Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Moving Overseas, Part 12

Today is far more stressful than it deserves to be. I spent a good part of today either bleeding all over my apartment (one of my lories bit me) or on the telephone, talking with the police department, trying to determine if my “good citizen certificate” is ready to pick up. Even though I saw at least two police officers with desks that had functioning telephones on them while I was there, I was told there are no telephones into that office. WTF?

After being bounced a dozen times between operator 2231 and operator 174 (or whatever their names were), my throbbing finger wrapped in half a roll of blood-soaked toilet paper, I was getting just a little bit frustrated. I was finally informed by a third operator that my certificate would not be ready for pick-up until the 20th. The wha? I barely resisted the urge to scream into the phone.

I admit, at that point, I got a wee bit angry, and informed the police officer that I will be in Germany on the 20th, that I had been told that my certificate would be ready on the 19th at the latest, but likely would be ready earlier, so this was just plain ridiculous.

“Ma’am, maybe you can have someone pick up your certificate for you?” the police person said. (The police obviously don’t believe in using the US Postal Service to deliver documents; they require an in-person appearance for maximal inconvenience.)

“NO. I. CAN. NOT.” I said in a very firm tone, clipping my words as if I chopping at them with gardening sheers. (Like, I am so sure I am going to admit that I’ve lived and worked and struggled to fucking survive in NYC for 7 years, 1 month, 3 weeks and 2 days, and I still don’t have any friends! But that’s NYC, that’s what it’s all about!)

I paid for this certificate using exactly the method they wanted (unlike some people who made a big stupid scene about payment while I was there), I gave them more than their required processing time of ten days, and I want my damned certificate, give it to me NOW or refund my goddam $30!

After spending several fruitless hours on the phone with the police, I decided I might as well become completely overloaded with stress, so I called the USDA to double-check how many copies of each piece of paper they needed from me, and found myself annoyed because the agent I spoke with didn’t know. I was happy we were on the telephone because at that point, I wanted to strangle him. Why am I supposed to know more than the people who are paid to make my life miserable?

It didn’t help my mood at all when he suggested that I call the German Consulate — hello?? I’ve talked to him in person and the best he could do was to give me their website URL .. which is incredibly uninformative, user-abuser and also doesn’t say exactly how many copies of these health certificates they require.

(Okay, I admit that I heard a rumor that I need five original endorsed EU “bilingual” health certificates — something I’d never thought of. I mean, isn’t one certificate enough? What are these authorities going to do with all these goddam certificates; paper their bathroom walls with them? But after I thought about this possibility for five seconds, it sounded plausible because it sounds like a trick to trap people like me and because it also sounds expensive).

Expensive? Why yes. Just out of the blue, I asked how much it costs to have a health certificate endorsed, and the agent cheerily told me that it costs $35, payable by money order only! Wha?

Now someone out there has to tell me where on the USDA website that it says that there is a charge for endorsing a health certificate, okay? Send me the URL. Because I clearly missed that. I thought government officials were paid to do their jobs by all of us taxpayers — like me! Well, apparently not. Worse, I thought they had to be experts in deciphering the tangle of paperwork that they torture us with, but that also seems to be a fallacy, since they openly admit that they don’t know what (or how many) documents I need to export/import birds! (And these idiots have responsible permanent jobs with health insurance, sick leave and retirement plans while I, with a PhD and a postdoc (and a dream!), cannot even find a temporary job scooping cat shit so I can buy groceries!)

The short story is that I still don’t know how many endorsed health certificates I need, so if anyone out there has a clue, please do let me know. Please also send me the URLs, phone numbers or email addresses so I can verify this information. Because I need to have something more to complain about, since the agony of getting my CITES permit was neither expensive nor stressful enough (because, after all, I am still alive!).

Anyway, I am so annoyed that I stole one of my birds’ steel food cups, which I am using as a wine glass (it’s not classy to drink wine directly from the bottle). I must be the only person in NYC who shares food cups with my birds. But that’s what it is to be a scientist and bird lover: we share spit.

Comments

  1. #1 John
    November 16, 2009

    User fees are one way that governments can hide tax increases. That way elected politicians can claim that they didn’t raise taxes (or cut taxes) while maintaining adequate revenue to keep the government running. So we end up with things like a $35 charge to endorse a certificate.

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    November 16, 2009

    I’m reminded of a (liberal) businessman-acquaintance’s comment, on passing a city building permits office: “This is where we turn Democrats into Republicans.”

    New Yorkers don’t have friends; they have allies of convenience.

    Please be sure to check that the little steel cup has water in it before returning it to its rightful owner: hungover birds can get even viciouser.

  3. #3 Tabor
    November 17, 2009

    Here I am awake in the early morning unable to sleep and wondering if my heating maintenance man will arrive at 7:30 as he promised. You blog is always there for fun and chuckles…wonder what the bureaucracy is like in Germany?

  4. #4 Bob O'H
    November 17, 2009

    I haven’t drunk out of a bird’s cup (yet). But one May Day (Vappu, for Finns) we did drink from some pitfall traps I happened to have in my backpack.

  5. #5 Luna_the_cat
    November 17, 2009

    I’m sorry, this specific paperwork isn’t anything I had to deal with. But maybe this is the point at which jps could help with fetching said paperwork, maybe?

    (Yes, I know it’s crass and in poor taste to volunteer other people. But I’m too far away to help.)

    Good luck; you’ll make it through, I know you will.

  6. #6 yelli
    November 17, 2009

    I remember having to get a “good citizen certificate.” After trying and failing to get one in the US because the Police department couldn’t figure out what I wanted, I finally went to the German Police department who happily took my money and proclaimed me a good citizen. Is this an option for you? Good Luck! German red tape is not any easier but at least they really seem impressed by anything with a stamp; official or not!

  7. #7 Ronnica
    November 18, 2009

    I’ve had friends recently move overseas…so much work!

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