Notes From Hairenik
June 16, 2007
The bureaucratic insanity that I have had to endure these past few days ended as of 4:00 this afternoon.

The day started around 10:00 am with a trip to the Malatia-Sebastia Administration Building to see the clerk who had successfully recovered from her computer's virus infection. I showed her the papers I had, she made a note of whatever was necessary to note, and my wife and I were on our way to the Registry of Motor Vehicles located in the Erebuni district, which handles the processing of vehicle registrations for Central Yerevan for some reason. It is located on Artsakh Street on the stretch towards the mostly run-down factories district. We found the building which was shaded by trees along the sidewalk just in front of it. At this location some departments were decentralized. The office that processes applications was located in a trailer about 100 feet down the street for some reason. We gave the man our paperwork, including the invalidated passport for the Niva and my special residency visa. Then he asked for the proof of residence paper, which I had left behind with Amazing Asya and Officer Mardirosyan in Bangladesh. The man processing our application suggested that we speak to an officer in the registry to inquire whether we could get by without the paper. But before we did so, we had to pay additional processing fees which would amount to about 25,600 dram at a branch office of "Haiknabank" about a mile away--that errand took about a half-hour to complete.

So back at the registry we found someone responsible for processing registrations and he told us that by all means we needed to get a hold of the original proof of residence form, and that a signed, sealed photocopy should be left at the registry in Bangladesh for their records. This revelation slapped us across our faces at 11:45 am.

It took about 20 minutes to return to Bangladesh, and all the while I was swerving through traffic while simultaneously steering away from unexpected pot holes and skating along abandoned tram rails. I have become skilled during the last few years in avoiding collisions with minibuses whose drivers do not bother looking left or right when maneuvering their vehicles, thus the dents and scrapes on fenders and doors. The plan was for me to run in to see Officer Mardirosyan and figure out how to get the proof of residency paper. He was not surprised to see me when I burst in to his office, catching him while reading the newspaper. I explained to him what had happened and needed to go down, then the argument started.

"Didn't I tell you the other day that you would need that paper?" he exclaimed. "I thought I made that very clear to you, if you recall...." The thing is, I did not realize I would need it any longer. He mentioned something about perhaps making a photocopy of it for my own records, which I shrugged off because I didn't think I would need it for any other reason. I told him this, but also admitted to wrong doing, which calmed him down and persuaded him to move on to the next topic--how to get a hold of that paper.

I was to find Amazing Asya and ask her to track down the paper so that I could photocopy it, then present the photocopy to Officer Mardirosyan for it to be signed and stamped in exchange for the original. I went to the familiar window but no one was home. Then someone else waiting for her to appear said that she was across the hall in another office, where she also worked shuffling papers and passports around, apparently. When she started to slide around I announced why I was back and what I needed to do. She was juggling about five things at once with papers and passports for a handful of dudes clenched between her right thumb and index finger. We followed her as she marched in and out of offices, then after about a 10 minute wait time she lead me into the office of the "operator." Apparently the operator processes and organizes all the registration applications and related forms, and he or she--in this case a she--seems to be the only person in the entire building who has a computer. But what it is used for is unclear as there were small piles of hundreds of applications strewn throughout the office. We gave her my name as well as Babken's both of which would be written on the front of our paperwork stapled together, yet to be filed, thankfully. It took the woman about two minutes to find it, all the while complaining about making her do more work than she needed. Then Asya chimed in as she entered.

"Why didn't you do this the other day? Two days later you come in here and you make us look through all this stuff so we can find that paper for you. For what? What's the matter with you?" The abuse was simulcasted in surround sound.

The operator undid the staple with a remover she had trouble finding in all the mess, and she demanded that my visa be left in its place, which was not a problem for me. I darted out of the building and ran up the block to a grocery store which also had a copy machine, conveniently enough, most likely to accommodate clueless idiots like myself. The copy only cost 20 dram, then I ran back and burst into Officer Mardirosyan's office for second time.

"So it's all set, brother? Let's have it then!" He looked at it and scribbled his name across it, then handed it back. I asked whether it needed to be sealed and he said that he would "do it later," which wasn't clear to me. Turns out it wasn't clear to the others either, because when I showed it to the operator, she told me to find Amazing Asya and let her examine it. I told her that Mardirosyan signed it and said that it was valid, but she wouldn't have that, as I needed to double check with Asya. So I found her in the other office shuffling more passports and papers about while sitting beside some other officer, and she happened to notice me with a glance.

"So you have the photocopy? Just give it to the operator." I told her that the operator needed her approval. "Yeah, OK, hold on, this will only take five minutes." She told me the same thing 20 minutes prior. Soon thereafter she came out of the office to the chagrin of a few other guys trying to catch her fancy and moaning in disappointment. She walked into Mardirosyan's office, asked if everything was OK with it, he said something to the effect of "let the guy go" judging from his body language with his forearms resting along his desk, and she came out handing me the form. "OK, you're all set, give this to the operator, tell her I said so."

I ran in there and Asya was chugging along just behind me. I repeated to the operator what I had stated five minutes beforehand, and Asya was there to back me up, amazing as she was. She handed me the original proof of residency along with my passport. I gave them a 2,000 dram donation for their pains and we were off. Sayonara, Bangladesh.

It was time to return to Officer Kaloyan in Erebuni, who was a dark and handsome man with taste for genuine American full-flavor soft-pack Marlboros. Then and there it was clear to me that he was not hurting for cash. However, since it was 12:55 pm, he said that we wouldn't make it in time, and he asked that I come back in two hours. I was scheduled to go into work at that hour but I had no other choice but to comply.

So we went home and had a light lunch, then I was off to the hardware department of the Vernisage to find four new bolts and nuts for affixing the license plates. The plates I had been given it turned out were temporary transfer plates, another tidbit that I failed to absorb in Mardirosyan's office. I found the bolts in about 10 minutes after roaming past the layout of one junk seller after the other, scanning across the crap each character had laid out. I went back to my car to get something, then after examining the front bumper I discovered that the rusted bolt, the same that I thought one of the kids forced out, was still there even though he assured me he could remove it without me having to saw it off, as there would have been no other alternative.

I ran back to the Vernisage and bought a hack saw for 800 dram from a mean-looking midddle-aged guy with sinister eyes who could barely speak for whatever reason, and who relied on some portly guy about my age to use the sales pitch. The saw blade looked flimsy but they said it would do the job of cutting through a rusty bolt. About 10 seconds into the job the thing snapped. It looked as though it was coated in plastic, a total piece of crap, but I was desperate to buy one. I marched back there and made my move to embarrass the guy in front of dozens of his counterparts.

"What did you sell me?" I started. "Is this made of plastic? After using this for 10 seconds it broke. Give me back my 800 dram." I repeated that last sentence about 20 times until he asked for 200 dram in exchange for the 1,000 dram note I had given him only 10 minutes before. His pal the sales clerk accused me of not knowing what I was doing, which was the reason why the blade snapped. I told him to shove the broken saw blade up his ass.

On the way to Erebuni I stopped at the "Home Depot" portion of Vartanants Street where the hardware open market is located. Along the street are some hardware stores, so I ran into the first one I found and bought a "Colt" brand hack saw, which supposedly is made in Germany according to the mark on the blade, for 1,300 dram. Four minutes later the bolt was severed and I was off again.

I arrived at Officer Kaloyan's office at around 3:15, and he was prompt about processing my case--he must have liked me for some reason. He sifted through the papers, then asked that I go out to the car and jot down the inspection sticker number while he took one of several business-related calls he received on his cell phone. He asked for 11,000 dram, then inquired whether it made a difference if I received "pretty or not so nice" plate numbers. I told him that I could have cared less, but he mumbled that he would get me a "09" number, which didn't sound too bad. He dropped off my visa and paperwork with the operator there, she printed out my temporary registration, and then I gave it all to woman responsible for processing the issuance of license plates along with 2,000 dram for her hard work.

Ten minutes later her assistant had them ready, and she told me while handing me the sealed proof of registration paper to return in December to pick up the official passport for the Niva, which is finally in my possession under my own name, legally. It cost me well over $300 to realize that goal.

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Anonymous artashes said...
Thank you for the detailed description! It made me laugh, cringe, smirk, and roll my eyes as I was following through your adventures. Very informative (and one more reason, as if I needed any, to forgo a car!).
Now that you are a specialist on Armenian bureaucracy you will hopefully avoid some of the missteps of your own creation (as if the whole nerve-racking and often humiliating "official" experience was not enough) in your future dealings with it!

Rule No. 1 - always have ALL your documents with you when embarking on bureaucratic trip in Armenia (ya, the birth certificate and the dog-owner papers would not hurt as well! :)).

By the way, I liked your euphemism of "donation for hard work". Sounds very compassionate and heartfelt! :)