Home > The System > Fascination with Plastic Cards

Fascination with Plastic Cards

“I need a bigger wallet”, I find myself saying repeatedly (hint).  The various authorities want to give a tangible proof of their service, and the medium of choice is the ID card size (surprise surprise) plastic card.  I’ve posted them below in order of how much red tape I had to wade through to get them.

Driving License

Driving License

Starting from the fact that one is running around without a car and so every hurdle is automatically bigger, the process in and of itself is still extremely tiresome.  I had to deal with endless desks, repeated visits to the cashier instead of paying everything in one go, each stop characterised by 30 minute queues of sweaty people actually elbowing each other to go first.  Half way through the driving lessons I did a parking test and lessons stopped.  I was put on a waiting list again indefinitely.  I had to pay extra (to upgrade to “VIP” classes), otherwise who knew when I would resume.  In the meantime I was using taxis continuously.  At the end of the lessons the driving school performed an “assessment” during the course of which I was deemed not fit to sit for the final RTA exam and so had to take an extra 4 classes.  This didn’t go down well with me, so I went to the manager’s office.  Having no local help and no immediately-recognisable Western passport I could only manage to reduce them to 2 classes.

On the day of the final test I was told that I passed (hamdulilah) but I had to pick up the license in another 2 days.  At some point in the process, before picking up the license of course, I had to drop by the accountant’s office for him to stamp my papers making sure that I was fully paid up.  There were no clear directions of what you need to do next, you have to ask any passer by who looks like he belongs.  Many times I risked staying behind the wrong door or in the wrong queue.   What a mess.  At least when I went for the license it didn’t take too long, relatively speaking of course.

When I walked out of the school holding the prized license I could have sworn that I wasn’t leaving any footprints.  Climbing into the taxi I said to myself, last time I’m riding one of these.  I was very wrong of course, but I was happy in my self-delusion.

ID Card

ID CardIt was (still is) hailed as one of the least organized public exercises in Dubai history (and it is not over yet), and many people couldn’t care less about the brand new UAE ID card.  It was touted as the magna carda of cards, one card to rule them all and in darkness bind them.  Every interaction with public administration would be governed by this card, and any other form of identification would not be accepted.  Who would have foreseen that one of the big companies (memory fails me: Du?) refused to accept it.

Still relatively fresh on the scene I did my best to have the ID card issued as soon as possible.  I dreaded the thought of having to spend a couple of days running around a municipality complex looking for the right desk after being denied the facility to pay a bill.

By that time my wife had joined me and just finalised her residence visa, so I figured we’d do both together.  Us being us we left it a bit late, so we went a week before the “deadline” was due.  We arrived at the Rashidiya office at around 7.30 a.m., only to be told by the security guard that they were not admitting anybody else because the quota was reached.  The quota, reached, before 7.30.

The following day we woke up at 5 (having returned from work at midnight), and arrived just after 6 a.m.  There already was a sizeable queue.  Two actually, and we found out that they separated ladies from gents.  It is normal practice in the Emirates, as you wouldn’t want unwed members of the opposite sex accidentally (or not) rubbing against each other.  By that time people were talking, the quota was known, and we should have been ok.  We were.  Still we were towards the end, so we wouldn’t be due to be served in a while.

Once inside (oh yes I forgot – the queues were outside on the pavement, going in opposite directions) the friendly receptionist informed me that, sorry, bank cards were not an accepted method of payment, so I had to locate an ATM in an unfamiliar area to win some jackpot.  Back in the freezing building and the minutes were having a chat and ticking away slowly.  We were prepared for this, and both of us brought books, but there is only so much reading you can do.

Wife finished first, as the quota for ladies was lower and the process seemed faster for them.  For myself it was much slower than we had thought, and we had an appointment coming with an estate agent as we were about to move house.  We decided to risk it and dashed out to meet him.  We returned just as my number was being called and the clerk was looking around irritably.  I went in and the Emirati photographer greeted me with the customary Salam alik.  I was still flustered by the dash so I absent mindedly replied Hi.  He was having none of it, and went on to explain how to reply to a proper greeting in Arabic.  I knew of course, but I obliged, not wanting to anger him further.  The process went on without further incident, finger prints, hand prints, retina scan, urine sample, blood sample, hair sample, teeth mold and voice signature.  I’m joking, we didn’t sing.

Health Card

Health CardLooking back I realise that the health card was not such a big deal.  But it was the first card you have to earn, and so there was the element of discovery slowing down the process.

The paperwork was done by the HR, I just had to go to the appointed clinic for the medical exam.  Off I went, and for once the taxi driver knew exactly where.  The doctor I had spoken to was there, but the x-ray machine was down for maintenance.  So we did everything else and I just had to come after two days.  That I did, but I discovered that once taxis drop you off they have no real reason to linger, so I walked for 45 mintues (11 o’clock sun, October, not nice) before I could catch one.  I tried calling the operator for a taxi, but they were telling me sorry sir, busy, 1 hour, etc.  I’m not one for sitting around waiting.

Second time I went I thought ahead and booked a taxi to pick me up after 30 mins.  The rest was through the office, so all was well.

Labour Card

Labour CardI honestly do not remember what I went through, if anything at all, to get the labour card.  So presumably it was also done through the office. I must be forgiven for not having any details, I am normally forgetful, and besides the other events that happened in the mean time pushed the little insignificant things out of the way.

Sorry.

And last but not least:

Vehicle Ownership Card

VehicleThis one carried the least hassle with it, as it was handed to me with the new car.  It represents ownership of the said vehicle, which purpose back in Malta is served by a registration booklet which one doesn’t need to keep carrying around.

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