¡Quebecolandia y su burocracia de perra!
Suppose you’re trying to change a car registration from Nova Scotia to Québec, as I’m having to do. And suppose you have a letter from the company from which you leased your car but bought out a year ago that reads in part:
We are please to inform you that all obligations under this lease have been satisfied.
At the top of this letter, on letterhead, there’s the date, the account number, a bar code and a toll-free number. And suppose you have tons of other documents — bills, a passport, everything! — that states your same Halifax address over and over and over. Wouldn’t you think that should be enough to switch your bloody car registration?
Well, not according to Québec bureaucrats. Or at least, the bureaucrat I had the misfortune of falling upon this morning.
The instant I arrived at her wicket, she exuded that “what the hell do you want from me” attitude that led me to think she was trying to come up with ways of asking me how deeply I should kiss her ass and mean it. Think a cross of the attitude of Selma Bouvier and the look of Radio-Canada’s Fosse aux lionnes “collaboratrice” Guylaine Guay below, complete with the latter’s glib smile. And our encounter went downhill in the first seconds when she asked me to sign “in the box, without going outside the lines,” which I did with the pen that was in the holder to my right. “Non, non, non, non, non!” she exclaimed, rolling her eyes. “That’s the wrong pen” (in French). For you see, hidden beside and under the magnetic pad was another identical-looking pen that I was supposed to use because, shouldn’t I know, it’s connected to her computer. With much ceremony to emphasize how much I was putting her out, she replaced the paper on the pad and got me to sign again.
Upon looking at my registration, she paused and asked, “Noh-va Sco-tee-a …that’s a province of Québec?” I know that at that point, I blinked hard and my jaw dropped. “A province of Canada,” I said, “just like Québec” (suppressing the “whether you like it or not, you stupid bitch”). And after she conferenced with her supervisor and it became obvious my perfectly good letter wouldn’t be good enough, I just fell silent, put away all my papers, looked at her straight in the eyes and said, “You really don’t want new residents of Québec, do you!” She protested and disagreed, urging me to see it her way with my “flimsy” letter. She seemed to be as pleased as punch that, in her eyes, she had saved the government of Québec of some egregious fraud and, generally, ruined another person’s day. No wonder they have security guards in that place; it took every grain of a non-violent person’s fibre — namely mine — from reaching over and bitch-slapping her right then and there.
And I forgot… A few moments earlier while I was in the waiting room, a security guard called for all those exchanging “un permis de l’étranger“ (which should literally mean, “a permit from abroad“), so I didn’t get up. But “Wait a minute,” I thought to myself a minute later. This is Québec, and gawd knows most francophone Québécois (although this guy seemed more like a brainwashed first-generation Quebecker with heavily accented French) are hopeless navel-gazers who THINK they’re worldly but know little outside a 200-mile radius of their little self. So I went up to the guard and asked (in French):
— When you said ‘de l’étranger’, you did mean from outside Canada right?”
He asked where my license was from and I told him — Nova Scotia.
— “Well yes,” he replied, annoyed, “that’s ‘de l’étranger’.”
— “Maybe YOU define another province of Canada as l’étranger, but that’s not obvious to ME!”
I have trouble imagining a U.S. state like Louisiana or Texas getting away with people saying stuff like that. Québec is run like a different, sovereign country while still gladly (but absent-mindedly) sucking on the teat of the central government in Ottawa for equalization payments, of which it’s a recipient unlike Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia although many around here would deny that’s the case. It’s remarkable, really.
And needless to say, I walked out of the SAAQ without new plates and only a temporary driver’s license. When I got home and called my leasing company, the guy who answered (who was in Toronto) just said, “Oh …you’re having to deal with the SAAQ. They’re notorious.” He immediately started the paperwork and I can look forward in about a week to a third visit to the SAAQ. Third time is the charm, let’s hope.
Oh …and my health card? If I’d moved within Québec, the SAAQ could have initiated the necessary paperwork. But not for a “foreigner” like me. And no, “No idea where you’re supposed to go to get that done,” I was told. Fortunately, Cleopatrick‘s mother wisely suggested I go to the closest CLSC …and please don’t ask me to define what a CLSC is. I haven’t the strength.
I’ve got to put a positive spin on all of this. Got to!
It’s not just Esposo who’s immigrating to another country. We both are.