Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Down goes the anarchist

I am 37 years old. Most of those years if the mass went right, I went left. And, of course, visa versa. Not much has changed really, or at least that's what i like to convince myself of these days. I have been 'unofficial' - statistically, legally, administratively - for well over 15 years. I don't own a home. Don't pay taxes. Don't have health insurance. No pension plan. No college fund. No eggs nest. Nada. Nista. Nula.

I have a feeling that is all about to change. My semi-nomadic, slightly anarchistic lifestyle has downshifted over the years. I actually own a car that works and isn't over 20 years old. I bought a lovely piece of land in the hills behind Sarajevo (although i still struggle with the concept of land 'ownership', but i figured it'd be better not to wind up on a reservation like many other like minded rainbow warriors). The land, of course, is not registered in my name, simply for the fact that i really don't exist anywhere. So how could i possibly own land then, right? Luckily my better half, although we really dance to most of the same drums, in this respect, is night from my day.

At 37 i am getting married, inshallah. Never too late, huh? So what is this rambling all about...i guess i should get to my point. The wedding is 6 months away. Plenty of time a normal anarchist would think. Wrong. Dead wrong. I've recently learned of the 'paper process' ahead of me...and lord have mercy, my reasons for living outside of the system lit up like the red light district in Amsterdam for me today.

Part of this fun process is to get me recognized by the state. Even though the state doesn't necessarily recognize itself, we have to be recognized by it. So it goes.

There are police forms. Employment forms. Contracts to be signed. Diploma's to be translated and notarized. Birth Certificates too. Medical check-ups. Aids tests. Criminal record checks. And i've just skimmed the surface, no shit!

Today was my ljekarska ovjerenje. For you ferners, that's my medical check-up, certifying i am healthy and worthy enough to be a duly employed and married person of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It was a rainy day today. When i pulled up to the ramp at the dom zdravlje (medical clinic) to park, i quickly found out that i was horribly mistaken. This was not a parking area, 'couldn't i tell', screamed the ramp guard at me. I pulled my dumb foreigner card, apologized (unheard of by Bosnian males), and offered to turn my car around and get out of everyones way. This always works for me. After an apology and admitting he was right, i got a front row parking space....yup, behind the ramp. I went from idiot to VIP in a matter of seconds. I love this place.

Trying to find ones way through the labyrinth of Otok's dom zdravlje turned out to be relatively painless. The crumbling steps and hovered masses bearing the rain to have a fag was a familiar site. I found the desk i was supposed to find. The woman was extremely pleasant, and with a big smile took 150 KM from me. I had heard all the rumours about the medical check-up, and how it was as easy as passing a tehnicki pregled (vehicle inspection) in Bosnia. Just pay and done deal. Full stop. I wasn't expecting that today to be honest though, and that was a good thing. For my 150 KM i received a little piece of paper with 7 room numbers on it. That was to be my day, visiting 7 rooms for my eyes, my urine, my blood, my blood pressure, my mental state....the whole nine yards.

For some reason there were mainly men waiting with me. They fidgeted endlessly...which i later realized were nicotine fits. It also made me think that if this was a typical day for workers to get medical checks for their work permits -- why were there no women? A question one could ask about most things in the Balkans. Where are the women people? They are our backbone!

The psychologist seemed to enjoy chatting with me very much. That took the longest. I thought she'd bust out a coffee pot and we'd chat for the rest of the day. But what can you do, she's the boss, right. Then i went to the lab. The woman didn't even lift her head, just took my little piece of paper and started scribbling in the massive notebooks that they love so much here. She passed me a white plastic cup with the number 45 written on it in blue marker and told me to sit down over there to take a blood sample. The nurse extracted my blood with utter perfection. Then i was off to the toilet.

I didn't really have to pee, but i managed a few drizzles. Outside in the main hallway was a small tray stand, with about 50 other plastic cups filled with urine. Just sitting right there in hall. I added mine to the bunch and inspected my little piece of paper. It made me think of my crazy friend Chuck, whose musical talents have created jingles such as this one...

'when you're in, you're in. But when you're in urine, you're in urine.' Disgusting, yes. Clever, absolutely.

The x-ray of my lungs was next in line. The doctor told me to take off my shirt and step over to the machine. I didn't get him at first and he got pissed off rather quickly. I played my foreigner card again and he apologized. His anger immediately disappeared as well, funny thing. It was cold, but painless nonetheless. Off to my EKG. This was fun. Shirt off again, this time i understood. As the nurse was preparing the 'gear', which was no doubt a relict from the 1980's at best, she proclaimed herself a mahalusa (which is basically a gossip goddess). That she was. The questions rolled off her tongue with no shame. I enjoyed it...and answered each one of her 25 questions thoroughly. She knew my life story when i walked out 3.5 minutes later. She had obviously done this before.

The eye doctor was a special treat too. The book they held up for me to read was so yellow and aging that i was certain that it had been read to a child when i was, indeed, a child. The corners were tattered, the front cover torn and hanging on for dear life. Then came the numbers on the far wall. Before i could start reciting the numbers i saw she covered that eye and switched to the next. She asked me to read the same numbers, which i had remembered, so didn't even really need to look at the board at all to pass my eye exam.

Then came the finale. Little medical history. Blood pressure reading. Listened to my lungs, all normal stuff. Then the shirt had to come off again...and by now i could have said it in satrovacki (sort of like the Bosnian version of cockney) if they had asked. I had to walk about, first on my tip toes, then heels, the bob up and down and do squats. I felt like i was in PE in the 3rd grade and Mr. McIntyre was yelling at us to go faster.

After almost three hours it was over. No harm done. Had told my life story. Shed myself of a bit of blood and urine. Dueled with a psychologist. Exercised with a doctor. Read children's books. Watched grown men squirm in their seats dying for a cigarette.

I am now ready for the courts and police. Trying to bring yourself to life after 15 years of being neither here nor there won't be pleasant - but it'll at least give me something to write about.


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