One step forward, four steps back, that’s the Romanian Shuffle

I don’t want this blog to become consumed with the ordeal of my car purchase, or everything else in Romania that is pissing me off come to that, but I can’t keep quiet on the events of yesterday.  I was one step, one step, away from finally being able to walk around town and refer to the loosely fitted pile of metal and doohickeys I have in my possession as “my car” and some raging, self-important twat with a clipboard and a rubber stamp set me four steps back. 

It happened at the now infamous RAR office, on the edge of town.  Long before it was my turn, I observed that Mr. Clipboard gleaned undue satisfaction from denying people his rubber stamp, but when he caught the whiff of a rich foreigner with only limited Romanian language skills, it was like the circus had come to town.  He cracked his whip and poked his chair at me while making me jump up on platforms, leap through a flaming hoop, stand on my hind legs and roar on command for 30 minutes, while going over every centimetre of my car looking for things that had to be fixed before he would give me the stamp.

With the list mounting and private visions of untold hours of writing and research productivity slipping away while trying appease his directives, I made the grievous error of losing my temper.  I was sent to anther line to ostensibly get a second opinion and possibly still get the all powerful stamp, but this was just an malicious ruse.  I had been tricked into getting an interior inspection, something the car was not due to get until 2008, where the Mr. Clipboard’s buddy had been instructed to go through the engine and underside of the car with a magnifying glass, breaking stuff if necessary, to add to my list of tasks before I could get my stamp.  After a good long inspection with his hammer, my certificate that was good through 2008 was revoked and I was slapped with a restriction that banned me from driving the car out of the city.

So, not only do I now need to visit a body specialist, a mechanic, a hardware store and the police station (again), but now I will not be departing on the mini-research trip to Northern Dobrogea that I had planned for Monday.This experience has taught me a valuable lesson.  No, not about my temper, I’ll never learn to control that, rather about the Romanian mindset.  I always thought that their dedication to playing the system and corruption as a lifestyle was ridiculous and unnecessarily deceitful.  I know now that it’s not because they enjoy going at things in a crooked manner, it’s because trying to do everything to the letter of perfection, satisfying every little bureaucratic requirement in Romania, is literally a full time job.  It simply cannot be done.  Better to come bearing a bottle of brandy and a carton of Marlboros, than all the required papers and approvals.  The former is more effective than the latter and you can get on with your life after only 10 minutes rather than two weeks of maddeningly futile effort.  Plus, in the end, it’ll be cheaper.

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