Monday, October 4, 2010

Common courtesy - like sense - is NOT common!

Well, the trip back to the foreign police just adds to this wonderful tale of living and working in another country. So, I got up at 4:30 am and was out the door by 5:10 in an effort to get in line at the foreign police. They open at 7:30 and I was told that getting there early (say 6 am) helps. So, I got there at 6 am to find a long line of at least 80 people already outside! So, I got in line and waited in the dark. It was quite chilly - and I was grateful I brought my hat, scarf, and gloves! It was probably in the low 40s. Not horrible, but not ideal just standing around weather.

Anyway, as I was watching people, it became clear that many had been there most of the night. I later talked to a guy I had seen there the last couple of times to find out he got there at midnight! Dang! At about 7 am, families with little kids started arriving and going to the front of the line. I quickly realized having a kid made it possible to cut the line and I was trying to figure out how to have a kid quickly, but alas, no luck. The first few families seemed to get little reaction from the crowd. However, as it became 7:30 and later, I could tell another family was approaching from behind me by the disgusted and angered faces of those in line in front of me. The line was L-shaped, so it was easy to see their faces and observe. At 7:30, they let the families in. It took until about 9:30 until we were let in the building! This was new and different from Thursday, and I still have no idea why they didn't let us in sooner. It was darn cold and highly frustrating! They wouldn't even let you in to use the bathroom or get a coffee/snack. So, finally we make our way in and get to the bench area so we can at least sit for a bit (About an hour). Once the floodgates opened (aka the front door) people just went nuts! They were pushing and shoving and screaming. It was madness! Most of the people there were Russian, so I learned a few words (though many I probably should never repeat) today! It was chaos! I almost got trampled - good thing I didn't fall down! Also, it became evident that no one cared what time you got there or what the original order was that you were in outside. All bets were off! I ended up moving back in the line about 8 people. I was annoyed, but I just couldn't be that person that was so irritated and pushy (literally).

So, I met my new line neighbors who spoke English which was interesting. One guy was a film student from Philly and the other a Pakistani doctoral student in economics. We chatted throughout the day and held spaces in line when someone went to get a drink or use the restroom. At one point, I attempted to use the restroom. It was located in the worst spot ever - about two feet from the main office we were all trying to get to. So, there was a wall of people in front of the door. I tried to go and got yelled at in Russian and then English. They told me to go to the other side. Jeez! People are nuts! On Thursday things were much more civil and slightly more organized. So, I went to the EU side of the building where everyone was sitting and sipping coffee and just relaxing while waiting to see their foreign police officer. What a difference compared to our mass chaos, wall-to-wall people, hot, smelly space we were sharing!

As the line progressed, the anger and frustration mounted. And I get it - really, I get it after today. But I was truly saddened and frustrated by the lack of care and concern anyone had for anyone but themselves. It was absolutely disgusting. I couldn't be that way, and thus got pushed back in line a bit, but I don't care! A few times I pushed back (not hard) and held my ground. Well, I mostly held my ground, but I never pushed anyone out of the way! Words cannot truly describe my frustration, hurt, despair, and just plain shock at the entire situation and the way people treat each other. It was a sad experience to say the least.

Ok, finally we make it to the front of the line! I have this image in my head of getting my ticket (remember we're just standing in line to get a number to see one of the foreign police officers) and singing the "I've got the golden ticket" song from Charlie and the Chocolate factory while singing and dancing with everyone in the waiting room. I'm getting excited, but trying to stay realistic and not get too excited! Needless to say, there was no singing or dancing. I got to the front of the line. I showed my passport, green card and paperwork to the officer and kindly asked if he spoke English. He said "No. Done." And he walked away. Ok, at this point I had been standing in line for 8 hours (ok, i sat for one, but who's counting) and the guy says 2 words to me and walks away??? I didn't know what to do! I stood there, because there was no way I was leaving! I asked again and he just said no. So, my Pakistani friend (also registering his address) came and tried to ask too. Again, the guy said no. A nice guy came up to the front to help us. He speaks Czech and English and explained that they had run out of tickets for registering your address for the day and we had to try again tomorrow.

At this point, my new friend and I are livid! He too was there on Thursday. So, we go to the lobby and this guy explains that you have to get there by 3 am to get a ticket for the day. He said many people pay people to stand in line for them and he'd be willing to do it for us for 2000 krowns (US$100 roughly) each. Of course he would! Remember those people I was pretty sure had camped out - well, they had and they had done it to hold a space for someone.

So, I call my office to tell them what happened and they said they'd work on it. Long story short - they are working on a way to get me a number without me standing in line to get it. I'm not sure I want to know how that's being accomplished, but we shall see. All I know is that I don't have to get up at 4:30 tomorrow morning and I get to teach. I never thought I'd be so excited to see my wild kindergarten class as I am for tomorrow!

I shall never forget this experience - and truly encourage you all to think about how you treat others on a day to day basis. Life is too short to push and shove!

1 comment:

  1. I hope you've able to get this done!! I'm in Prague for the foreseeable future!!