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Part Three: Most Official Paperwork; Most Officious Friends.

At this point, the conscientious chronicler faces a dilemma–how much detail do readers want? If I tell you how many trips I made to the tax office, how many trips out to the school where I taught, and the hours and hours I spent sitting around, you will be bored. On the other hand, I want to be accurate. We’ll see how well I manage to find the balance.

Also, for background, you can read parts one and two.

In order to ship your things from Morocco, you will need a piece of paper from the tax office stating you don’t owe any taxes in Morocco. This may sound simple. “It is simple,” says your shipping agent dismissively. “It will take 5 minutes. You have an office in your nigh-bourhood.” You don’t believe him. Oh sure, there may be a neighbourhood office, you’re willing to allow that. But you have heard horror stories about this piece of paper, of it taking over a month, and innumerable trips to the tax office.

Ismail offers to go with you, but you’re not sure if you want that. You start off at the neighbourhood office, where you are given a number and sit, in prickly Rabat summer  heat and humidity, watching an old woman who is bent nearly in half shuffle her way to a window. She drops something but picking it up is no problem, since she is already near the floor. You want to help her down the steps but a child (her grandson?) is there before you, holding her arm, guiding her.

The office can’t help you. You do have to go downtown, just like Ismail said. Donn says, “let’s just bring him,” so you do. And are you glad you did! For a start, he knows where to find parking. Then he waltzes past the entrance you thought was right, straight through another door and up a flight of stairs, where he engages a young man in conversation. In the time that it would have taken you just to find a place to leave your car, you find yourself in a back office talking with an efficient young woman.

She starts an uncontrollable giggle when you tell her, “I need a paper saying I don’t need to pay taxes.” (I meant to say “owe taxes” but it came out wrong.) “You don’t?” she begins faux-seriously, but you explain what you mean. Ah yes. She gives you a piece of paper that you need to fill out and get notarized that proves you are physically present in Morocco, because apparently she can’t believe her eyes. She also tells you that you will need two papers from the language school where you’ve been teaching, one stating your salary and what taxes were paid, and the other stating that you no longer work there.

You call the school and talk to the mercurial secretary, who blows hot and cold, helpful and friendly one day, annoyed and put out the next. It’s not one of her good days. “I will have the boss do this, and it will be ready for you on Friday,” she tells you. This isn’t good, since today is Tuesday, but oh well. You go to the mocatah, the place to get the paper notarized, and you stand in a long line that moves on average one person every 20 minutes. See, there is only one man who can stamp things, and he is in the zone, the zen zone that is, existing in his own world, impervious to the long line of sighing people crowded closely together and peering down at him from behind the high counter.

It only takes a couple of hours for it to be our turn. He peers at my id card, stamps the paper, has me sign a ledger, accepts my 2 dirhams payment, and we’re done, released out for a late lunch.

Friday afternoon, the secretary gives you one piece of paper and tells you that since you were paid hourly and worked part time, you can’t have the other. You try to argue the point but it’s no good–the boss is not there anyway. You take the one paper. It’s no use heading downtown to the tax office at this point–Friday is the Muslim holy day, and people tend not to go back to work after lunch-time prayers at the mosque.

However, you do have your monthly pay receipts, showing each month what your pay was and what taxes were taken from it. You realize you are missing two months, so you email the secretary and ask her to prepare them.

Monday morning, you go back out to the school. The secretary says she can’t print out the two receipts till the boss is there. He isn’t there. So you go back that afternoon. You ask the boss to sign and stamp the entire sheaf of papers–you are learning the Arab love of things that are officially stamped and initialed. You can even do it yourself now, although you secretly think it silly most of the time.

Tuesday, you, Donn and Ismail get back into your car and head downtown. Ismail is in fine mode, turning off the AC and explaining you don’t need it, telling you which lane to get into. But once inside, you are again very grateful for him. Thanks to him, the courier guy who stands in the corridor is on your side, helping you get in to see the official the next level up. She purses her lips at the one paper from the school and says you’ll need both. She says the receipts of payment are “nothing.” “But they’re all signed and stamped,” you point out helpfully. She also says she’ll need copies of your passport, local ID card, and rental contract. You leave and get all those things, then go back, but by this time it’s lunch time. You wait 30 minutes for her, and then she appears, briefly, to tell you she has no idea when her superior will be back.

Next day you’re there early, but not too early–being too early does not pay either. The 3 of you line up and you give the lady your sweet hopeful smile, the one that doesn’t assume too much and isn’t too big or teeth-baring. It seems to help. She takes all your papers and goes to “present” them to the next level up, then she comes back and tell us that ALL WE NEED is one more line on the paper from the school, stating my total salary over the months and the total amount of taxes paid. This can’t just be them adding up the receipts–the school needs to do this, sign and stamp it (I knew that was important!), and then it must be presented again.

I call my boss. “No problem,” he says. We drop off Ismail and head right over. The secretary, meanwhile, calls to tell me to come in tomorrow. Uh no, I tell her. We’re coming in right now. I am very polite but firm. So I go in and wait while, with much sighing and eye-rolling, she slowly types the new paper. I get it signed and stamped, then cheerfully wave goodbye to the secretary, who deigns to look up from her cell phone to give you a distant smile.

…this is getting very long. Part 3 1/2 coming soon.

August 2010
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