Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bureaucracy is not Just an American Thing

Okay, I admit it. I hit a tree with my car. Well, it wasn't my car exactly. It was the community car, which I drive almost exclusively at the moment. Anyways, it was a stupid mistake. I was backing out at work; the tree was in my blind-spot; I had a carload full of noisy people who were annoying me and making me late; and in my haste to get out of there and go home, I failed to see the ill-placed tree and swiped the side of the car. It's still drivable, but definitely something that should be fixed.

So after a few days I go into our insurance agent to see if they will cover the repairs. I learn to my surprise that they will and, even better, our insurance will not go up! BUT! I have to have a police report. So, on Monday I trek down to the police station to file said report. They ask me to come back the following day, understandable because their police commissioner just died last weekend and things were in a bit of chaos. So, I give my condolences and leave.

Next morning (Tuesday), I go back in. I talk to a few officers. No one seems to want to take the report. They say come back at 2:00 to talk to their boss. Fine, whatever. I kill a few hours, come back a little after 2:00. The boss is in. He listens to my story and starts to ask me a million questions, mostly centering on the fact that he can't verify that I have collision insurance. I'm still not really sure why that would matter because as far as I know you don't need car insurance to file a police report for an accident. But I humor them. I leave, go down the street to the insurance agent to get a printout of my insurance info. The agent gives it to me and confirms that the police are just giving me the runaround and that they do not need my insurance information. Back to police station. I've lost track of time now, but an hour or so later, several police officers later, much talking and debating, shuffling of paperwork, sighs from police officers, people laughing at and mocking me, I give a statement. A little before 4:00, Chris, who has kindly accompanied me along this process thus far, has to go to work so he leaves. A little after 4:00, I'm still being shuffled back and forth from one office to another. The main police officer can't get any of his employees to come out and do a visual inspection of my car. I find this unfathomable and I can't figure out why it was such a joke that everyone in the station was laughing at me and no one wanted to help me.* So, the head police guy escorts me outside, takes a look at my car, asks me about all the other dents and scrapes that I can't explain because it's an inherited car and I have no idea what happened to it prior to my using it. We go back inside and he begins to inform me that we have to go to "the scene of the accident," which is over 1/2 hour drive away, so that he can sketch what the scene looks like. At this point I completely lose it. I tell him under no terms am I driving him out to the scene where I hit A TREE! I suggest that I draw the map myself. He says, no they have to draw the map because I'm not a police officer. I finally convince him that if I explain the layout to the other police officer,  he can draw the scene. Reluctantly, he agrees. Fine. But the police officer wants to do it tomorrow. Again I get very animated and say that I am not coming back tomorrow. There is no reason why we cannot finish this today! He tries to explain that we can't finish it today and I try to explain that I'm not coming back tomorrow. He takes me back to the head PO and the head PO says that they can't finish the report today because it's after 4:00 and their secretary is gone for the day. She's the one who rights up the reports. That makes sense to me, so I say, fine, I'll come back tomorrow to pick up the report but I'm finishing my statement today, including the map of the scene. I am sent back to the original PO and he hands me a piece of paper, asking me to draw the scene. Didn't he just tell me I couldn't do that!? Whatever, I draw the scene, explain it to the police officer, confirm one more time from both OPs that I can pick up the report tomorrow (Wednesday). They say yes, around 11:00 or 12:00 and I get the regular POs phone number so I can call before I come in.

Wednesday rolls around. I go to work since I've barely been in there the past 2 days due to all this running around. At about 2:00 (giving the POs sufficient time to have everything ready) I text the PO. He actually calls me back (unheard of!) and says, yes, everything is ready, come down to the station. I confirm, "Can I come down now? It's there and ready?" "Yes," he says. He's not at the station, but the main PO is and I can get it from him. I leave work, drive down there, get to the office, the main PO is not there. They tell me come back later. I literally put my head on the desk on top of my folded arms and try to explain in broken Swahili that all I'm doing is picking up paperwork. It's not sitting in a file somewhere? No, they explain, it's in the main guy's office and he's in a meeting. They give me his phone number so I can call him later before I return. I go outside to my car and immediately text him. He texts back and say we can meet tomorrow.

Thursday I am busy with work and just can't stand the thought of going into the police station again, so I skip it.

Friday, I text the main PO in the morning and say I am coming in to pick up the statement. He says that's fine but not now, later. I text him later, he says not now, maybe in another hour. I text him an hour later and say I'm coming in. I go in, wait 15 minutes to speak to him. He actually gives me my police record. But he is giving an original. He needs me to make a copy to give to the insurance agent and bring back the original. "Right," I think. There ain't no way I'm coming back here. But, sure, I humor him. I think of giving him my 2 sense because during the time of my "interrogation" he kept asking why I didn't report the accident to the police when it happened. "THIS is why I didn't report it to the police!" I want to say. "There's no way I'd come in here unless I absolutely have to!" But I think better of it, wish him a good day and say nothing of my frustrations. I walk down to the insurance company, present my paperwork and the agent informs me that the police didn't give me the vehicle inspection report and they also mistyped the vehicle tag number on the report. Seriously!!?? I tell her under no uncertain terms am I going back there. She looked at the car and took pictures. She knows I had the accident, why do the police have to verify it? And clearly the mistake on the other report is just a typo. Can't she just cross it out and initial it?? She explains it's procedure. Yeah, yeah, I get that. I walk down to the police station. AGAIN. Find the main PO outside shooting the breeze with some other officer. He immediately starts talking in Swahili and giving me a hard time about speaking in English. He says I know Swahili, why am I not using it? I try to explain (in English) without crying or punching him in the gut that this procedure is frustrating enough. I'm not going to use my limited Swahili to try to communicate on something like this. They give me a hard time for another minute or two but I think it was getting obvious how angry I was getting, so the main PO takes me inside, another 10 minutes later I'm leaving with the completed and corrected paperwork.

Now, everything is in the hands of the insurance company. Who knows how long that'll take and what other hoops I will have to jump through, but the agent called me yesterday afternoon to say she forgot to get a copy of my drivers license and can I come in to give it to her. Luckily, I was able to save myself another trip into town and emailed it to her instead.

Sheesh. Who knew I would miss plain-old American bureaucracy?

*The insurance agent said she thought they were treating it like a joke because maybe they suspected I was drunk when it happened. Still, really classy to have everyone in the waiting area in hysterics over someone who comes in to get help. I can only imagine what it's like for a victim of a crime (a traumatized rape victim, for example) when they come in to "get help." What a humiliating and disempowering process.


Anonymous said...

So, were you drinking when you had the accident? Ha. Just kidding. Look at the great story you have to tell now. That makes it totally worth it, right?

Love you,

Michael in TZ said...

Pole sana! At least you weren't asked for a bribe. Hoping things run smoothly for the rest of your police experience.