Life from an outsider's perspective…

The Circus of Jumping Through Hoops – A Spanish Beauracracy.


In Spain, learning how to drive is like attending University lectures. In fact the theory lessons are so incredibly pedantic, it could be complete curriculum for a university subject entitled “Advanced Driving Theory”. However, Spanish traffic control is not really concerned at all about safety, just semantics. They attempt to trick you with each and every question. The answers usually all technically correct, or there’s one blatantly wrong answer. It’s just a question of which one of the remaining questions is most correct. And it’s going to get worse say the instructors, because they’re going to introduce what they call “multi-multiplechoice”… that’s where you can choose answers a; b; c; a and b; b and c; and finally a and c. Anything to get you to fail. But that’s a whole other story…

To be eligable for the theory test, you must first pass a medical examination (except I’d hardly call it that). First they ask for your €35 in the reception. From there, a psychologist asks you to perform a quick physical dexterity test. Next, you’re trundled off to yet another room where they do a rapid eye test. Finally you get to see another Doctor in yet another room who supposedly signs the paper, granting you a clean bill of health. Hey presto, you’re done in under 3 minutes!

Except it didn’t go like that for me. In my case, this relatively straightforward procedure was has just been yet another delay. In the first room, shortly after (or during) the dexterity test (I can’t exactly remember), they asked me if I was taking any medication. And like the completely stupid totally honest self defeating boffoon that I am, I replied “yes”. Knowing what I knew, I honestly didn’t think this would cause any problems -actually I’ve never taken any prolonged medication before, so I’ve never had to answer “yes” in my entire life.

Naturally they asked me what I was prescribed. So I told them. Prozac and trankimazen. This was like waving the proverbial red flag in front of the bull. That was enough to my sanity into doubt, effectively denying the medical certificate. This general Doctor requested my psychiatrist’s approval, appearing a little afraid of my reaction. Every single person I talked to later told me that I should have lied, including the more moral ones among them.

After a six-week delay in seeing the psychiatrist, I went back down to the Doctor’s Office for the third time, already getting tensed up in anticipation of more frustrating delays. But before I could enter the building at precisely 9:30am, I see the Doctor waltzing out of there with a smug grin on his face. Normally I don’t remember faces all that well, but it was easy enough to see that this man was the Doctor I visited six weeks previously. He was smiling after leaving the office at 9:30am, a full half an hour early! Yes, that’s right, the opening hours of his consultation room are from 9:00 am – 10:00am, he works one entire hour per day!

Minor Thought Crime:

I feel like fighting fire with fire. Yesterday, a thought came to me. What if, before the driving exam commences, just after I adjust my seat position and rearview mirrors like I’m supposed to, what if I wasted the first 5 minutes of the examinor’s time reading the fineprint of manufactors instructions regarding prozac and trankimazen, then calling my pharmacist and/or psychiatrist for permission before setting off? According to the theory tests that’s what I’m supposed to do. If they want to play that game called “let’s stick the red tape”, I’m perfectly willing to participate. But I already know that they don’t play fairly. No, you can never beat beaurocratic authorities at their own game. If I was rich, I’d do it just to prove my point, but I’m 100% positive with that sort of indolent attitude, I’d be delayed another 6 months due to their resentment. So I’ll resist the temptation, and jump through all the hoops one by one.

All went well and I passed the medical exam on one proviso: that I need to see my psychiatrist in one years’ time so that she may re-approve “my stability”. The eye test was a complete joke. Enter a room, walk right past an eye-chart that had seen better days (again, if there ever was an opportunity to cheat, this was it). The eye chart itself was so old the white paper had faded to a dark tan yellow sort of colour. Stand at the other end of the room. Cover one eye and read a letter. Cover the other eye and read another letter. Pass!

I’ve quickly learned my lesson. Australians value honesty above all. But here in Spain, beauracracies actually encourage people to lie – to try and cheat the system. If there are going to be all sorts of time delays and financial penalties for those that tell the truth, what incentives are there for being completely upfront & honest? None. There isn’t one iota of benefit in it, apart from your own dignity and personal pride. I’ve talked about the difficulty level of the theoretical driving test in another related article; but as far as I’m concerned, it’s yet another excellent example of the revenge effect; people were actually taking “cheatsheets” with them into the theoretical driving test in order to help them pass an overly strict test.

Australia’s policy:  If someone is honest enough to tell the truth, then give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re a decent person. But if you are ever caught lying, you’re in really big trouble indeed, liable for everything, included legal prosecution.

Spain’s policy: If someone’s stupid enough to tell the whole truth, let’s delay them considerably in their quest and make some extra money from them at the same time.

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