Since I needed to go into Madrid anyway, I tried my hand at Aluche.
(Aluche is topped like a circus tent, blue and white and swirly. It's the place in charge of sending out the letters that tell you to come on down, get fingerprinted, wait 45 days for a plastic card that proves you're a legal resident of Spain. But Spain has conveniently decided not to send me this letter for the second year in a row, so here it is, nearly the new year, and I've spent seven months of my new card not having it in hand.)
The laywer told me to go first to Manuel Luna, which is the place I first went last January. (You may recall that I handed my first stack of papers to the authorities in June and finally received that residency card the following February.) "Is it necessary to start there?" I emailed back, since last year's visit resulted only in a wasted day of school and some lady at a desk telling me I should've gone to Aluche in the first place.
Anyway. Friday. First day of Christmas vacation, and I had a date. With destiny.
I walked into the carnival of bureaucracy with a sheet of paper I'd printed from the secret website which no one's ever told about directly, just learns of through others having paperwork woes--like a secret password handed around between members of a secret society. The man ushered me through the door, and though I was supposed to request a fingerprinting date on the second floor, something inside me--something spontaneous and adventurous and, I don't know, maybe glutton-for-punishmentous--decided just to stand in the short line. The line where all the people who received their letters go. A kid on the "naughty" list, trying to sort things out with Santa--that was me.
A few minutes later, someone pointed me to a desk. I slid my paper stack across the table to a man who clicked a few buttons and typed a few things, then handed me the bank form for the extra tax I needed to pay. "That's it," he said.
"That's it? Just this, and the photos, and these papers?"
"And your passport."
"And that's all?"
(Keep in mind that this was in Spanish, so my part of the conversation probably really sounded like, "And all? This and photos and papers and is everything, yes?")
Could it be? Could I dare to hope against hope that my piddly little internet paper would in fact grant me access to fingerprinting that day? I rushed from the building, powerwalked the next few blocks back to the train station, and asked some nearby policemen for the nearest bank. The first two banks had signs posted on the front door: We only allow payment of 790 tax between 8 and 10. 11am. Dang it. I rushed around the corner, paid my form, hustled back to the train station to get some quick passport photos done (since both photo booths at Aluche were broken), and nearly skipped all the way back to Aluche, fists clenched around the papers. Once again, I stood in line just to see what would happen.
I'd been composing happy facebook statuses in my mind, things like, "The world must be ending today: Spain has finally decided it likes me!" The man at the booth must've seen the hope in my eyes, because he reached out to snap it in half. "This is not an official date." He jabbed at the paper that declared me approved. "Who told you this was okay?"
"I don't know, this guy who was sitting there, he said I just needed these three things..." (Again, a more literal translation would be, "Um, uh, don't know, a man he who seat yourself here, he say this is good.")
"This is not a date."
"Okay. Where do I go?"
I hear stories of people who glide into Aluche with their paperwork and glide out two months later, card-wielding members of this crazy country. Sarah even got a letter reminding her that her residency documents were due! As for me and my household, we resigned ourselves to the second floor, where an indifferent man stamped a piece of paper and handed it to me. March 6th, 2013. By the time I actually receive my residency card, I'll have about six weeks left in Camarma. Apparently Spain wants to save my card for a going-away present.
This video pretty much sums up all feelings I have regarding this process:
P.S. On the brighter side, I rode the train into Madrid with two dorm kids. One of them was sniffling incessantly halfway through the trip and kept asking us for Kleenexes. "Where is a bum selling Kleenexes when you need them?" (It's common practice for people to walk up and down the aisles of commuter trains, setting Kleenex packets on your lap and hoping you'll buy them.)
A few minutes later, a homeless man with a "Pide Ayuda" sign did enter the car. As he neared us, asking for money, our boy asked, "Got any Kleenexes?"
"Of course I don't have Kleenex! I live on the streets!"
"Oh, okay, man. No worries."
And that, friends, is a little something I like to call irony.