Saturday, August 15, 2009


"Tramites" means "paperwork" or "procedures." And Mexico, like most developing nations, has a boatload of them. Everything is stamped, signed, and sealed in triplicate. Most American expats living in Mexico will tell you to avoid any type of bureaucracy at all costs. It's just too obnoxious.

Today, I had a bite of it. Really a stomach-ful. I've only got myself to blame. I knew I wanted to re-enroll for the Life Drawing class I've been taking this summer at the Casa de la Cultura. I've enjoyed it. It's fun, and I'm good at it. The instructor told us that the period for current student re-enrollment was this last week. I didn't get around to doing it until Thursday afternoon. And--of course--they had cut off early re-enrollment Thursday at 1 p.m. Why no one was working in the afternoon, who knows? Or why close enrollment all day Friday, who knows? Just a way to piss off the students is my guess.

So, since I missed the early period, I was told to come back for the general open enrollment period that began this morning (Saturday) at 10 a.m. Being ever so clever, I said to myself, "Rod, you need to get over there early to avoid the rush." So I went over at 20 before 10:00. Only to find that 66 other people had had the same idea.

I waited two hours....TWO BLOODY HOURS!!!...until my number got called. That permitted me to go upstairs for the OTHER 4 DAMNED LINES. OK, the next line was for the selection of the class. They verified that I wanted the Tuesday/Thursday Life Drawing Class. OK. They wrote out a little slip with the class section number. Then I had to go stand in another line. (understand that there is NO direction whatsoever as to where to go, which line to stand in) This line was one guy...just one guy..entering your data into the computer system. I got to the head of the line and...sorry, no such section number. He tried a couple of other numeric combinations and "sorry, no number exists." He had to leave his station, walk all around the second floor balcony over to the first guy and get the class number corrected. That done, he directed me to another line....this one to pay by credit card. I'm glad that I paid by credit card, because if you pay by CASH, you have to walk 5 blocks to the bank, STAND IN LINE over there, get up to the cashier window, pay for the class, get a bank receipt, walk back to the Casa de la Cultura, and present your receipt (in another line, of course).

I knew NOT to pay be cash, since I went through that idiocy last semester. So...I've paid by credit card, signed the credit card slip. Good to go, right? No, no, no!! I've got to stand in my FIFTH damned line of the morning for the "official receipt." I asked one of the workers if I couldn't just come back Monday for the official receipt. "No, you can't. You've already been charged on your charge receipt. But you won't be admitted into the class without the OFFICIAL RECEIPT." That new line was an HOUR LONG!!!! They had one half-witted idiot secretary handling the entire line. There were over 50 people in line. I was going nuts (OK, more nuts than usual). Kids running under feet and screaming. The line moving at glacier pace. I had to be somewhere else at 1 p.m.

I made it with 10 minutes to spare. Official receipt in hand, I ran from the building and grabbed a cab and made it to where I needed to be with only minutes left. Efficiency? Are you kidding? They wouldn't know it if it bit them in their asses. It think there is a worldwide order of countries in the rankings of organization and efficiency. Switzerland and Germany have to be up at the top for being obsessively organized. The U.S. is somewhere in the middle. Mexico, I've learned, is down there with Somalia and Zimbabwe.

What I find strange, though, is that while I was boiling over, blood pressure rising, the dozens of Mexicans in line (I was the only gringo I noticed) didn't say a word and didn't seem to care about the crappy customer service. I've since asked a number of Mexican friends. "We're used to it" is their answer. If that's the case, why, then, the marches and strikes and boycotts and government office take-overs and burning tires in the streets when it comes to the people vs. the government. But when it comes to the people vs. customer service....not a peep.