastime. Really. Look it up. No. Don’t.)

And then I got home.

As I jaywalked across the street from the metro toward my house, a man got something out of his car, (parked illegally on the sidewalk) and ran across the street holding a big walkie-talkie.

Vindictively, I thought, “I hope he gets a ticket.” He did, after all, park halfway on the sidewalk just metres away from a traffic police (agente de movilidad) office.

Curiously, I thought, “Who seriously carries around a walkie-talkie that isn’t a police officer? This isn’t my siblings and I playing in the backyard…

The man jogged up to his “companions” – a guy his age and four Roma-looking girls around my age.

“…And none of you have any identity documents?” I overheard the other guy ask, dubiously, writing on a notepad.


Plainclothes police officers?

Stopping foreign-looking people on the street and requiring them to show their papers or be taken into custody?

In the interest of blending in (not standing there gaping, as I wanted to do), I went up to my apartment and watched a bit from the living room window. They talked some more. Two police officers in uniform arrived and escorted the girls away. The plainclothes officers followed.

I’ve realized that the process of getting my NIE is going to be, at minimum, a ten-month ordeal. If I do get it, it will be within two months of my final departure from the country. A nice souvenir, rather than an effective identity document.

I’ve realized I’ll need to devote Friday morning to the pursuit of travel documents. And my underpayment of a tax by €1.68 because of outdated information on an official government website requires me to return to the office AGAIN before I can start the 45-day countdown to getting my real card.

But this reminded me. In Spain, my able-bodied, white girl privilege means that I’m not being stopped and detained and required to produce residency documents on demand. “Foreign-looking” (latino, black, non-white in general) people, friends and acquaintances, are stopped regularly and treated like second-class citizens.

This – the NIE, the fees on top of fees, the lines, the rudeness – this is not nothing. But this? This is not that.



In other Spanish news:

This story has been in the international news this week. It is not surprising to anyone in Spain, or anyone who has ever walked down or seen or heard about Calle Montera (one of the most central streets in the city), or walked on most any street in downtown Madrid in general.


1 Comment

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One response to “Frustration

  1. Ilana

    I’ve heard that crying can help when dealing with bureaucracy. Play the poor confused Canadian card 🙂