The pandemic has forced us all to take a new look at old things. The ways we operate in the world and how view old problems. Sometimes, it’s as though we see them for the first time. There were issues and opportunities all along, but we were too rushed to see them. Or too close to the problem. Covid has slowed us down. And I’m starting to see it first hand here in Valencia.
We live near the Area where FC Levante play futbol (soccer in the US). We shop at the Carrefour grocery store right next to it at the Centro Commercial. In the past year or so we’ve watched the transformation of the stadium. Before the pandemic we have gone to games there. It was more of a venue like a University in the US, than what we had imagined a La Liga futbol pitch would resemble. With their world famous athletes . It was old, with no concessions except card tables in the walk ways around the outside. Kind of down market, if I’m honest. But going to game there was still fun and exciting .
But with Covid, the stadium was going to be empty anyway. And they had already scheduled a major overhaul to bring it inline with other stadiums throughout Spain. It has a cover over the seats now and we’ve watched them erect the new superstructure. Pretty impressive. I like engineering. Watching a crane move things into place is something I could spend an afternoon happily doing.
It’s almost completed and there was an article in the local news about the future of the building and what they have planned. I was struck by a comment at the very end. Something along the lines of the timing of the renovations and, if the architect and the league had it to do again, they might think of the building differently. A space that could be used for things other than futbol. ‘What if it could be designed to be converted into something totally different, if needed? Perhaps a field hospital.’ Interesting idea. I bet if you posed this as a design consideration to this gentleman before, even 18 months ago, he would have scoffed at the need for such a thing. Now the unreality needs to be considered moving forward. For so many things.
I went and picked up my new residence card at the Oficina de Extranjero for the National Police. I’d gone a couple of weeks ago as they directed me to, but it wasn’t ready. They told me they weren´t sure when it would come from Madrid. I should call before coming again. So I called on Sunday and the recording said my lot # was delivered. I caught a taxi on Tuesday and went to stand in the usual line under the tarp outside for those just picking up cards. No appointments needed. I’ve done this several times, with Jeff and alone, both successfully and unsuccessfully, so I know the drill. But the guard shook his finger and pointed to the sign. The process has moved from far outside central Valencia in icky dodgyville, to right in middle of downtown Valencia.
I was a little ticked off since getting a cab there is not easy, but when I got to the new location I was thrilled. It’s now at Calle Hosptial 32, in the heart of the city, and right at the Angel Gimera Metro station. It couldn’t be more convenient. And the guards at this new location are nice – it seems that the hiring manager vets them on handsomeness and height. I´m pretty sure they had a mark on the wall during the interview process that said ‘You must be this tall to ride this ride’. Not one of them was under 6ft 3. Jeff would have freaked out. ‘This is where they´ve been storing my people.’ He always looks like the jolly green giant, as Valencians are not tall people. Anyway, I shouldn’t care but I find its easier to be scolded by someone who looks like a movie star action hero than some guy who has been yelling at foreigners for way too long past his pull date, and is just inching towards retirement. At the new place, there was no scolding. These young guys had it all organized and marked out, complete with stickers on the ground where to stand, and numbers they pleasantly handed out as you approached, like those sample people at a Costco, so you could look at the monitors that were everywhere and know what window you were supposed to go to.
The old station was a mess. The process was incomprehensible, and you would be yelled at a minimum of 3 times before going inside and being asked for documents that you shouldn’t have had to produce. But this new place? Almost heaven. And it allows for social distancing. Inside looks like it’s in the 21st century. Imagine. And there are almost as many windows to service foreigners as there are at the Jefatura de Traffico (Spanish DMV) one metro stop away. In defence of the people working the 6 desks at the old police station, they were so overworked. It wasn’t right. This new station has more than 40 windows to take care of people, and was fully staffed. The woman who helped me was friendly, and while my new visa status threw her when I handed her my old NIE card and passport, she didn’t freak out on me. She just asked a co-worker to assist her in deactivating my old card and reactivating my new one. Lickety split.
Clearly, the National Police saw what we all saw in our times going out to the old station. It just wasn’t working. And it was a super spreader event for every person who worked there or had to go there. It wasn´t a safe location in a pandemic. And the building was falling apart.
After my trip to the new National Police station, I also learned I really want to be Spanish soooo bad. Our new cards are super cool. I like them better than the old ones. They have all kinds of new security features. But one thing we can´t do with them is turn them into DNIe cards. Because we are not Spanish. And turning your DNI card into a DNIe card unlocks a few things. First, it lets you travel to any country that recognizes a digital passport. So no need to carry the real paper book thing. The little book is now obsolete for travel to and from these places with digital passport agreements. It´s kind of like an enhanced drivers license in the US, but that´s only good for Canada. We always got the additional ´Passport Cards´ for ourselves and our kids when we got our passports. But, again, while fine for ID, they were only good for driving across the Canadian Border. Oh, and getting the student discount at the Valencia Oceanographic for Emilie. But that hardly matters.
People were in a separate lime at the Police office to use the machines to convert their DNI cards and upgrade their lives. I stared with envy. Because the other thing the DNIe does is it gives you a digital signature, which is like a digital certificate. Yes, that elusive thing I’m trying to get right now. But I have a line on how I might circumvent the system, so stay tuned for that.
It will be interesting to watch all the innovations that come out of the pandemic. Yes, its been horrific. So many have died or been severely ill. Believe me, I know. People’s livelihoods and economies have been decimated. But out on the other side of wars and pandemics, innovation explodes. New and old problems will be solved in ways we couldn’t have imagined before. Sure, the examples above seem a bit trivial. Trying to focus on the upside if all of this. But I, for one, can´t wait to see what they are.