March 8, 2011

Getting Legal

Last week I got my alcohol license renewed. Like most things around here, the actual doing is easy, it's the prepping that takes some work.

Today, I got my driver's license. The Abu Dhabi police run a super-efficient "DMV" type place. You make one stop, they take your papers, you get a number, they call you, bam -- license done.

But again, it's all in the prepping. To get a license, you need a copy of your passport (easy) and residence visa (easy). These are required for just about everything, so I have copies around. You need you Emirates ID or proof that you applied. You need a letter from your employer saying they do not object to your having a driver's license. You need a mug shot. Got one. So far, these are the same things I needed for the liquor license.

But you need a copy of your US license translated into Arabic. That's what the ubiquitous typing shops around town do. They translate documents from whatever language into Arabic for various legal documents.

See, you knew there was a catch.

That is usually not a big deal. There are three across the road from my office. Only one was willing to do the translation. I have no idea why. It usually takes a couple of hours, and this took a couple of days because of the Prophet's birthday and some other inexplicable (as in not explained to me) reason. So, finally got that.

Now, it was a matter of taking the time to go. The "DMV" is nearby, unlike the alcohol license center at a police station halfway to the airport. They're open from 7 am to 9 pm. I decided to just do it today, since I had a rare weekday off.

I gathered all my documents. I had been keeping them in one place so I wouldn't forget anything. I got there, a woman asked me for a few things that Paul hadn't mentioned, like a mug shot. Then she sent me to wait for an eye exam. (Which the doctor fudged -- I didn't pass it) He never mentioned that, either. I thought it was a bit odd, but if nothing else, bureaucracy here is never consistent.

After the eye exam I got sent to the license window, they called my number right away and I was on my way.

Except I forgot the translation of my license. The one key piece of information I had to have. The woman at the front desk assumed I was renewing an existing license, since I didn't have that paper, and so never said anything.

But where were the documents? They should have been with the others. I called Paul, he looked in the only two places I would put them and they weren't there. Which means I had left them at work. I called a colleague, she looked in my desk and of course, that's where they were. I had picked them up during a shift, stuck them there without thinking and promptly forgot about them.

So, I went back outside to find a taxi that took me to the office to get the paperwork and then take me back to the license place. The woman at the reception sort of smirked at me when I came back, this time waving the translation. She gave me a number, it was immediately called, I paid my fees (which, by the way, are less than the fee for the alcohol license, which is good for just one year), and I had my license in hand within five minutes. It's good for 10 years, so I won't be doing that ever again.

See, just like I said -- easy as pie.

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