The Dreaded Appointment

Getting appointments in Galician bureaucracy has become big news of late. Never has a population’s ire been raised to such a fevered pitch. Peasants with torches and pitchforks at the gates of Frankenstein’s castle had nothing on these people.

During the pandemic, all appointments with Spanish bureaucracy- basically anything in Spanish life – required a pre-appointment. Cita previa. They confused me as it translates to prior appointment. This gets muddled when you are making a selection in a drop down on a government website and one of the options is prior appointment. What it’s really asking is if you want to make a prior appointment for an appointment. At first, this felt like I was in an endless loop. No, I didn’t have a prior appointment. I needed to make an appointment so that my appointment would then become a ‘prior appointment.’ But then, I realized that the prior appointment isn’t something in the past. It’s having an appointment before you turn up at whatever office in which you have business to conduct. Dear Lord.

And Then It All Changed…Except It Didn’t

Essentially, the pandemic measure are nearly disappeared. As of last week, all public transport no longer requires a mask. Flying to Valencia, the onboard announcement says it’s required, but none of the crew wore them, and half of the passengers were maskless. On the metro it was hit and miss. I needed a mask for the Drs, but not for the 20 or so farmacias I had to go to to get meds. Life is returning, somewhat, to normal. Except for the cita previa. Prior appointment. And the people are pissed off. So much so they have taken the government to court.

Last week, the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that post-state of emergency rules requiring a prior government appointment are unconstitutional. And limits citizens access to services they themselves pay for. The government works for the people, not the other way around. I’d like to see them rule on all the bureaucratic gymnastics that are an art form here. But I digress.

Requiring a prior appointment, that can only be obtained via a computer or mobile device, is discriminatory. Laws have been passed that have forced banks in Spain to attend older people in person, who A) don’t understand how to use an atm. B) don’t own a computer or smart phone. Or C) if they did, they couldn’t figure out how to navigate thru the maze of ridiculousness for obtaining an appointment. I understand this because I am far from elderly, and I needed an appointment with the Tesoria and could not figure out how to get an appointment online. And it nearly caused a divorce in our house, except that if I wanted one I couldn’t figure out how to get an appointment, so I could get an appointment to schedule it! So Jeff is safe – for now.

Jeff heard me muttering curse words under my breath at the dining room table, banging on my lap top. Ok, not so under-my-breath. Normally, I would be doing this in my office upstairs, but Fergus was whiney and if I went upstairs he would have kicked his separation anxiety into high gear. I needed this appointment because Spanish Social Security hates me. They take the payments out of my bank account, then send me delinquency notices. Anyone who knows me knows that I pay my bills. Early. So, the quickest way to raise my blood pressure is to mess with my money and my credit rating. I’ve divorced people for it. So I was in no mood for user experience friction.

Spanish government websites were designed in 1995, and never touched again. You can almost hear the sound of a dial up modem when they render – s l o w l y. If you go into an actual office they are filled with CRT’s and green screens running DOS. So any UI is just a skin stretched thinly over this dinosaur from the Pleistocene epoch. Sadly, swearing at it does no good. Ask me how I know. Jeff heard me and came out to ‘help.’ Right from the off, this would not go well.

‘Let me see what you’re doing.’ He sighed. ‘If you just have a little patience.’

My eyes narrowed. Mansplaining? After all these years, his answer is mansplaining? Does he have a death wish?

Jeff takes the mouse from me and begins clicking through menus. He frowns.

‘What is it you’re trying to do?’

Ooh. He asked a question. I informed him through gritted teeth. Where is my issues log when I need it? He clicked some more. Then, like any highly trained professional, he rendered his diagnosis.

‘This site is ridiculous. It’s impossible to make an appointment for the department you need. Go see Rubin.’ Not my hair dresser in Valencia, but our accountant/lawyer/miracle worker in Galicia. I’m pretty sure I only want to have service providers named Rubin. I don’t need to hear their litany of qualifications. Or fancy certificates or degrees. Your name is Rubin? Feel free to operate on my heart. I totally trust you. But Jeff wasn’t getting off so easy.

‘Why do you always assume I’m not doing it right?’ I asked.

He opened his mouth. Then promptly shut it tight, and returned to his office. Secure in the knowledge that whatever he might have said would have done him no favors.

And Speaking of Rubins

When I was having my hair repaired in Valencia, Rubin excitedly told me he had married his longtime partner the year before. He was glowing.

‘We went in October to get the appointment, to make an appointment to turn in all the papers so that we could schedule our civil ceremony.’

The old appointment to get the appointment is that extra special trick of Spanish bureaucracy, of which I am well acquainted. When you get an appointment, you can never ever assume this is the appointment. Oh no. Even if your particular operation, at whatever agency should only require one appointment, often they will make you come back. After you’ve gone online to schedule – wait for it – another appointment, of course. But, this time Rubin – that little bundle of positive energy – smiled and worked his magic. How did he accomplish this? I asked.

‘I told them our story. We met nine years ago on December 1st. But this was October. We couldn’t wait four months to get the appointment to make the appointment to schedule our ceremony. I had all the papers. We needed to marry on December 1st or we would have to wait another year. I even conjured some tears.’

I have so much respect for the theatrics, and said so. When it comes to bureaucracy you do whatever it takes.

‘I knew you would understand, Kelli. Anyway, there were three people working there. The woman turned to her colleagues. She couldn’t bypass the process without getting into trouble. She needed them as coconspirators. She shrugged in their direction, but they both put their hands over their eyes I don’t see nothing they told her. So she took our papers and scheduled us on December 1st. And now we are married.’

I had seen in the newspaper it’s a four month wait to get the first appointment, for the next appointment to make the appointment for the civil union. ‘Why four months?’ I asked Rubin.

‘Maybe so you can change your mind. But we have nine years.’ He told me, waving his comb. ‘We are not going anywhere.’

But I think it’s something else, entirely. The first test of the success of your marriage in Spain is your ability to work together to make an appointment with the civil registrar. If the two of you can navigate a Spanish government website together, you can survive anything.

I’m Not Alone

I like to read the opinion section of our Galician newspaper. We were enjoying our morning beverage the other day as I spotted a headline. I Thought I Was Smart Until I Tried To Make An Appointment. The author is a doctor, no less. But he got caught in an endless bureaucratic loop. An online government cul-de-sac from which there is no escape. I read it aloud to Jeff – laughing hysterically as I saw myself in every word.

After the Supreme Court ruling, all prior appointments are no longer required, except where they will still be required. On the government websites that are impossible to navigate, for the operations that are the most vital to people’s lives. Like Social Security. So, I feel sure there is more swearing and mansplaining in my future. But, like hairdressing Rubin and his new husband, Carlos, Jeff and I have a few decades under our belts. And it seems we’re not going anywhere.

9 thoughts on “The Dreaded Appointment

  • Your description of Spanish government websites is spot on! The amount of eye-rolling and cursing coming out of me every time I need to do something in any of those sites… 😂 And the number of times I think “someone got paid to do this *%&y job??” I think it must have been a ‘gestor’ setting up the whole system because every step of the process tries to push you to give up and hire a ‘gestor’ 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  • Oh in oh the appointment!! I just don’t get why you wait for weeks to get your appointment to get your residency card and then after that appointment you have to come back in 30 days to pick up your card! Why can’t they just process it and send you your ID!

    We had an agency try to deny us our Padron…they didn’t like our last name…not Spanish! Our family member argued with them that we had proof we own the property we were trying to get our Padron for and the guy finally approved it! That’s why I use our family attorney for everything now.

    He had to fight the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco because they gave us an NLV instead of the Golden Visa we applied for. It took 3 months to get it fixed. They never admitted they made a mistake.

    So, I really am impressed by you Kelli..having no one there and trying to do this on your own!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Its a riddle. They send your driving license in the post. Why not the NIE card?

      We do have a lawyer but I try to do stuff myself first. Why? Jeff asks the same question. Stubbornness, I think. Maybe pride. I feel like I shouldn’t need a lawyer to make a Social Security appointment. But I eventually had to go to him to get everything straightened out. It was so messed up. They have back door access to bureaucracy. He did our home contract when we bought the farm. And all our business legal work. I wouldn’t even attempt that on my own. And our wills. I food myself into believing I will eventually be self sufficient but its a pipe dream. Luckily, Rubin is younger than me. By the time we expire he will still be in business to execute our wills. Almost cradle to grave svs. 😂


      • I think I might want to meet Rubin! 😃. So far we have been pretty fortunate that our family and our contractor seem to be connected in our little world. However our designer from Madrid is always having issues with the Architect and contractor in Galicia. Working at their own pace. Guess they don’t like the “city man”. Now if only the pool contractor would respond and give us a price to build our pool. Fortunately today in Madrid is a big pool expo. Adrian is pretty sure he will find s great contractor that will respond and do the work.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Rubin is a good guy. When we have a pool put in – after it takes twi years to get it approved 🤣 – we will use a company in Santiago. Probably just a drop in pool. No gunite like our pool in Seattle. Contractors are so hard to come by up here. And getting the work done is s l o w. We are learning just to let go. Or its crazy making.


  • The appointment to get an appointment is a wonderful invention A lot of people are complaining about this and are often told to get a Gestor to help, which they don’t want to do because they shouldn’t need one but, the bottom line is, the Gestor’s know their way around the system, and that’s what you pay them for. We’re too old for this stress and call Graham at the drop of a hat 🎩.
    I hope you get your SS payments sorted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So frustrating. The population of Spain is old – on average. The majority of ppl were born before the internet. It’s crazy you can’t go and take a number in a government office and have at least one window to help walk ups. It sometimes feels like bureaucrats want to make it as complex as possible to justify their job. The ghost in the machine and no one it watching over it.


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