Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thai Immigration versus Chicago DMV

Here it is. Deb and I were told on Tuesday that we would need to go to immigration and get our work permit and VISA extension on Wednesday. No worries, could a Thai immigration office be any worse than the Chicago DMV? Yes. Much worse.

If I had the ability to TWEET on my phone, it would have looked like this.


7:30a.m. Arranged pick up time. Coordinator was emphatic Tuesday night we be ready at this time.

8:00a.m. Coordinator picks us up and apologizes for being so early, did we miss something?

8:18a.m. Nearly dissolve a dog on the highway as we near warp speed in a pickup truck designed for slow going in the jungle. Our coordinator comments about the need for more traffic safety and driving instruction. Hello Kettle.

9:25a.m. Arrive at the District Administrative and Bureaucracy building (this is not made up) and immediately regret not bringing a camera to pose near the sign. Questions begin to arise as to whether the Chicago DMV might have some competition.

9:31a.m. Summit a massive staircase instead of taking the elevator that was obviously made for circus clown midgets. You know something is small when only 3 Thai people can fit in it. I mean, this is the country that on any given road you can see 3-5 people on a Vespa scooter with room to spare.

9:35a.m. Ascertain that we are in correct place from giant flow chart that depicts everyone's position in the building, from the District Manager to the elderly lady selling noodles in the lobby. We find our appropriate room and are beckoned to a desk by a friendly enough looking woman. At this point the Chi-town DMV is crushing the competition as there are not even numbers being called out and most people are smiling.

9:39a.m. All hell breaks loose in the office as the one and apparently only fax machine runs out of ink. Friendly looking woman (lets call her Janis) gets game face on and goes to join the 23 other people huddled around the fax. If ever a time for camera phone, this is it! I imagine the conversation was like this. “Tom, you call Jeff from IS and tell him to bring up ink.” “Screw that Janis, I am a man, I got this.” Janis returns to us and hands us a stack of forms, asks for our passports and then kicks Tom as she walks to copier.

9:59a.m. Janis returns from copier, kicking Tom on the way. Still no ink for the fax machine, but the consensus decision seems to be that if you shake the old ink cartridge enough, it will magically refill. Not a chance folks, I have been where you are, shaking just increases chance of wardrobe wrecking.

10:08a.m. Janis informs us that our forms are complete and the necessary copies have been made. She just needs to get one more signature, stamp our work permit and we are set. The DMV has no rival it seems.

10:11a.m. Janis returns with a smile on her face and like any good government employee, she blames the following on her leader. “Sorry, we cannot stamp because rule has changed. You must get Visa extension within in 4 days of expiration not the 5 days that it used to be. Please go to Ayyuthaya (85 kilometers away) and get Super District Commander General to sign temporary work permit.” That was the condensed version. With that, the fax machine became the center of attention again as it made a beeping sound when someone turned it on. Chicago DMV is up a field goal at this point.

11:45a.m. Arrive in Ayyuthaya and enter mini-mart of bureaucracy. Janis' twin sister greeted us at the door and asked us what we needed. Taking our forms and making good time getting through them was promising. Then 12pm flashed across the clock and the table we were sitting at quickly transformed into a buffet line. Janis II told us curtly that it was now the lunch hour and we would have to come back at 1pm. Not really wanting to get between a government employee and their federally mandated lunch break we left the office without the needed stamp and an hour to kill. Its a tie ball game now Chicago DMV.

12:15p.m. Pizza Hut in Ayyuthaya will make it all better, right? Right! The first thing that has gone our way today comes in the form of a small pan pizza with extra cheese. Life is good.

1:15p.m. Back to the fiefdom that Janis II is obviously the ice queen of. Our process starts over again, apparently lunch erases any memory of past visitors to the office. Seriously, every form she had already looked at was scrutinized again, most of the forms listed our birthday and former addresses, riveting... DMV is now down a touchdown.

2:00p.m. 8 people have been completely processed since we arrived here the second time. It smells like fish in here and the secretary is starting to pass out coffee cups to the employees. I spy a cake in the back and pray that we are not shuffled out the door for an inter-office birthday party.

2:30p.m. The coffee is being poured and Janis II looks ready to burn our paperwork to avoid missing the cake that is also being dolled out. Thankfully, our coordinator graciously asks her to keep working or maybe she threatened her with a severe scalding if Janis II does not finish, as the discussion was in Thai we dont know what was said.Janis II completes our forms, two stamps and a signature in just under 3 hours. WTF! DMV is total Junior Varsity.

2:45pm Traffic! I swear to God if its those damn elephants or a procession of monks, its going to get nasty. Of course! Why wouldn't every driver in the city slow down to look at the freshly painted “Welcome To Ayyuthaya” sign being unveiled, its not everyday you can smell new paint! DRIVE!

4:00pm Arrive back at the District Administrative and Bureaucracy building and scamper up the steps to make sure we catch the first Janis before she bails on the day. Not only is Janis there, but the whole damn office is now sitting around a table for the end of the day staff meeting or more likely they are reviewing the game tape from the fax machine SNAFU in the morning. Either way, we are welcomed like the plague in Europe. It literally took 5 minutes and a best of 5 in Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide who would help us.

4:45pm 6 copies of all forms are made and then stamped 8 times by two people, 3 others are called out of the meeting to review the forms and sign, a candle is lit and I am pretty sure we need to give a DNA sample now. Oh wait, they just want 1500 baht. Paid.

4:47pm Slowly backing out of the office in hopes that by staying big...oh wait that is for bears, run!

5:30pm Stunned, shocked, discombobulated and maybe a bit punch drunk with bureaucracy we hurtle back home. But wait, one more stop.

6:50pm Our coordinator dropped us off an hour ago at a restaurant and still has not returned. Her last word, “surprise!” I promise a swift and painful end if I do not get home in the next 20 minutes.

8:08pm Coordinator returns, orders us dinner. Silence ensues for next two hours...

10:00pm Home. Work permit in hand and with enough stamps and signatures to ratify the drilling of of ANWR.

This has been a presentation of our life in Thailand. Consider it a Christmas present.


  1. A situation to try the patience of a saint whic, Joseph, you are least

    The pre-wedding lesson on the futility of resorting to fisticuffs was obviously well-leaned. we're proud of you for grnning and bearing it all. Consider it more grist for the novel or a future autobiography. Wronka eltern

  2. You're at your best as a writer when suffering. So do what you can to suffer some more, it's making for fairly brilliant writing.

    Hi Deb!

  3. Its always a test of your patience at DMV Illinois Chicago office.