Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Singin' the Motor Vehicle Bureau Blues

John just wrote about his driving test experience, and he inspired me to describe my most recent experience with the Israeli Motor Vehicle Bureau. I can only thank Prozac for giving me the strength to change what I can, the equanimity to ignore what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

An Israeli drivers' license expires on the driver's birthday. As you may know, I had a birthday in April. And I am over 65 (although this blogthings quiz says i'm 26). In Israel that means I must submit both a medical and optometry report to the Motor Vehicle Bureau before my driver's license can be renewed. The Motor Vehicle Bureau very kindly mails the form for this medical and optometry report about six months ahead of time, giving one ample time to visit the family doctor and the eye doctor, or, in my case, to lose the form.

Having set forth to the family doctor one day in February with the intention of getting blood pressure and osteoporosis prescriptions renewed, I actually remembered to bring along the form. However, when I arrived at his office, I discovered it was lost with no chance of retrieval. See, my doctor's office is nearby, and I can stop in there while I'm walking my dog (I love a dog-friendly doctor's office. After all, dogs bring their humans to the vet's office, so it's only fair). And I am a good citizen dog-owner, so I always scoop the poop. Somehow the medical form must have got thrown away during this operation.

The thought of birthdays was on my mind: I realized that I would be traveling abroad for my brother's birthday on March 1. If I waited to get a replacement form after my return, there might not be time to do all the fillings-out and mailings before my drivers' license expired, on April 7. I decided to call the Motor Vehicle Bureau to request a replacement form.

Alas! The phone number for the Motor Vehicle Bureau is not listed in the residential phone book, of course, and also not listed in the Yellow pages, which is for business establishments. My Hebrew skills stop at those two references. However, I did remember the organization MEMSI, which is the Israeli equivalent of the AAA. And their phone number was listed in the Yellow pages, because they are a business establishment. So I called them for advice. They told me a) they do not have the form I require, but b) they gave me the phone number of the office that does have the form. Hurray! I call the number and spoke to a clerk who promised to mail me a replacement form immediately.

On that optomistic note, I left for America to celebrate my brother's birthday. When I returned, still in March, alas! There was no replacement form in my mailbox. And Alas! I had lost the phone number of the clerk!

This time I decided not to trust the phone and the postal system, but rather to go to the Motor Vehicle Bureau in person. Rumor had it that the MVB was in Holon. Once again I called MEMSI, and determined the address and bus # to take. I took the recommended bus and asked the driver to let me off at the stop for the MVB. Everyone on the bus became interested, and they all made sure I got off at the right stop. Miraculously, right by the information desk at the MVB they had stacks of exactly the form I needed. I took two, just in case.

By this time I had two weeks left until my drivers' license expired. I went to my family doctor's office on Thursday afternoon, which is one of the days listed for his office hours. Alas! he was not working until Sunday afternoon. I left the form with his secretary. I returned on Sunday afternoon to pick up the filled-out form, too late to catch the eye doctor. On Monday afternoon I left the form with the eye doctor's secretary and picked it up on Tuesday morning, too late to go to the MVB, which closes at 1PM. Wednesday morning I again took the now-familiar bus to the MVB in Holon. They were giving out numbers. I had number 158. Alas! they were serving number 37. That meant I had to wait for 121 people to be served before my turn. My birthday was Friday. I observed that there were eight clerks working and that it seemed to take 20 minutes for the numbers to advance by 40. So I only (!) had to wait an hour. I presented the clerk with my filled-out form and my almost-but-not-yet-expired license and my ID card. She said, alas! I can only issue you a temporary license because you are taking these prescriptions and our consulting doctor must approve. I said "They are blood pressure and osteoporosis medications," and she said, "I'm sorry." So I left with a temporary license, not laminated and with no photograph, and the clerk gave me a telephone number to call in a few weeks to see what the consulting doctor says about my eligibility for a real drivers' license with photograph.

Now it is June. I didn't call, but the temporary license doesn't expire until October. Last week I received a bill from the Motor Vehicle Bureau. It says that as soon as I pay NIS 136, I should receive a real driver's license in the mail within two months. I imagine it will arrive at about the same time as the medical form for next year's renewal! Gah! And I don't even own a car any more!


Maria said...

And I thought it was difficult to deal with the DMV here in California. Wow, what a nightmare of red tape to go through. You have my sympathy.

Now I think I had better go look at my license to see when I need to renew. Yuk!

Fred said...

Time for a scooter. (Or, do you need a license for that, too?)

Savtadotty said...

Maria - Believe it or not, this was not my worst red tape experience here. Except for the guy who never sent me the duplicate form, everyone I had to deal with was pleasant and that made it bearable.

The thing that really gets my goat about this saga is the worst and most dangerous drivers are the 18-25-year-olds, not oldsters.

Fred - Roller blades are beginning to sound tempting!

Jo said...

Good lord. Can you walk with all that red tape wrapped around your body? Sheesh!

Savtadotty said...

Jo - It keeps me hobbling around in my green sensible-elf shoes: a colorful spectacle.

John said...

SD, glad you got inspired! Who knew that red tape is the tie that binds?!

This wasn't my worst red tape experience here either - but it's right up there. Actually, if you just don't worry about getting anything done and think of it as an anthropological (sp?) study, it doesn't seem like such a massive waste of time. "Today we find ourselves in a urban office setting. Natives and newcomers alike wait with various degress of patience only to be turned away with an ugly word and a shake of the head by other natives and newcomers sitting behind protective barriers."

Besides, what else would we blog about? ;-)

Julie said...

Ha ha! And I'd thought your previous post was painful to read. This one was excruciating! :)

Savtadotty said...

John - "if you just don't worry about getting anything done and think of it as an anthropological (sp?) study, it doesn't seem like such a massive waste of time." Right-o! I take along something to read on these anthropological expeditions, in case I forget that Time is something to be savored, not saved.

Julie - No pain, no gain...see how much stronger you are now?

Carol Feldman said...

I've discovered lately, as I am going through these "Israeli Bureaucratic Sagas", I start imagining how I will tell the war story later. It helps soften the pain!
I've come to look forward to your postings. I am slowly working my way through your intial entries. Thank you!

Savtadotty said...

Carol - Welcome! Start a Klita Whining Blog. You'll get lots of sympathy and competition too.

Tamar said...

This story is great! I have about a thousand of them from when I used to live in Israel. I once got the Ministry of Interior to okay a visa thingy for me and my son to fly to South Africa when my father was dying. After telling me it would take two weeks (and I needed to leave the next day) they managed to complete the request in less than five minutes when I burst into hysterical tears ...

Savtadotty said...

Tamar - I knew this would remind you of the "bad old days." Even now whenever I visit the states, I knock off list items in about 1/50th the time they take here. Efficiency, Thy Name is Not Israel!

Yael K said...

Ay yi yi, I'm feeling your pain.

To Maria --actually the california DMV is worse. The year I lived there my old license had expired just prior to the move and so I went to go and get a CA license. All was fine it seemed and I was told I'd get my license in the mail in 4-6 weeks. 8 weeks later when no license appeared I started calling and it seemed my name did not mesh with my ss# because on my passport there was a space between the Mc and the k on one and not with the other. Had to go and do all kinds of things at all different places to rectify. Then we started over. 8 weeks later and still no license. They'd lost the paperwork. Had to go do all the things again and start over. My license finally arrived at my mailbox _8 months_ later and literally on the day I was moving back to NY.