I’ve never been interested in the shoulds and shouldn’ts. The can’ts and the couldn’ts. Other’s lack of imagination does not interest me. I’m a dog with a bone. Or whatever metaphor you want to choose. If I have learned anything in this life it’s that it’s never the smartest that get things to the finish line. It’s s the most persistent. Refuse to give up and you’ll wear them down, every time. And beware. If you tell me I can’t do something it just galvanizes my resolve. Is this always a good thing? Nope. But with it, I will move mountains.
For most of 2020, I have not been myself. I know this because I felt mentally hazy. And I started not caring about most things. I’d lost the fight in me. That little flame that burns, even in the dark of the darkest nights. Mine had gone out. If you told me something wasn’t possible during this time I would have responded ‘OK’ and rolled over, pulling the covers over my head. Perhaps my former self would have fought the situation in Portugal to solve the issues with the house, camping out at the local land registry. But, I was tired and I hurt all the time. We just packed up and went home. Not really like me.
All of 2020, I heard ‘We’re worried about you.’ From sooo many people. I wanted to tell them ‘Don’t worry about me, when you’re worried about me. Worry about me, when I’m worried about me. Then, we’ll really have something to worry about.’ Turns out, I was worried about me. A LOT.
But something has changed since my little heart incidents of late. Maybe the meds are starting to work, but that little fire is back. And I’ll tell you how I know.
Yes, I’ve been trying to get our digital certificates done. Our padrons (town hall certificates) expire on the first Tuesday in March. Our aniversario de tres años of living in Spain. This sets us adrift in the paperwork universe that is Spanish bureaucracy. We are nobody if we are not registered with the townhall. But there are no appointments to re-register. The only path is to get a digital certificate, and register via their Electronic Service Desk. So I reached out to our lawyer and got a quote for what it would take for them to get it for me. €250 for each one of us! What? It’s filling out a one page form, then filing it on our behalf online using their digital certificate. I was livid. And that did it. The fuse to Kelli’s personal mascleta was lit. There would be a BOOM! Turns out, really pissing me off over something stupid is all it took. My little flame coughed and sputtered, then came to life.
Let me say this slowly. There is not a SNOW BALLS CHANCE IN HELL I’m paying €500 for our digital certificates. If I could get an appointment it would be FREEEE. I don’t care if we’re about to enter Spanish paperwork no-mans-land. I’m not doing it. It’s not the money. Its the audacity. We’ve spent plenty of money with that firm. Are there no loyalty points in the legal profession? Two for ones, or a Gift with Purchase? I get a gwp when I buy new spring lipstick at El Corte Ingles. Jeff feels like they have their fingers in our wallets on a permanent basis. But no more!
I was coming home from my successful Policia National appointment with my new NIE card tucked safely in my handbag. Minding my own business. We live in Benimachlet. It’s like the Greenwich Village or Pioneer Square of Valencia. A hodge podge of generations, ethnicities and funky shops. I love it! Even during the pandemic it is a hive of energy. There is a place in the neighbourhood I’ve passed, maybe 500 times. A scruffy gestoria store front. It looks dodgy. If you’re familiar with the amazing tv show ‘Better Call Saul’ on Netflix, it’s even dodgier looking than that. The desks are card tables.
After I informed Jeff that our fancy lawyer wanted to make his Tesla payment for the month by filing for our digital certificate, he suggested I pop into Gestoria de Dodgy to see what they had to say. ‘It won’t be more, and even if it is, I’d rather give them the money. Maybe they could buy desks.’ If you remember, gestors file paperwork on your behalf here. They are the administrative engine of the country. Since moving to Spain, we have learned never to judge a book by it’s cover. So, as I passed by, and they were open, I popped in. Being that they have never laid eyes on me before, I explained who I was. One of the guys spoke some ingles, then we Spanglished our way through what I needed. Finally, he typed in an address on his computer, tilted the screen towards me, and told me to ‘Go here.’ Pointing at a dot on Google maps. The village of Tavernas Blanques.
I was confused. It was a village outside the Valencian city limits. In the middle of the onion and chufa fields. I frowned, then questioned his sanity. He just laughed.
‘You need appointments. In Valencia, there are no appointments with Covid. In this village, they don’t do appointments. You just go. They will give you the digital certificate.
I was sceptical. Could this be true? Could it be that easy? ‘But I’m not from this village.’ I reminded him.
‘It doesn’t matter. Everyone knows. You go there when you need something you can’t get in Valencia. They will do what you need. Then you can get your padron, and whatever. But you must go to this village.’
He charged me nothing for this invaluable piece of information. And his hair wasn’t even slicked back with too much hair gel. Nor did his French cuffed cuff links flash under the glare of the blue flickering fluorescent tube lights. Because he was wearing an old sweatshirt, and he had clearly eschewed beard grooming during la pandemia. The yellowing fly strip riddled with old flies from last summer added to the general ambience. But he was a genius. And my saviour.
I came home and told Jeff what the people at the dodgy gestoria told me. He said ‘Let’s go!’ So we did. We took the metro out to Almassera. Its the town where my women’s futbol team played and practiced every Wednesday evening back in 2019. Seems like a thousand years ago. The home of Lladro, the world famous ceramic sculpture house. I love that town. If we were going to stay in Valencia, I would want to live in Almaserra. Its outside of the city but on the redline Metro to Rafelbuñyol, and an easy ride into the city centre.
The village of Tavernas Blanques is Almassera’s neighbor, and down- market little sister village, situated across the river. Almassera is filled with art and sculptures. It has its own performing arts centre. Bluntly, Tavernas Blanques is no Almaserra. But they have a town hall on a freshly remodeled village square with living walls. And a brand new Mercadona. All signs that they’re looking towards the future. And they do digital certificates. I looked up their opening hours online. We waited until 4pm when their lunch was over. Then we rang the bell. A cleaner woman came out to the gate in her apron complete with mop in hand, and spoke to us. I held up my plastic folder, as proof I was serious about completing some administrivia with the town hall, and told her I needed a certificado digital.
‘No.’ she told me ‘Jueves cuatro a seis. Solo.’ And she turned and went back inside with her mop.
Damn. But we were undeterred. My little flame bloomed into a campfire. We would return.
Today, on Jueves (Thursday) at precisely 4pm, we were back in the village square at the gates outside the Ajuntament de Tavernes Blanques with our plastic folders, passports, and freshly minted NIE cards in hand. Ready for the back door to the elusive Valencian certificado digital. Like hunting unicorns. They’re there. You just gotta know where to look.
We waited, again, in the square in front of the church. Jeff played a game on his phone while I eyed the front gate anxiously. Hoping we didn´t come for nothing, and the lady two days before knew what she was talking about. I saw a guy approach, then look at his watch. I got up and Jeff asked where I was going.
´There´s a line starting.’ I told him. ‘Look.’ And I pointed to the guy by the gate.
‘One guy doesn’t make a line. And besides, the church bells haven’t rung. I’m not getting up until the church bells ring. They’ll never open right at 4 o’clock.’ And he went back to his game.
Ugh. I got up and stood by the gate. When the bells peeled, Jeff got up without looking up from his phone and found his way to where I was standing. Just then, a guy came out with the key and opened the gate and we followed him inside.
The town hall of Tavernes Blanques is completely remodelled and gorgeous inside. And there was a full compliment of people at their desks encased in plastic to keep them, and the citizenry, safe. No waiting, and the person got us our digital certificates in 5 minutes. This was the total time for both of us. No kidding. In and out. And it was FREE.
We took the #6 tram home and it dropped us two blocks from our apartment. Jeff went into the office and got back to work. I immediately downloaded our digital certificates from the emails that were automatically generated while we were still in the village, and entered the codes the lady gave us. Voila! We are all set. In about 10 seconds I had re-registered us for our Padrons via the City of Valencia´s Electronic Service Centre. We will never stand in line at the Ajuntament de Valencia, ever again. I know, we´re moving, but still. The same will hold for Lugo.
Then I went out and filed all our paperwork for Social Security that we needed to provide. And it was all done electronically. As easy as you please. We can do our taxes this way and look up all sorts of records. We could even use it for immigration. We won´t need it now because we´re on a different visa type and somebody else handles that for us, but we could have used it to file our own non-lucrativo visa renewals online. The certificado digital the unlock to everything.
I love solving problems. Now I have other things on my list to concern myself with. This one is in the rear view mirror. But I can thank it for lighting me up and getting me going, again.