Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A long way from Tipperary

Picking up my intriguingly sci-fi-sounding Alien Certificate of Registration card from Immigration after the understandable four-week waiting period involved in printing a cheap bit of plastic (not that cheap, but we all know this worthless card is just a physical excuse to squeeze another few thousand extra pesos out of extraterrestrial visitors) I was shocked and delighted to discover that my entire background and heritage has been a lie.

Can you see what they've done?

This is the sort of blog fodder I would have excitedly jumped on a year or so ago, before I became jaded to the incompetence I expect with every transaction in this country that the best and brightest have long since abandoned to seek a livelihood somewhere that doesn't treat them like complete shit (or sometimes still does for old times' sake - hi, Saudi Arabia!) But it was a few days before I even realised there might be some amusement to be had with it, at least for people whose day-to-day lives aren't immersed in guaranteed foul-ups.

When I looked at the card, and saw they had incorrectly listed my place of birth as 'Ireland,' I didn't even laugh at the absurdity of a clueless immigration employee - whose job it is to know these things - not being able to make sense of my cryptic passport cover and just having a guess that the last word in that long chain must be the part of this 'United Kingdom' I'm from, despite the facts that:

  1. It isn't.
  2. I've never even been to Ireland (due to domestic laziness back in the day, it's nothing personal).
  3. Ireland is not in the United Kingdom.
  4. My passport clearly states my actual place of birth inside, on the same page you found my date of birth. I guess anything that doesn't involve American states is too much for their system or concept of geography to handle, like those websites that insist on a Zip code.

I didn't even feel entertaining paranoia that when I next leave the country in a couple of months, a better educated immigration officer and stickler for details would stop me at the gate and question the validity of this obviously fake forgery of a card that claims I'm from a different European country than my passport does, uses a terrible scan of my laminated passport for the ID photo and has a barcode where the signature should be.

Instead, I just looked at the card and thought: "yeah, I see what they did." As far as baffling mistakes made by under-qualified people unfit for their influential positions go, at least it isn't likely to cause any actual issues, what with this card not having any actual value. It's not like the two people I know (and I don't even know anyone here) who've had to go through the tedious process of having their birth certificates altered to become legally recognised as female 30-odd years after being born that way, so they can actually submit that document along with the thousands of other triple-notorised papers required to do anything worthwhile.

I may never get used to the way things are here, but I've learned to expect disappointment and mistakes every single time I try to do anything, on the rare occasions I have the willpower to actually leave the flat.

Another case in point was a recent mission to update my glasses, when the arbitrary two-year deadline for my eyesight test arrived. I realised too late that 'opticians' here are just people whose duty it is to sell expensive frames, and who don't necessarily know anything about the human eye, which explains why she failed to test for near sight at all when producing an unsuitable pair of glasses I couldn't actually see with.

After making her excuses and trying to lay the blame on me for having foolishly trusted that she knew what she was doing as a professional, she had another go that involved taking wild stabs in the dark with random lens configurations until I took over and did it myself, relieving her of the burden of doing her job so she could go and bitch with her colleague about the demanding foreigner and his unreasonable desire to see clearly.

When I returned two weeks later to pick up the replacement pair (that was hardly an improvement on my previous ones at all, but I'd paid for it now), I was confronted with this monstrosity:

They make iPads thinner than that! I know my eyes are pretty bad, but I've been wearing glasses since I was five and never before have the lenses extended all the way back to my face. I've now learned that the slim (a.k.a. 'normal') lenses I'm used to are counted as an optional upgrade here, which I was apparently supposed to request on top of the UV protection to add to a cost that was already twice what I used to pay in the UK. Even Thailand was better.

Look, this isn't Philippines Fail Blog and I don't get vengeful kicks from beating down the downtrodden in this impossible country, but I need to keep a record for my own sanity and future reference, since life is usually quite happy and care-free inside this bubble on the days I don't go outside, and it's easy to forget there's an apocalyptic wasteland out there beyond the mandatory armed guards.

We've been thinking about buying a house next year, but if they can't even get glasses right, or randomly choose a place in the British Isles that's actually part of the United Kingdom, why would I trust their 'professionals' with the roof over my head?

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