Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Drinking, Dogs, and the DMV

I’d like to open with someone else’s theory. I had been lamenting the earliness of the hour recently, wondering when it was no longer too early to have a glass of wine. This Wise Woman counseled me thus: “I have a theory . . .it is not drinking alone if your children are there, and it is NEVER too early to have a little something. Some people take antidepressants first thing in the morning, same concept.” She cracked me up anyhow. I’ve been giggling about it (without benefit of alcohol, I might add) for two days.

But on to More Serious Stuff.

We still have Otto the Dog with us. He has been with us since 1991, I think, and at the risk of sounding cruel, enough already! Tick tock, Dogman. Whenever we discuss, with full apologies to Andrew Marvell, how at his back we “always hear, Time's winged chariot hurrying near . . ." the girls, especially Baboo, get right hostile.

I bought tickets to Ohio. The girls and I will spend three weeks there in July, and I was discussing with The Spouse how he'd be stuck here with the dog and did he mind. We're both sort of hoping he won't have the dog to deal with, but he (the dog) is fit as a fiddle.
He really is just fine, although deaf. And he neglects to poop in the yard sometimes when he is distracted waiting for Pani Babka, the neighbor lady, to give him food. I walk him every morning as insurance. I'm out there, in my pajamas basically, walking around the dog poop park at the corner, taking my life in my hands as it is now a skating rink of ice and poop.

This all turned rather dark, symbolically speaking, this morning as my over-active imagination suddenly presented me with the vivid image of being accosted in the pre-dawn dark of the dog poop park and how awful it would feel to lie on the crusty, melting snow, feeling the water soak through my pjs, sure I was on a pile of dog crap, while some degenerate Slovak defiled me. I was more annoyed about the possible dog poop than the defiler, if that tells you anything. Heavy stuff for 6:00 a.m.

Perhaps it was foreshadowing. I went on to spend a rather dreadful morning dealing with Slovak bureaucracy. I FINALLY took the receipt from the car repair back to the insurance company. The damage occurred in early December when the idiot plowed into me in reverse. I had $240 more or less coming back. I was a nervous wreck about it because I was certain I would receive the same hostile, unhelpful greeting from the Evil Claims Lady that I received when I first filed the claim. Honestly, my hands were shaking and I was thinking how many times I had taken for granted the ability to deal with low-level functionaries in my past life. In trying to look on the bright side, I like to think that this sort of brain trauma (feeling like a linguistic idiot) surely must be good defense against Alzheimer’s. Aren’t we supposed to do something new every day for our brains and something scary for our cardiovascular systems? I’m due to outlive Eubie Blake. or at least Otto the Dog.

Thankfully, Evil Claims Lady was not at her desk. There was only Young Nubile Claims Lady. I confessed my lack of Slovak, but produced my documents in an orderly succession so that it was obvious why I was there. She was a bright spark, Young Nubile Claims Lady, and figured it out. She even made me copies for free.

Inspired by my success, I boldly continued on to police station.

I have this little car registration card with the old address on it and when I reported the crash, the cops gently chastised me for not getting the address changed back in August when we moved.

Well, it's still not changed. I drove around Greater Petrzalka, on the wrong side of the tracks (no lie . . . I was practically at the Austrian border, but in a weird industrial No Man’s Land), looking for the address.

I got there at 9:08. I mimed my problem for the cop at Reception. He mimed that I needed to take a number (76 I was) and pay 150 crowns ($4.50) at the Cash Window for updating my card, and then go upstairs.

I found the Cash Window Cop, and he spoke English. He thought the whole thing was hilarious, but at the time I didn’t know why. I paid him and he gave me two stamps, which I must use upstairs to prove I paid the fee. He was helpful, but still somewhat smirky and when I went upstairs it became clear just what was so damned funny.

I arrived upstairs, hopefully clutching my Number 76, my passport, my stamps, and the assorted car documents. They were serving number 34. There were about five windows but only two were actually manned.

The waiting room was bleak. Grey linoleum floors, some wooden benches, a few wooden chairs, and, uncharacteristically, two or three newer looking chairs with fetching cloth upholstery. The hallway wasn’t much better, but on the walls there were two or three framed posters of vintage cars (Skodas, of course). It was an odd attempt at themed levity. Although the posters and the frames looked relatively new, most of the frames had dead moths trapped inside them. Among the few signs I could read was one explaining that the buffet was downstairs on the first floor.

I enclose the text messages I sent to The Spouse over the next three hours:

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles is universal hell.

There’s a buffet here if you feel peckish.

Crowd relatively good-natured, but resigned. Like that story about the endless traffic jam in South America. . . . I expect alliances to form and women to give birth.

Now serving Number 35. No one even gets up. Where is Number 35?!

Sudden log jam cleared. . . .now serving Number 40.

I left my book in the car . . . bored out of my mind. Now only on 44. I had scheduled a pedicure for 11:00 but may have to blow it off . . . of course I don’t have their number with me. Will be too ashamed to ever return there.


It is now 10:50. On Number 59. New crop of people arrived all with numbers lower than mine . . . they must have been running errands? Taking a steam?

And of course they will close for lunch . . . looking like I must come back tomorrow. Only on 63 now and nothing is happening. Windows abandoned.

At 11:58 they were serving number 70. I watched the cops pick up large pieces of cardboard and place them in front of their windows. I had to pick up the girls from skiing at 1:00, so I wrote it off as a wasted morning. As I left the building, the buffet seemed to be doing a booming lunch business.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your blog 2 days ago and Iam still reading it.Its funny and true.Do you still live in Bratislava or not? I am originally from Slovakia, now living in Ireland,You know..all handsome men live in here :) Vladimir

5:20 PM  

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