It should have been a simple process … it was supposed to be in-and-out in about a half an hour. It was not to be.
Anyone who lives here, has visited here or has even had a layover in our airport has come into contact with the bureaucratic labyrinth that is the Immigration process in Trinidad and Tobago; and none of the aforementioned segments of our society have ever really fully made it out of the maze.
Well … I found myself fully ensconced in the Matrix on Wednesday. I entered the matrix that morning at approximately 9AM when I presented myself to the offices of a REPUTABLE Commissioner of Affidavits, only to find a long line of fellow hopefuls and doors that were firmly shut … AT 9AM in a notoriously 8 to 4 country … STRIKE ONE.
I took myself off to the Hall of Justice to visit with my sister-friend, who is a Clerk to Judges, where I was informed that she was not in the building, only to call her and have her appear from INSIDE the very building that she was supposedly out of … this is a building that is virtually crawling with every sort of security device, cameras a, police and security personnel. RIIIIIIIIIIIGHT! STRIKE TWO.
I went back to the offices of the reputable commissioner of affidavits to find that she was indeed on duty with an office full of people frothing at the mouth to have their wrongs righted by the goodly officer of the Public Domain. I waited, got my form signed and stamped, paid my fees and took myself off to the Immigration Department – a division of the Ministry of National Security.
I opened the doors to two serpentining, intertwining lines – one to the Receptionist … one to the Collections Counter. I had to play a game of FIND MY END to know where I should stand. While shuffling off to my own private ‘Buffalo”, I witnessed four women bedecked in key cards swinging from their necks reading the words ‘MINISTRY OF CULTURE’, sauntering in. One of them stood off to the left and the other three proceeded to the counter to be attended to. Did I mention that they went directly to the SAME counter that approximately TWENTY of us were standing IN A LINE to get to for the same service? No? Well they did. This incensed a few of my fellow shufflers and they proceeded t raise a bit of a stink, one of them even going to far as to take himself to the front of the line. That’s when the policeman on duty decided that he felt the need to act.
Here’s the hilarity … these three women walked STRAIGHT UP TO THE COUNTER and officer chupidy stood by and WATCHED, but one man moved from the ACTUAL LINE and he is angry??? WHAT THE FUCK???! STRIKE THREE.
Another officer came over and spoke to the gentleman and informed him that that sort of thing happens often when OTHER GOVERNMENTAL OFFICERS come in to the office. Note to self: wear a Governmental key card around neck the NEXT time I need to be treated ‘SPECIALLY’ at a governmental office .
Having finally gained the front of the ACTUAL line, I presented my documents and was about to explain about my lost passport and form regarding same when I was told that all they needed were the ID Cards involved. I submitted same, was told that the passports were ready and that I needed to have a seat and wait for my name to be called. I complied.
I sat there observing the colourfully dressed members of staff, wondering how come they weren’t wearing the prescribed blue and grey uniform of the Division. I dismissed the thought as I continued my penance – yes my penance because it was almost three hours before I was called to the Issuance Counter. I produced the documents required only to be told THEN that I was unable to collect my passport because my LOST PASSPORT FORM was printed on the WRONG SIZED PAPER and not two sided as recommended. I am standing at the counter with a form, signed by the Police and a Commissioner of Affidavits (A signature and stamp that I had to pay for as previously stated!) and you’re going to tell me that it’s the wrong sized paper when your fuckin’ PDF files feed at lettersized???! And how exactly is this my fault???!
I am then sent to the receptionist who then proceeds to tell me that I “Cyah get a form until yuh have ah appointment.” I then inhale as DEEPLY as possible so as not to blow this little fuckwits brains out and inform the little brightly dressed OJTer that I was in fact COLLECTING MY ALREADY PROCESSED PASSPORT … that I already had my appointment and was sent to her to see if the form would be accepted. She then informs “Well I have tuh talk to my Supervisor!” I then went back to the other brightly dressed person who sent me to her in the first place to ask why I can’t get the passport on submission of the form, only to be told that they have to INVESTIGATE whether my passport is REALLY lost – as if I would go through this insipid shit all over again – because no one is to have two valid passports. I tell miss thing that my passport was expired and that all she has to do is check the form in front of her. eyes are rolled at me … “Ma’am … be that as it may we HAVE to investigate!”
Question – If I lost my passport and couldn’t find it, having traced and retraced my steps, how de arse are they going to investigate the whereabouts of my passport? Is the plan to stand on every corner in Port of Spain and shout ‘HERE PASSPORT, PASSPORT, PASSPORT!” in the hopes that it fuckin answers???
When the illusive Supervisor finally turns up forty five minutes later the woman – another TEMP – informs me that I ‘Should have KNOWN that I needed to ADJUST the PDF FEED so that it would print on Legal paper” and then proceeds to ask me in her own ‘warm’ way “YOU TINK YOU IS DE ONLY PERSON WHOEVER PRINT DIS FORM ONLINE?” I open my mouth to tell her just what I think of her fuckwitted and nasty-ass attitude but she cuts me off with “:ANYWAY WE EH ARGUIN ABOUT DE FORM. IT WRONG AN’ IS NOT OUR FAULT – START OVER!” and then she shoves a printed form at me … looks over my head and shouts “NEXT!”
Now I ask you — what would you have done then? How would you have felt, having been so unceremoniously dismissed by a PUBLIC SERVANT WHOSE SALARY AND BENEFITS ARE PAID BY YOUR BLOOD, SWEAT, TEARS AND TAXES? In fact how would you react having been assaulted by an entire fuckin system???!
Honestly, I felt raped, taken advantage of and thrown on a heap for speedy disposal.
I know that temps and OJTers are a part of life in the government service – heck, I’ve been a temp in the service – and kudos to the powers that be for trying to train out young’uns for the world of work; but that’s just it – THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT TRAINED!
After what I and the other pilgrims went through on Wednesday – I suggest that the Ministry of National Security Passport office is NOT the place for priggish, ill-mannered temps and pregnant, impatient, short-tempered OJTers – people are already in a state of shock and annoyance when they open those doors and enter the Labyrinth of Bedlam … the Matrix of Mayhem. It would so ease the pain and frustration to be served by a PROFESSIONAL member of staff who has a clue, some manners, and proper CSR training, but I know that somewhere in the dark and cobwebbed filled corridors of the Ministerial Human Resources Department, some grey-headed clerk just had a fuckin heart attack because they can’t remember the last time they heard CSR Training and Staff in the same sentence! That shit just ain’t done!
So as a result, we are doomed to remain like Charlie One Note … dancing in our sleep and dreaming of the day when someone cracks the code and we can finally escape THE MATRIX OF BUREAUCRATIC DOOM with the simple words “Good Morning, How can I be of service to you today?”
NB: For those of you who don’t know, an OJTer is an On The Job Training participant.