Monday, January 22, 2007

Ready, Set....WAIT!!!

Whew. I am totally exhausted. Not physically but mentally. Today was the day I renewed our car and motorscooter plates. Sort of.

As my fellow ex-pats know, having to deal with any part of the Mexican bureaucracy is nerve wracking, to say the least. The rules and regulations are subject to change at any given time and no two clerks will require the same information from you to achieve the same goal.

To start with, I had to renew the car plates. Come to find out, this year everybody in the state of Quintana Roo, where I live, has to get new plates. Off with the old, on with the new. Every vehicle that requires plating has to do this. Some unknown God of Paperwork got smart this year and had an information table set up next to the office where you renew your plates. One of these people went through my papers and said everything was in order. Except I needed another copy of this paper. Off to the copy shop next door, waited in line and got my copy. Back to the nice man at the table. Oh, I need a copy of this paper too! (grrr!) At this point I asked him if I needed anything else. He assured me I didn't. Repeat copy step. Back in line to the Nice Man at the table. "Where is your car, Senor?" he politely asked me. I told him. He said it was parked too far away and that I would have to move it closer to the office. (as if I wouldn't have parked closer had there been a spot open!) I asked him why. "Because I need to remove your old plates," came the reply. So B sped off to bring the car around to a place where he could park illegally while Nice Man took my plates off the car. Nice Man and I returned to the renewal office and B went on his way to find another parking spot.

Assured that I had everything in order to get new plates, I got in line. And waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, it was my turn. I respectfully handed my paperwork through the slot in the window, having to bend way down to do it because it is built at Mexican height. The not so nice guy there shuffles through my papers and then pushes them all back at me! He then rattled off something in Spanish so fast there was no way I was going to come close to understanding him. I asked him to repeat it slower please. What he said about knocked me over and it was all I could do to remain calm and polite but insistent. He said that my license plates were registered in Cancun so I would have to go over there to get new ones!

I bought my present car used....in Cancun. It had plates from a neighboring state, the Yucatan, on it. Of course, I had to register the car in my name and get plates for my state, Quintana Roo. This was all done by the selling agent in Cancun. Now you should know, Mexican plates do not have the city on them, only the name of the State. So what difference did it make if I originally bought my plates in Cancun?

So I patiently told the not so nice man that I live on Isla Mujeres and I wish to have my plates registered to my home city. "Oh,", he says, "No problem." (grrrr) There follows lots of typing into a computer, lots of form generation and finally I am presented with my bill, which has to be paid at another window and another line. The cost of renewing my plates? $415 US! I could hardly believe it. Since the line to pay was so long anyway, I took my bill over to Nice Man and had him interpret it for me. It seems that I paid a fee for my new plate, a fee for transferring municipalities and a penalty for not getting a renewal sticker last year, 2006! I was livid. Bear in mind that when I asked at this same office about renewing my plate last year, I was told that it was not necessary until 2007! (grrrr) Also, while this was going on, B had to bring the car around again because Nice Man forgot that he had to rub a piece of carbon paper across our VIN number and make an impression on a piece of tape to attach to my paperwork. They did not trust that the original factory paperwork had the correct VIN!

So into the cashier line. Again the interminable wait. Finally get my turn at the window. Only to be told that I had to go into this little room over there to pay and then get my plates. Ok. No problem. Sweating from spending hours in this fanless office, I entered the room. There were two people. Nobody said a word to me, and I not a word to them. I figured I would just stand there in the way until told differently. Type, type they both went. Eventually the woman calls out my name, like there were a whole roomful of people waiting or something. So I looked around behind me and then turned back to her and pointed to myself. (couldn't resist a bit of humor to break up the mounting frustration I was experiencing) Yes, she nodded. She showed me her copy of my bill and asked for my money, which I gave her. She then stamped my receipt 3,687 times and gave it back to me. With that done, I had to turn around to the guy typist and wait for him to reenter all the information that had just been entered on the other computer outside. (grrrrr) Finally, I signed for my plates, he rifled through a stack and handed me my brand new plates and I was out of there!

The good part. They are having a drawing for 3 cars. If you get your plates in January, you get a ticket for the Jan, Feb and March drawings. If you pay in Feb, you get a ticket for the Feb and March drawings, etc. So I have three chances to win a new car! Oh, did I mention, I also got a 50% discount on my bill because I paid in January? Imagine if I had waited!

Tomorrow: I still had to get plates for the motorscooter!

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