Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Cat de Sejour: Part the Fourth

"Our permanent cards will be ready in a few weeks."

Those words are from a simpler time. A time of hope & promise. A time that will never be.

I know that many of you have been on tenterhooks for the past month, waiting for the conclusion of our carte de sejour folies and it does seem a little cruel keeping my dear readers in suspense. As yesterday marked the day (plus 1) that Mr. Cat in Rabat's (pictured left) residency card was due (mine was supposed to be ready the previous week), we decided to brave the rush hour traffic, jumped into a taxi, and headed downtown.

Cartes de sejour are collected in the carte de sejour office which is not to be confused with the office where you apply for one, but it is in the same building. Experience nudged me to a non-signed door on the building's opposite side where the helpful hints from the
Living in a Post 9-11 World brochure had been whole-heartedly adopted, including barricading the street from traffic (although you can still park on the sidewalk), a pair of security guards (who were chatting away merrily, oblivious to our approach), and a metal detector (which exploded in a fussilade of pretty colours and trills as I passed through, unnoticed by its attending guards). Up stairs and around to the left and we found ourselves in a lifeless, cloyingly depressing corridor reminiscent of an insane asylum or delinquent boy's institution (both circa 1936 or earlier), cheerily lit by a neon strip of lighting.

Outside the door, helpfully marked "carte", milled a group of Sullen Silent Automatons;
seemingly, no one was willing to knock on the door and interrupt the Dispeptic Civil Servant who works in the large and poorly furnished office. I am beginning to think that you can learn a great deal about an individual from the royal portrait he chooses to hang in his place of business: the nastier bureaucrats & merchants I have met all have fly-blown, jaundiced, time-wrinkled photos of King Hassan II squinting & scowling from their walls, while their less malevolent colleagues toil away under the decidedly less sinister and usually slightly off-camera gaze of M5, snapped while he's in mid-sentence or adjusting himself.

Pops was glowering from the Dispeptic Civil Servant's wall. I shuddered.

I vividly recalled from last year's Carte de Sejour folies that the self-same Dispeptic Civil Servant is not loath to admit that misfiles might actually exist in his long metallic grey card drawer, let alone look for them. He searches by file number, not name, not photo. If he does not find your number where it should be, then you're shit out of luck. Consequently, the drawer is very very full. So full in fact that I suspect that several library cards, an ONCF train schedule from 1999, a bus ticket or two, and possibly the letters of transit stolen from the 2 German couriers in Casablanca might have found their way into that drawer. It is advisable, therefore, to pray to the god-of-your-choice (although Allah holds more sway here) a fortnight or so before visiting the
Préfecture de Police, perhaps burn a little incense, sacrifice a few unbaptised infants, burn the toenail clippings of a sub-Saharan refugee.

As we had little time yesterday to become one of the Sullen Silent Automatons, I walked into his office, only to find that he was indeed "helping" one of the silent Stepford Wives - in this case a husband - shuffling about the hallway. Duly chastized, I waited outside and watched as he perfunctorily leafed through his tray and called out "pas encore" - "not yet". The Automaton's face fell; my heart ached
for him a little.

No one else dared enter the office of lost hopes. Having already pissed off the Dispeptic Civil Servant, I had nothing to lose. Mr. CinR & I approached, temporary cards in hand. Please sir, I want my card. In less than a few seconds, my carte de sejour was extracted from the file. Hum dee laaaa. True, the person who mounted my picture to the card had inexplicably felt a need to cut & snip my photo in a rather haphazard keep-the-scissors-away-from-the-spaz manner, performing a sort of trepanation on my head that made me look not unlike Gumby. Emboldened, Mr. CinR passed his chit to the Dispeptic Civil Servant who, after a cursory glance at the spot where
until recently my card had occupied, announced "pas encore". Mr. CinR's face fell; my heart ached for him a little. I was about to suggest that the Dispeptic Civil Servant check the tray for a "possible" misfile but then thought better of it. After all, it was still December. Two thousand and six. We'll try again after Christmas.

I now realise that by adding one scant revolution of the earth to the due date of Mr. CinR's carte de sejour, I was not only grossly optimistic but also a bit arrogant. Who was I to hold the Moroccan government to their word? Once again, the Bureaucracy God of Morocco (call him Allah if you will) has smote me for my hubris. When will I learn?

Stay tuned for the what-better-goddamned-well-be the final instalment of "the Cat de Sejour".
Coming to theatres in Winter 2007.

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