A Reason for Shaving My Head

So I can’t pull out what hair I have left.

Today I spoke with a Swiss bureaucrat.

We are waiting for our residency permits, which we applied for on the second day we arrived. Six weeks ago.

Three weeks ago we were notified by mail that Jessica and the boys’ permit photos were rejected: They were smiling. The Swiss reviewer carefully pointed out that lips must be closed in the photos. This is one of 25 stipulations for proper photo taking. We had been OK with the 24 other stipulations. Missed the not smiling.

Last week, in a phone conversation, I was assured that the permits had been completed and would arrive by Wednesday. It is now Friday. No permits. Which means we can’t buy a car, can’t get a local cell phone, can’t get a permit for street parking, and can’t buy the double special centuries-old best thing you have never tasted Swiss-residents-only chocolate (OK, I made the last one up, although I am willingly to bet something like it exists… people here are very protective of their goodies).

So I call the immigration office to find out the status of the permits. And proceed to have a 20-minute Who’s on First? conversation revolving around the city vs. immigration office, the hours of operation of both, the computer systems access and who out of 100 people in the immigration office I had initially spoken to.

I finally got a response – call back on Monday. This type of round-about conversation with service people in Basel is pretty typical. Here, people are trained to be helpful, but also they are trained to take every question literally and never jump outside the box of that question. Please follow the line, sir. It will take you around the building several times and back to exactly where you started, but look how perfectly straight the line is drawn, and what a fresh yellow color it is maintained in.


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  • David  On November 13, 2010 at 6:24 am

    I am having exactly the ame experience thousands of miles away…also about Basel

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