October 10, 2009

For this Kind of Income Tax . . .

I got yelled at at the post office today.

It did surprise me a bit; it is, after all, the fourth Saturday in a row that I spent better part of my morning there in order to organize my son’s Arabic exemption papers (Yep, I’m still there). I mean, we’re almost like family now, I practically know them all by name.

The first Saturday they needed to figure out how to solve my problem. The figured it out; I had paperwork missing.
The second Saturday I came with the missing paperwork, but then their computers were down.
The third Saturday I came back, the computers were working, but it turned out that some of the paperwork needed authorization first, so they send them to the Ministry of Education before we could proceed.

And here I was today, fourth Saturday in a row, with the authorized papers, waiting politely in line. It did irk me a bit that a seemingly decent looking lady overtook me, but I figured she must have had a reason. But when the lady at the third counter asked someone - who just came in - what he wanted, while I was standing like an idiot in that stupid line, waiting for someone to help me, I rolled my eyes.

A bit too dramatically, it seems, because the gentleman behind me decided to come to the rescue, and he belted out to the entire staff “What the hell are you thinking, letting us standing like idiots in the line while you let other people pass!?”

That didn't go down very well with the postal workers behind the counter, and they yelled back “What are you yelling at us for?” The verbal abuse went on for quite a bit, while the rest of the customers stood there, ignoring it. After all, fist fights have ensued over lesser matters, they know from experience.

It wasn’t pretty, but it did get me shoved to an empty counter. By that time however, the mood had changed, and the ladies were in no frame of mind to be helpful. No matter that we were almost family, after four Saturdays in a row.
It seemed that the papers I had gotten back from the Ministry were not stamped as requested. They were returned with some scribbles in pencil on them

Why not?” I asked, and the lady read the scribbles.
She replied in Arabic.
Well, what does that mean?”I asked again.
But she was in no mood to translate anything. She refused to say anything in French nor English, although from the past three Saturdays I am well aware of the fact that she can. And I know, she doesn’t have to. But it would be nice if I knew what was written on those papers in pencil.

I decided not to push it. I’ve got to go back with these papers to my son’s school, figure out what is missing/incomplete this time, and wait for next Saturday.
And then next Saturday, we’ll try again. Maybe they’ll be in a better mood.

And all this has ruined pretty much my entire Saturday, this attitude issue, and the pathetic bureaucracy.

Until now. I was just organizing my accounting. And I noticed that I paid only 4,075,099 LBP income tax this past fiscal year. That’s only 2,707 US dollars. Or 1,844 Euros. In think my Dad in Holland pays that on a monthly basis. My road tax bill last year was only some $100 as well.

And I figure, for that kind of income tax, I think I can handle a clusterf%#@*d bureaucracy and some yelling at the post office.And so I chilled, like the gentlemen playing taule (backgammon) on the street. Maybe I should make a collection of these:.


Phil said...

Thanks for such an enjoyable post about our beloved bureaucracy!

But I would say it takes more than just that to make you tolerate this country. I am currently on assignment somewhere between Holland and Germany, and I can better understand what it is that a person from this rainy part of the world would like about Beirut. I totally dig it..

Liliane said...

ah i really sympathize with you! good luck for next Saturday, hope you dont have to go back there anyway

Muna said...

I happened across your blog a few months ago when I was planning a trip to Beirut and really enjoyed reading through so many of the entries. I'm now a regular follower having visited and fallen in love with Lebanon. I would really love to get your advice on journalism jobs in the English language in Beirut and didn't see another mode of contact on your blog, hence the comment. Whenever you have the time please email me on muna.khan@gmail.com (even a blank email will suffice) and I'll email you some questions for you to respond to at your leisure.

Richard said...

Maybe if everyone in Lebanon paid sufficient taxes you wouldn't have to waste your Saturdays getting yelled at by incompetent civil servants.

"I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization." Oliver Wendell Holmes

Anonymous said...

"to solve my problem"?

I think your son is ABSOLUTLY EXCELLENT (in Arabic), great actor, he hides, well.. : )

big long story the fairy tale of "he's weak in Arabic" ; "he'd be exempted from" etc.
was it his own affair?
at the begining?
wich begining?

still he's excellent, in Arabic, but for some reason, who knows, he'd have to execute, this good old local film of "the weak exempted from Ararbic", and then if he stays, he'll spend years trying to reach back what is already, in fact in his hands?

so no technical obstacles here at all even if it seems he's nothing in Arabic, it's just another movie, the same one...

a scenario, wich cannot be his,

and this scenario has been the same for so many here around, I used to be a victim of it and was a great actor too about my supposed weakness in Arabic...

good old film, let's hope the sun shines enough because everything can be translated, but the long shadows in the morning are always whispering in local language.