Every now and then I am confronted by someone else’s logic that just doesn’t seem logical at all. When this happens I am subtly reminded that we live in a world that doesn’t always make sense, but that we continue to live on anyway. Just the other day I had one of these surreal experiences. In hindsight it is quite humorous, or sad, depending on one’s perspective.
I sold a property about a month ago. In our part of the world (as I am sure it is in other parts as well) this is quite the process! The selling is quick – it goes on the market, someone is interested, makes and offer, I accept and then the deal is struck.What follows can be a legal and procedural nightmare. There are many people standing in a line to take a portion of the sale’s profit for their part in the drama. The estate agent requires a cut, and then the lawyers must exact their pound of flesh, the municipality needs outstanding fees, the electrician must issue a compliance certificate and the Master of the Court must be recompensed for his signature on the legal documents. Once all of this has been processed, and a sizable percentage of the profits have vanished like mist before the sun, I thought it was all over. But no. I still had to make time in a busy schedule to present myself to the municipal authorities to officially “close the account.” I only became aware of this when I received an invoice in the post a month after the property was sold and the deal legally sealed. The invoice, made out to me, showed that the municipality owed me some money since somehow there was an over-payment.
I arrived at the municipal offices dealing with these matters and was confronted by the absurdity of beaurocracy. After waiting in line at the first, not-clearly-marked desk, I was directed to a second in-line waiting area. After 30 minutes or so I eventually arrived at the desk of a helpful municipal employee. I requested that the account be closed since I no longer owned the property, and that despite this fact I was still receiving invoices from them. No answer followed my request except the furious clicking of false nails on a keyboard. What felt like a long time (but in reality probably was only a minute or so) I was informed that the account was already closed.
“Why I am still receiving post, then?” was my next question.
“The new owner must register a new account,” was the reply. This was followed by yet another keyboard-blues on the keyboard.
“Oh, the new owner has already registered the property in his name,” the lady said surprised.
“Why are the accounts not being sent to the new owner, and why is the municipality still charging me?” I wanted to know.
“The system must transfer all the services to the new owner first,” I was told.
“Let me understand this… A new owner is registered on the system, yet the previous owner, with a closed account, is still charged for the services? The amount owning to me is therefore steadily being depleted while I am paying the municipal rates and services for another owner?”
“No, you are still liable for the services until they have been transferred to the new account.”
“But the ‘old account’ no longer exists, as is clear from ‘the system’,” I said.
“Don’t worry, it will all work out in the end,” she said with an unconvincing smile.
“How long does this transferring process take?” I enquired.
“About 3 months.” She replied confidently.
Don’t get me wrong, but at this point I am sure my mouth gaped open in astonishment. Three months? We have men walking on the moon, the Hubble sending pictures from outer space, robots manufacturing cars, and I am able to view a live satellite feed of earth on Google. And a municipal computer system will take THREE MONTHS to process a change of ownership?
“Can’t you type in the change of ownership and transfer the rates and taxes to new account?”
“No, the system will do that.”
It was at this point that I simply gave up. After all, “everything was going to work out,” even in the face of an insane illogical logic. I was inclined to ‘write off’ all civil servants, and then realized that a gross generalization of this kind would be hugely unfair to people that themselves were caught up in ‘the system.’ Nevertheless, it didn’t quite calm down my frustration. Next in line to be exterminated in my mind was the beaurocracy of municipalities. Now, wouldn’t that be super? But of course, I couldn’t do that either since my name is not Jackie Chan.
So I will go back in 90 days’ time, and hope to find that “everything worked out”, that I got what was due to me, and then at that time, I don’t have to contribute another tip to the blues performers on their municipal keyboards.