Friday, January 12, 2007

reason to love ottawa

Sorry for the crude image leading in to this post but I feel quite strongly about the anxious dread that's been bloating my belly and tying knots in my neck and shoulders. And even though it's mostly resolved (except for the fax machine part), I still feel an anxious vibration humming throughout my body, with a hint of exhausted nausea like a cherry on top.

So here my nomination for most bumbling bureaucracy in the world (well, in my world anyways.)

Let's start with the funny in a black comedy can't quite laugh at it yet thing. Apparently Sugar Daddy is not a dual citizen and never has been. Although South Africa tolerates dual citizens, they don't make it easy, and his citizenship was revoked when he got his Canadian citizenship (South African passport issued to him in 2005 notwithstanding). It's very convenient at the moment, because that is why we can travel to South Africa on Monday. Otherwise I would be very angry that the South African consulate in Toronto was not able to process his temp. passport application on time.

But I think I need to go back a bit. I already mentioned that the South African consulate was not returning any of my phone calls. They have never returned any of my phone calls to this day, despite the increasingly shrill note of panic in my voice with each passing day. Being naive little Canadian civil servant me, I thought it meant that everything was under control and in progress, and they would call us when everything was ready. They know we're travelling very soon, and will make it possible for us to do so.

On Wednesday, I began to lose hope that this wasn't the case. I called the Ottawa embassy, hoping maybe they could get some information from Toronto, but they don't really have that kind of relationship with the Toronto office. They are separate offices. Indeed, in my experience, the offices are polar opposites:

  • returns calls
  • plays kwaito music (South African hiphop) when they put you on hold
  • gets things done


  • never returns calls
  • lets you listen to regular beeps for nearly half an hour on hold
  • can't seem to get anything done
On Wednesday I also learned that any South African citizen caught travelling without a valid SA passport in South Africa could be detained for up to 12 months and possibly imprisoned. So just blithely travelling on a Canadian passport was not an option.

The woman in Ottawa suspected that Sugar Daddy wasn't officially a dual citizen (2005 South African passport notwithstanding), and that once she confirmed with Home Affairs, everything would be ok. But I fretted. I fretted myself into a knot of panic over the last coupla days.

So this morning, worried that Ottawa wouldn't hear from Home Affairs in South Africa and thinking that perhaps Toronto already knew he wasn't a citizen and that was why they weren't returning my calls, because he's not really a client of theirs, I called Toronto again. I finally cornered the woman on the phone. When I ran through the history of my never returned phone messages, she responded, "Oh, well it's been so overwhelming here..."

I said, "You wanna know what's overwhelming? Having a flight booked for Monday and not knowing whether you can get on it. THAT'S overwhelming!"

She said she had to look into it and call me back.

I said, "I don't believe that you'll call me back."

She said she would.

When I said, "Do you promise you'll call me back?" about to take the bait, she said, "Well I can put you on hold if you want."

So I went for it. And I sat on the phone listening to the beeps for a very long time. And it suddenly occurred to me that she could leave me languishing on our not-cordless phone, tethered by the four-foot telephone cable without a chair, water or food in reach. She could starve me off the phone, just waiting until I nearly fainted and finally disconnected. Just when I was getting into some really dark thoughts, she came back. And told me she'd have to call me back.

As soon as I got off the phone with her, the phone rang again. It was the Ottawa office. Sugar Daddy is officially not a South African citizen and she will send the official documents that he needs to carry with him by fax today. But I still can't really feel relief.

So here's the best part. An hour after we got word from Ottawa, Toronto actually, finally, dialled our number. There's a complaint from South Africa related to Sugar Daddy's application for a temporary South African passport. Could he come to Toronto today to work it out? She wasn't even sheepish when I told her he wasn't a dual citizen.

And some people think Canadian bureaucracy is a headache!

PS... don't forget about delurking week.


Alpha Dogma said...

I bet if you google the phrase "reason to love ottawa," yours will be only entry.

I have no plans to travel anywhere anytime soon, but think I'll get a passport now just to save this kind of hassle.

Glad this all worked out. I'm so envious about your trip to RSA. And I'm going to go through withdrawal if you abandon this blog for too long.

cinnamon gurl said...

Aw, that's so sweet. Not to worry, if I abandon my blog for too I'LL get withdrawal! (And I've been through that before when our internet connection crapped out for a week. The shakes, drymouth, everything. It sucked. Would prefer not to repeat the experience.)

BTW, my experience getting Canadian passports was quite wonderful, apart from a fairly long lineup.

cinnamon gurl said...

that should be "for too LONG"

Mad Hatter said...

It sounds as if Sugar Daddy is actually and international man of mystery.

Domestic Slackstress said...

Just quietly delurking here ...

Beck said...

Well. There's nothing like dealing with two international beaucracies at the same time to say "Wild and Crazy Party!". That sounds exhausting - I hope it gets all straightened out.

Heather said...

Eek what a nightmare. I think I need a vodka and cranberry to unwind after reading it! (hmm we happen to have both on hand - why not de-clutter and clean kitchen with booze! why didn't I think of this earlier!)

ewe are here said...

Good grief! Red tape hell!

But at least you know what you need to know....and you can go without fear of imprisonment of your hubby!