I set the alarm for 7am, got up after not nearly enough sleep and a headache to rival all headaches, and went down to the tax office for greek citizens abroad. Which is where I’m registered.
I have to be cause even though I don’t earn any income in Greece, the government would find a way to tax me if I wasn’t registered as living abroad.
I was told they open at 8am. I got there at 8.10am I think. It was open and it was packed. I think there were 2 employees each on each of the 4 floors. Not really sure as they were doing their best to hide cause greek people are very good at hounding the ones they can find.
Anyway, after making my way up through each floor and not finding anyone to ask where I should actually go, I found myself in the ‘director’s’ office where the poor man was sitting behind a desk surrounded by angry people yelling at him about numbers and how far they’d come and how much they needed ‘this’ done and what they’d do to him if they could get their hands around his neck.
Never let it be said that the greeks haven’t moved into the 21st century. They now have queues for everything plus priority numbers! Gone are the days of pushing and shoving, arguing, no respect for personal space and no privacy where mobs would descend on bank tellers and bureaucrats with their demands.
Now they get numbers and then push and shove and argue.
I think I figured out the system.
You arrive at 4am or so, then you can get a number under 10. At least that’s what a man was telling everyone yesterday. I got there at 8.10am and they were already up to number 150.
The director was saying they give out the numbers at 7.45am and that you have to be there then to get a number.Uhuh. Not what they were saying on level 3. And that they only give out 130 numbers. During the day, to avoid being suspended by his thumbs, he gives out more numbers.
I had a few choices:
Get a number around 156 and wait and see if I got in to see anyone before they closed or went for a long break. ie spend the entire day in the tax office.
Poke myself in the eye repeatedly with a pointy stick…
Or go home and come again today.
I chose option 3, the least painful of the lot.
So I set the alarm for 5.30am, got ready and was out the door in 10 minutes. Then discovered that my aunt Xeni had locked the front gate.
After climbing over the fence, I got a taxi and went down to the tax office. Again.
I know this part of Athens better than most taxi drivers now.
There were already 20 people there ahead of me. I put my name on The List and I have to be back at 7.45am to get my actual number. To be honest I’m afraid I have to be there even earlier just in case….
On the way here this morning I saw people lining up outside the bank in our neighourhood. it was 5.45am.
I’ve never seen anything like it. Who ever heard of having to be somewhere 3 or 4 hours before opening time to line up to get on a list in order to get a number to be served?
They blame cutbacks in the public sector… I don’t know. Last time I was down at the tax department for ‘residents of abroad’ a man was complaining about strikes and how often they’re closed. They were on strike the first time I went with my brother Petro. The guy was saying “When will you be open? Is Monday still a strike day? Tuesday? Or will you be closed on Tuesday too cause its the day before Wednesday?”
That seems to be more or less how it goes.
And then, if you do get in to see someone, its like “You need a form HGIH2234. Fill that in and come back”.
“Where do I get it?” panic in your voice.
“Upstairs on the 5th floor”, said between a cigarette in the lips, indifferently, while shuffling papers on the desk or answering a phone and chatting about the last haircut she got.
You go to the 5th floor, wait in another
mob queue and when you finally get to the front, you’re told you can’t fill in a form HGIH2234 till you’re sworn a statement as to what your mother had for breakfast on the morning you were born and wherther the doctor who delivered you was glasses or not, then send you off to find out that information and come back next week….
Its now 7am and I’m thinking I better pay for 2 euros for one hour internet usage after using 30 minutes and go cause in the greek way of doing things anything can happen.