Each year we have to renew our vehicle licence in Bermuda. Mine is April or so I thought until Viv looked at my little sticker that everybody puts on their motorcycle numberplate and realised it was actually March. The day this happened was 29th March so that meant only 2 days to renew or face the consequences.
The place where this all happens is the Transport Control Department or TCD for short. Everybody knows it as TCD. Time was that you had to spend an entire day there as you could only renew your vehicle license -- bike, car or anything else -- on the final day of the month. Why? Everybody had to put up with this until someone came up with the notion that you could renew your licence on any day prior to expiry and so spread the work out more evenly. In the old days you had to have an appointment with the examiners and then you'd have to check in and wait for hours and hours to pay the fee and receive the new license. These days you just roll up.
Except that's not the case a couple of days before month end! You wait. So I did, patiently in line behind 8 or 9 others until I was called up for my turn.
|The examining centre at TCD. Bikes are in that little door to the right. My bike is in the foreground to the right.|
The examiner for motor cycles is in a sort of corridor inside a building and you ride your bike inside and he then tries all the knobs and levers and then puts it onto some rollers and revs it up to check on brakes and emissions. My bike is 3 years old and so was dead easy.
Except that the examiner curled the dreaded finger to summon me from where I was waiting and told me that the chassis number and engine number weren't the same as what was on my licence papers. Access to both is under the bike or behind a plate you have to unscew and then fumble around in so you can be quite sure that I'd never taken an enquiring look myself.
"But its been 3 years since I bought this bike," I said. "How come it didn't come out before?"
Well, this was one of the most dangerous things I could have said. Why now and not before? This carries an implication that somewhere in the vast bureaucracy that is TCD that someone, not saying you of course, didn't do their job and missed it. And being government, nobody would admit to that of course. Nor would they take responsibility for it either. But the examiner wasn't fazed as he pointed out that the organisation that did the test these days was in fact not the government and in fact had actually done its job correctly for yes, this had in fact been outsourced to a non-government entity.
Forget the fact that as I was waiting I chatted to a guy in front of me who told me that the examiner was an old school friend of his who'd been doing this job for years which of course meant that now he was a non-government employee he was actually impelled to do his job properly... or face the consequences of his actions or in this case inaction.
Naturally I bit my tongue and asked in that case what should I do?
"Well you bought it new from that cycle firm. I've been seeing a big number from them. 5 last week and I think about 20 all told this month. All with their paperwork messed up like this."
"So its the cycle firm that messed up, is it?"
"I think so," he said.
There's quite a bit of a gap between what he said and the truth I think. It sounded like in the past the examiners had just about let this important check go and hadn't bothered. But if they did, how did anyone sell their bike second hand?
"So what do I do then?"
"You need to take the bike and these papers back to the cycle shop and get them to redo the paperwork on their letterhead using the correct numbers," and he very kindly wrote both engine and chassis numbers down on the licence document for me. "Then you bring it back to TCD and explain to someone there what happened and they will redo the licence paperwork for you. Then you bring it back to me and I'll re-examine it. If it passes, then you'll need to go back inside the office and explain what happened again and get the correct current paperwork."
Sounded like a chore and it was except not where I thought it would be.
The cycle shop was efficiency exemplified. They had done not 5 or 20 but 2 in the last month so knew exactly what was what. They also knew that it was in fact TCD who had made the error as the lady assistant reprinted the original invoice she showed me that the bike was in fact incorrect in every detail on the licence documents not just engine and chassis number.
The bike was not a Mio 100 as per the licence but a VS 150.
Furthermore, it was white not black.
The only correct thing on the license document was the licence plate... and of course my name.
They also provided me with the document originally sent to TCD which had all the correct details on it.
So if it wasn't the cycle shop it must have been...
Back I went to TCD and fortunately met a nice lady there who usually is the one to doll out the numbers and advise who to talk to. Clearly when I explained this was an anomaly as she didn't give me a number and asked me to wait near a vacant stall for someone to come along and talk to me.
Turned out to be her who asked me a whole lot more questions about where was the bike now, etc. I'd given her all my paperwork by now and shown her the letter from the cycle shop so I think she at least was aware where all the muddle had come from. I told her my bike was outside and returned to wait.
|Quality mission statement|
A few minutes later she returned and said an examiner had gone and rechecked the paperwork was actually correct (namely the engine number and chassis number) and gave me back the bundle and asked me to go and visit the emissions tester next.
That was a breeze except the bit where I told the tester about the paperwork muddle and he then told me in that case the system wouldn't be able to print out a testing confirm as it wouldn't have the correct details -- he asked me to take a look and he was right the 'system' was totally wrong. So he dug out an old bundle of pass booklets that used to be used and hand wrote me a pass certificate this circumventing the 'system'. So much for tech then!
It had been about half a day in total by then and I hoped that all the tricky stuff was behind me as usually getting the TCD certificate was simple. Not this time and in fact this was where things moved from being a chore to being first frustrating and then very quickly very funny.
Going back inside the TCD building, I noted the friendly lady from earlier wasn't there any longer but another equally nice lady gave me a number and asked me to wait. It wasn't for long and so I took up the number A164's place at the famous cubicle 4 where I met another lady, this time not that agreeable to the point where I thought she was either deaf or dumb, or both, because her impression never changed from blank and she rarely spoke.
I sat down and explained the situation pulling out each piece of paper at each stage of the explanation. She just looked at me.
And then I said, oh yes one more thing. We moved house too.
Then she looked away, went into the 'system' clacked a few, actually quite a lot, keys and then turned to me looking at some point over my left shoulder and said:
"Pardon," I said. "What do you mean $118.25?"
"That's the annual licence fee."
Oh right. Derr, in fact. So I passed over my credit card and signed the receipt and she passed over the new licence documents.
They were wrong. She'd only changed my address details so everything else was the same as before.
"No," I said. "You haven't made the changes to the actual bike itself."
"What changes?" she said.
"The changes that I explained to you when I sat down and showed you from the paperwork that I passed over to you."
"What documents?" she said.
"The documents on your desk right in front of you now. The invoice, the examiner's document, the pass certificate and all the rest."
She looked down and shuffled the papers ostentatiously taking back the first licence document that she had created. She looked at her computer and again clacked away into the 'system' once again and passed over a new licence document.
She'd changed the engine and chassis number only. Everything else was still the same.
"No," I said. "You didn't change anything to do with the bike. It isn't a Mio 100. The bike is a VS 150. You can see it on the original invoice and other documents in front of you."
|This is a black Mio 100|
"What documents?" she said... no, actually she didn't say that but I thought she may have and I'm pretty sure you were expecting it too. What she did do was something else.
"I'm going to have to speak to my supervisor as this isn't my job." And off she went.
I could see her go into an office at the back of the building and on a couple of occasions someone other than she stuck her head out of the door and looked at me before pulling their heads back in again. After a few minutes she returned.
She sat down in her chair turned to the computer again and clacked a few more things into the 'system'.
She said "You know its a different bike?"
"Yes," I said... of course I knew it was a different bloody bike! I'd told her probably 10 times by now.
"It's in a different licence class," she continued. "The previous one was in the 50-100 cc class, this one is in the 100-150 cc class. More money."
I agreed that that was the case and asked how much more money -- thirty something dollars, I forget. So I passed over my card again hoping that the bank wouldn't block it as they often did when you try to make a charge at the same place more than once with not much time in between. It worked and so I signed the receipt and passed it back whereupon the lady passed back the new licence document.
It was still wrong. She'd now changed everything but the colour. The document said black, all the documents and of course visual evidence pointed to the fact that it was white.
"No," I said. "It's still not right. The colour of the bike is white not black."
I passed it back again and while she didn't quite rip it out of my hand, I got the distinct feeling that she mentally wanted to do that.
She turned to her computer once again and clacked away in the 'system' and after a short while printed off yet another new TCD license document.
She didn't pass it over straight away because this time... she read it first! Yes, that's right she checked it off against all the documents and once she was happy with things, she passed it over to me.
Of course I again went through everything with a fine tooth comb and this time all was in order so I thanked her, collected my stuff and exited stage right.
Now I know that the world over officialdom in all its various guises is a frustrating impediment to almost everything we do. Rules, rules and more rules make doing even the smallest thing on occasion an exercise in mental flagellation. This though was a cracker!