I am sitting here in an Internet cafe a couple of blocks from our new home after we have talked the guy into letting me connect in with my own computer. It is a problem for them because of their official documents. Here, as the saying goes, if you don't have the right documents, you are less than a bug. Their official documents don't say anything about letting anybody connect in with their own computer. They do talk about people using the internet café’s computers to access the Internet, but not about people using their own computers to access the Internet. That I might pay money to have them do it is not the point. The point is that it is not in the documents so they are uncomfortable with it.
But they ended up letting me do it anyway. A lot of it was the insistence of my wife. She is persuasive.
I am here because we moved the day before yesterday to our new place. This new place is in a new building but that new building does not have any Internet connection. When we asked why not, we were told it is a matter of the documents.
We were supposed to be moved in in December. It is now the first part of February. The building is supposed to be signed off by the various agencies of the government that have a say in who knows what in order for us to get any Internet connection and other services. Someone somewhere has not signed and is probably filibustering to up his fee. This view may be colored somewhat by some heavy duty frustration. I want to blame someone for it and corruption is a god reason I could do this.
But it is not necessarily corruption. It could be the other problem that occurs here too which can be s source of frustration (and a ready-made source, by the way, for corruption.) It is the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy must have its due which means it must have the paperwork together. (What bureaucracy does not thrive on paperwork?) And if the paperwork is not together, the right document, without which you are no more than a bug, will not be issued. And that bureaucracy can work at a glacial pace, grinding its way to a final decision inch by stupid inch.
But it is unsatisfying to rail at an impersonal system. I want to be able to rail at somebody, a readily identifiable somebody. And there may be some evidence as to who the culprit is from a visit my wife made to the government agency in charge. (In charge of the documents.) She had gone there to tell—correction, to ask politely; I want to tell them-- them to turn on the elevator one day. (More on this in a moment.) There was a guy down there at the agency in charge of Okaying the building, that is, signing off on the document, who told my wife that he had his own problems with that building. Now, he may in fact have some problems with the building that a conscientious public servant in any other country might have with the same building, that might prevent him, in good conscience, from signing off on it until they are corrected. But here, this kind of talk is often the opening salvo of a series of negotiations on the price of his signature.
So I am railing against him.
But we are now in and like the amount of space we have. Nice. The only problems are the lack of services that we have come to count on for living in this century. The first of these is hot water. Here they do not have a hot water heater in the various homes. They have central heating. By central is meant very central, out of the building central, in its own heating plant building central. And that building is controlled by the government. In order for us to get hot water, it has to be turned on by the government. And in order for it to be turned on by the government, they must have the proper documents. (Rail, rail.)
And we live on the 13th floor. This is not a problem because we are superstitious. This is a problem because we are not Olympic athletes. The point is that the elevator is only working from the first floor. There is a button on the 13th which, when pushed, does nothing. This has meant that we ride up with the stuff we have. But when we need to go down, we walk the 26 flights.
This may seem a small matter. Walking down with not much stuff is a lot better than walking up with a lot of stuff. And this is true. But the elevator does not work all the time from the first floor. It works only until around 4 p.m. If you get caught out after 4 p.m. you will be left having to hoof it the 26 flights back up. And in the morning, it will work sometimes from 9:30 a.m. but oftentimes not until 10:30. Why? The guy doesn’t get there to turn it on.
On the weekend, though, the schedule is different. On Saturdays, it works from the same time in the morning, a ballpark 10 a.m. But it is shut off at 1 p.m. And on Sundays, we have no elevator at all. This means that the elevator works when people are not here and doesn’t work when people are. Go figure.
So why won’t they just turn it on and leave it on? The reason is the documents. You must have the right documents for the elevator can be turned on.
They would say that the fact it is even on at all is an accommodation to the people here. And there is something to that. Of course, wanting to rail, I would say that the building owners found the right person who was able to get it turned on for those periods absent any documents—they can only go so far at their pay grade. This would mean a fee of course.
It could be worse though. We have a friend who bought a place in another area of town. My wife asked them about the elevator. Turns out they didn’t have one for 6 months after they moved in. And they live on the 19th floor—nice view by the way-- and have a baby. “But that is all behind us now.” Sounds like it was a very bad experience.
Which brings us to the Internet. We were told that we could not get any Internet connection until the proper documents were signed. That is of course the whole problem and the reason why are I am now in the Internet café. I think I might have to get cozy here. I could be making my way back to this place for some time. I hope not but I have to steel myself for the possibility.
I shouldn’t rail too much though in the end. Even with all the problems, we still like the place. But this is just another reminder that this is not the West. And maybe at the end of six months we will be able to say that it is all behind us too.