I am walking into a public office, I am assuming a good 500 staff work here. From the outside it’s a big, fancy building. I walk in a little reluctant, as I always feel before entering public offices. My relationship, you can say, is a broken one. I breathe in, walk in, and hope to bring to an end months of pending work. I also do a quick little prayer in silence, barely moving my lips. From a little girl I’ve always done this. A habit.
They’ve told me who to see. I ask for her, they all know her, directing me to The Room.
My “Good morning!” almost jumps around in jubilance and excitement.
I walk closer to her desk, “Am katat bash.”
Silence. But she definitely heard me. I see a little movement of expressions, almost one that says: how dare you say good morning, followed by a few insults (in her head, of course).
Still looking at her computer screen.
Her “Bale?” is sharp. It comes from a different planet than my “Good Morning” so wide and smiley, it even manages to show my lower jaw braces.
I gulp. well then.
I speak of my dilemma. She hasn’t looked at my face yet, and asks me to go get permissions from X, Y, and Z ministries.
I know I don’t need those ministries.
“I am not here for any permissions, I just need the name finalised.”
Where’s your ‘areeza?’
“Areeza for what?” It’s just a one word name. You surely don’t need an areeza telling you the name.
She looks at my face finally, rolls her eyes and almost screams, telling me off as if I was still 9 and I had just spilled my mum’s pot of dolma all over the floor, five minutes before the guests arrived for Friday lunch.
“Well I can’t work without it. Go, do it then come back, what do you want me to read?”
I have no idea what request, for what and how and where and why.
An older man, behind the desk next to hers notices my confusion.
He intervenes, explains it all to me. I say thank you and go ahead to bring the request which technically I could have written that single name on a piece of post-it paper on her desk for her to look at it. But I’m good and I listen, and I’m not here for problems.
[30-40 minutes later]
I return to the room. Walk to her table. She knows I am there but still ignores me. This time looking at her phone screen.
“Farmw” I say.
I place the request gently on her table. Write under her nose. No need for stretching out. She’s rude in her questioning. So out of context to.
She approves a name that she had already refused months back. But I am happy. I don’t mention that, of course. I am still happy. She then throws the paper to my side of the table and directs me to see another lady.
Here. I am infuriated.
I grew up to parents who constantly emphasised the importance of respect, kindness and being polite. As soon as my son started speaking, at the age of two, I would repeat thank you and please every time he wanted something. Yes, age of two.
And here is a forty-something year old, treating me like a criminal when she is a civil servant, serving the citizens of this country.
I make a mental note to file an official complaint. To who? I don’t know.
I politely thank her, and tell her there is no reason to be this mad at me, and I am only here because the paper work requires me to be. She goes back to her computer screen without a single word.
As I turn around I get a gentle smile from a young lady, also behind a desk. I smile, nod, walk out.
I phone my poor husband and file my official complaint to him. We conclude she’s either hormonal or is having a bad day. I follow that call by another to the lawyer to inform him I finally have an approval, he can move forward now.
Fast forward two weeks. The name is refused. The next day I dress with my favourite Hawri around my neck, make my way. No questions. I know where to go and who to see.
I walk to her desk, she already has someone sitting there. Looks at me, I can read her mind saying “what are you doing here again” I am content she knows my face, I mean, she barely looked at me for two seconds last time. Maybe she recognised my “Good Morning?”
“The name was refused.” I say.
This time I already have a new areeza in my hand. I’ve come prepared.
“It’s not my problem go to X department.”
Which women on planet earth is hormonal for two straight weeks?
Long story short. Two days of coming and going, three weeks later and I am still not done completing nearly seven/ eights months of paperwork. For one name. Some people do this in literally 45 minutes.
During this torturous journey I encountered some amazing people, made eye opening observations and came to a concrete conclusion of why, as a country, we are where we are today. Here is my verdict:
- In every public office you enter, one person works extremely hard, while four others, in the same office, are on their phone with makeup on ready for a New Years Eve party. Talk about employee motivation!
- We don’t respect time. Paper-work that can be done in half an hour takes days and days. From this office to the next. In every office we enter seven rooms, ten times, collecting stamps and signatures. Standing in a queue takes you no where. You need to know someone and push in to be respected and for your work to move forward (with a few exceptions).
- There is no reason for anyone to do their job properly, including the Rude Lady. Because no one will lose their job. It’s a lifetime job. No one was interviewed, no one’s skills and abilities were tested, no CVs were viewed and did I mention it’s a lifetime job. Forever. Till after death. Whether you do your job, or you don’t, by showing up you have a salary at the end of the month. Whether you’re rude or kind, hard working or not working. Whether you’re doing your job or are on snapchat filters, there is no difference.
I drove back, reconsidering filing a complaint, but to who? Who will listen? And what will the result be? She has her job forever whether I talk or I don’t, and being rude- is that even a complaint here?
I love Kurdistan.
I love it in all its seasons and colours, I love it in my bright days and the gloomy ones too. In fact, it is like a love for your child. You still love your child even when they’re awake at 3 am, have tantrums in the mall and don’t always listen when you want them too. You know why? One, because its an unconditional love and two, because you know they’ll grow, it will all pass.
Now this is the issue with public sector jobs and professionalism, you know in some instances it won’t grow. Until this group retire the next are already the same. A never ending cycle….
My Nest in Kurdistan