Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time we'll never get back

The chairman of the board of the company where I work is a well-accomplished but humble man. He built a company from scratch and it is now a relatively large firm with a headquarter building in Amman. In that building, there is a parking spot dedicated for his car. I guess that's not a lot to ask. Unfortunately, the entrance to that spot is frequently blocked by visitors to the Lands and Survey Department next door to our office. I've often seen him through my window walk to his car, heading out to a meeting, only to find that he cannot leave because someone decided that they'll be gone for "only five minutes" and parked their car there. Sometimes I go out to chat with him while the gentleman  / gentlewoman return. And sometimes he's too angry to converse with. One day, I was standing outside next to him when the person returned and immediately got into his car to leave. The chairman approached the driver, and I will never forget what he said. "Can I ask you something?" The driver responded in a friendly way, "Sure" and my boss, very calmly, went "How come your time is more valuable than mine?"

I love that story. Because it tells a tale so much bigger than that of a parking issue. It is a symptom of our biggest problem: We live in a culture that does not value an individual's time.

Flash forward to now. It's been 6  months since I applied to my work permit / annual residency in Jordan (Funnily enough, on the website of the Ministry of Interior, it says that the time it takes to issue a residency is 1 hour to 3 weeks). And although things are going relatively "smoothly", I am yet to hold that work permit and residency card in my hand. During these 6 months, I was subjected to at least 15 visits to various public institutions (some of which lasted for 5 hours), 3 blood tests, and renting a house that I don't live in (I'll spare you the details).

Now to tell you that those working at these institutions were obnoxious and rude would be a lie. They were all very polite and sometimes even a little apologetic. But as I concluded from my experience and that of several people I saw during my many many visits, the system is designed that way, its employees are just there to apply it, regardless of the cost on you. "You didn't photocopy that part of your passport. Go do it and come back." "But you didn't ask for it before." "I'm really sorry. But I need that copy." And no matter how polite they say it, it still means that you have to go out, get in your car, drive to a photocopy place, make the copy, come back, find a parking spot, and then stand in the queue again.

This is just time you will never get back. But who cares, it has no value here anyway.


Thoraya said...

I know how you feel. I go through this residency renewal crap every year even though I have lived half my life in Jordan and my mother is Jordanian.

Unfortunately for me, my father is from Gaza so I am not Jordanian enough for the government.

Meanwhile, my uncle's Romanian wife received Jordanian citizenship only five years after moving here.


May said...

You think you are getting hard in Jordan....try issuing anything in Egypt! :)
Seriously, they have no sense of logic when they ask for documents...it's like the chicken and the egg story. Not only do they not value time (yours or theirs) they don't seem to realize that if they use their mind just a little they would get the job done faster, saving time and feeling some kind of accomplishment which would make everyone happy.
I went to renew my national id and wanted to update my work info. The first question I get asked is what is written on your passport? On my passport it still says that I have a Bachelors degree with no work info. Their reply is sorry we have to write what's on your passport. When I then go to try and renew my passport, and ask for my work info to be included, they say 'sorry' but we only include what's on your national id. What?!

Khaled Hakim said...

That is why this is called a 3rd-world country. Enough said.

Matt said...

But on a happy note - there's always time to read your blog Lama!