So a few days ago I had to interact with the Dutch bureaucracy again. I decided that after a year without a car, it’s finally time to get a driver’s license.

Owing to the fact that I am just a wonderful and talented individual, a unique and beautiful snowflake you might go so far as to say, I get to trade in my US license for a Dutch license without having to go through either a theoretical or practical exam.

Those who know me may view this as a policy that may not be in the best interests of the Dutch populace. It’s not that I’m a bad driver, per se, but I have a few idiosyncracies that don’t complement the operation of a motor vehicle.

I forget things. I forget where I’m going. I’ll be deep in the middle of a deep thought about the nature of man, or the future or Iraq, or whether I should get a cape for my superhero character in the MMORPG game I play, or any number of equally important things, and suddenly I’ll realize that I have not been paying attention to where I am going at all. Sometimes, these revelations have to be followed by immediate and drastic course corrections.

Also, driving a car triggers a chemical reaction in my brain that reduces me to the mentality (and temperament) of the Hulk. “Where’s your fucking blinker asshole!” may pass my lips. Repeatedly. I take personal offense when people cut me off. Immense pools of anger well up in me when I see people do things like drive on the shoulder in traffic. I’m just generally not very emotionally stable when driving.

The worst fights that Ann and I ever had were in the car. The most dangerous too. Thankfully, Ann hit upon a solution that stops the chemical change from happening. She distracts me with audiobooks.

They’re like a mental pacifier. I sit silently, obeying (most) traffic regulations, for hours on end, listening to the stupidest stories. I think the last one was Faye Kellerman or Kay Fellerman or something, starring orthodox Jewish woman detective who solved murders while demonstrating the benefits of traditional orthodox values, Pulitzer stuff, really. But they work. Candy helps too, but only temporarily.

I don’t know what it is, I’m just a sucker for a story. I want to know what happens. I want to know how it ends. I want to know if he gets the girl, or what happens after you get past the fact that it really was her head in the box.

I think that’s why I find current events appealing. It’s a never ending sequence of “what happens next?” All the best laid plans of mice and men, and a good dose of senseless violence and chaos, with the occasional random acts of kindness and beauty.

But I digress. Back to the license.

I may have poked a little fun at the Dutch bureaucracy in the past. And the fact that you have to take a number and wait in line for EVERYTHING (even at the post office), but the truth is, they do their work.

First I went to an new government bureaucracy center (I hadn’t been in this one before, amazingly) to get a form. I took my number. Waited my fifteen minutes. Explained to the person behind the counter (who, typically, spoke very good English) what I needed. He was familiar with the procedure, handed me a form and said, “twenty-seven Euros please.”

“Excuse me?”

“The form. You have to pay twenty-seven Euros for it.”

Well, it’s not exactly a fortune. But at least they could dress it up and call it a processing and handling fee, or an overhead charge or something. I held the thing in my hands for a good ten seconds looking for the gold leaf of the hidden watermark with the location of the Templar treasure or something.

Thanks to the thoughtful people in government who make endless loopholes for everything, I can just trade my US license in for a Dutch one because I fall under the “30% ruling.” This is a special dispensation that allows expats to claim up to 30% of their income tax free. Pretty sweet. And apparently, being an expat, you have an inherent knowledge of Dutch traffic laws and how to operate a car, because they just you’re your license and give you a Dutch one, no questions asked.

Well, it’s not exactly THAT easy. Here’s the process for a special people like me:

  1. Go to the new bureaucracy center
  2. Get a form (27 Euros), a doctor’s form, and an envelope
  3. Fill out the doctor’s form yourself (just lie about being able to see and use all your limbs and not having autism, etc. You don’t need a doctor to sign it unless you’re over 70. Scary right? But damn convenient)
  4. Send all forms to the ministry for bureaucracy related to driving
  5. They will send you back another form. They call this one a declaration.
  6. Take the declaration back to the first place.
  7. You will fill out a form in the presence of one of the bureaucratic cogs, and mail that in, along with your US license, some passport photos, and the left ear of a freshly killed goat. (White goats only.)
  8. Your Dutch license will be sent to the bureaucratic agency
  9. They will notify you by mail. (So convenient.)
  10. You go and pick it up. Probably paying another fee.

Not to tough eh? Only ten steps and five interactions with the bureaucratic agencies.

I’m at step six currently.

I’ll let you know how it all works out.

Categories: Europe

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