Friday, August 07, 2009

Kafka's car

No pictures in this post, just a tale of woe.

My Dad has extremely generously agreed to transfer ownership of his old car to Amynah and I, so that we won’t have to walk from Halifax to Los Angeles. Amynah and I had assumed that we would be able to get by on our European driver’s permits until such time as we were officially resident in California.

On Tuesday, I called up an insurance company to arrange for insurance on the new car. I was answering all of the questions no problem (Honda… black… 120,000 km…) with no problems, until the guy at the other end of the phone wanted to know my Canadian license number. I explained that I didn’t have one: I had swapped my Quebec one for a French one in 2007.

He told me they couldn’t insure me until I had a Canadian permit. So, I got on the phone with the Nova Scotia government and explained my situation: I used to have a N.S. license, switched to a Quebec one nine years ago, then to a French one a little less than three years ago. She told me that – with luck – I would be able to re-instate my Nova Scotia one for a fee, assuming they could find my Quebec one in the national database.

Yesterday Amynah and I went down to the “Access Nova Scotia” offices and took a number. Then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. It appeared that last week, their computers had gone down, and this week they were clearing the back-up.

After an hour and a half, our number was called. I explained our situation to the teller, and she pulled up my license information. “I’m sorry sir, we can’t give you your permit. It says here you’ve been suspended,” she said, uncomfortably: license’s are usually suspended for criminal behaviour, like drunk driving.

This was not the case for me: I’d had a perfect driving record in Quebec, but the women explained that sometimes the Quebec folk mis-typed their forms due to their inexplicable Frenchness. I said I’d give them a call to fix the situation but then, on a whim, asked them to check out Amynah’s status.

Hers was fine – her license was merely expired. To prevent the morning’s expedition from being a total waste, we decided to get Amynah a Nova Scotia permit, making her legally a Bluenoser, much to her Alberta-girl chagrin.

We returned home and informed my Dad that he would be transferring title not to me, but to his daughter in law. While they were doing that, I would call the insurance people and tell them the new situation.

“Oh, my colleague should have consulted with his superior before he told you that. Hold please, and I’ll get back to you,” said my new insurance buddy. I desperately hollered at Amynah and Dad – halfway out the door – to stop.

After ten minutes, my insurance guy returned: “Well I talked to my superior, and he talked to his, and then it went all the way up the foodchain, and unfortunately, we cannot give you insurance unless you both have Canadian permits.”

Damnit. I hung up the phone, and called Quebec, to ask them why my permit was suspended. The man there told me that apparently, the Montreal Municipal Court had requested the suspension. He gave me a number for them. They, in turn, informed me that I had two parking tickets that I had left unpaid before leaving the city. As I had not received the summons to pay them, I now owed over $400 in fines.

The only way my suspension would be lifted was if I paid them – the only way I could do that was to go over in person, or pay by money order. Neither would fix the situation in anything less than two business days, taking us to Tuesday – our schedule requires us to be on the road by Sunday.

Desperate, I called my friend Dave, who works in downtown Montreal, not far from the municipal court: “You can always tell a good friend by how much money they ask you to spend on their behalf” I said, by way of introduction to our problem.

Fortunately, Dave was on lunch break, and willing to march over to the court with $400 bucks to plunk down in our name. He then – God Bless His Soul – walked over to the Quebec driving permit authority with the documents proving our fines had been paid, in order to lift my suspension immediately (when my Mom came home and asked if we had dealth with that, I told her “I called a friend of mine who works for the United Nations, and he spoke to some people for us – it’s taken care of.” Which is, strictly speaking, true).

Now it was back to me: I now went back to the Access Nova Scotia Office, and took another number: this time, I had a book. I waited, and waited, and waited – over an hour. The suspension had been lifted, and soon I had a brand new Nova Scotia license in hand. I called Dad – the transfer could go through. I took yet another number and settled in to wait.

While killing time waiting for my Dad to show up with the papers, I realized the woman who’d processed my license had screwed up, and put the last Nova Scotia address they had for me on my permit – a place I hadn’t lived in for 13 years. Resignedly, I took yet another number to fix that problem.

Dad arrived, and we settled in to wait: fortunately, I was called to fix my license and the woman told me we could transfer the car to me at the same time.

The transfer – the sole object of the entire exercise – took five minutes. For which we spent nearly $600, and waited in line for five hours.

On the other hand, it is a nice car.


Natalie Joan said...

Dear God. Why are things never easy? Andrew Gillis has been having a heck of a time getting a Quebec permit, and he never left the country, just switched provinces. Now that that's cleared up, enjoy the rest of your stay. See you tomorrow.

CZ said...

Oh dear...this is why we love living in Quebec. Drive safely!

Shannon said...

Safe travels! (and minimal tales of woe)

Jul said...

Ah, the bureaucratic adventures of changing countries. I hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly!

Victor Chisholm said...

My uncle likes to say that every good story costs you at least $100. I think you can get at least 6 stories out of this one!

(Sorry to have missed your migraine-ness last week.)