Monday, February 09, 2004

Few people -- and no Czechs -- will ever truly understand the perverse thrill of having successfully navigated bureaucracy in Kafkaville. I'm not talking about standing in line at the DMV. We're talking about the real thing, the kind where not having form twenty-seven-B-stroke-six could take years off your life.

The other day I had to get a vypis z obchodni rejstriku for the company I own, Tulip Coffee, s.r.o. (Oddly enough, I'm not even sure how to translate vypis -- www.slovnik.cz translates it as "abstract." So "abstract from the commercial register." It's basically the piece of paper necessary for signing important documents, like a mobile phone contract, in your company's name.) Anyway, I only had the vaguest notion of where the Commercial Register actually was. Somebody told me it was near Namesti Miru behind the Narodni Dum. I found it. Turns out it's that big building with those funny concrete spheres parked out front.

So I marched right in through the front door, found the section for the vypis, walked right into an open door and proudly said in my rudimentary Czech: "Good day! I am the owner of a Czech firm and I would like to have an abstract!"

Naturally I'd chosen the desk with the ugliest old women ever to come down the D8. "What's your idenification number?"

I stammered, "Uh, actually, I don't know..."

"Well you should know your identification number!" she replied, like that was the end of it. A long pause followed, during which it seemed the whole endeavor might have been fruitless. (I half expected her to say, "Next please!") I just stood there.

"What's the name of the firm?" she finally said.

"Tulip Coffee s.r.o."

"Jak?" My god, if only I'd had a camera ready to capture the expression of disgust and contempt on her face at that exact moment... It was truly priceless.

"Tulip, jako tulipan," I replied cheerfully.

She banged away on the computer and something came up. "Prague 5?" Yes, I said. "Seventy crowns!"

At this moment I took out my wallet and started to remove some cash. Oh my. What a mistake.

"Not here!! Leave your things here, go to the payment window, buy the stamps and then return! Then I'll give you the vypis! Leave your things here!" It was starting to get ugly, because I hadn't the slightest clue where she was trying to send me.

I left the room and poked my head into the next door, where a charming, attractive young woman sat behind a similar desk. "Can I pay here? I just asked for a vypis and the woman said I have to pay..."

The attractive young lady helpfully guided me to the actual payment window, where I purchased my 70 crowns in stamps, returned to the first door, gave the ugly woman the stamps, picked up my things and my vypis, and left. And man, I felt tremendous.