Dr. Meldezettel: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bureaucracy

So today, I decided to tackle two major items from my to-do list: getting my cell phone, and buying a Semesterkarte for the Vienna public transportation system. I figured that this would be a (relatively) straightforward process, given that I had done some research and thought I had a handle on what was needed. “Thought” is the operative word here.

I have confidence in me!

Since I had heard good things about them, I went to Orange for my cell phone. They had a shop on Kärtner Straße, about a ten-minute walk from the Academy. I go in, armed with (I thought) the appropriate documents:

  • My passport
  • My bank account information
  • My Meldezettel—seriously, if you sneeze in this country, you have to show your Meldezettel to get a tissue

The wait isn’t too long, and thankfully the guy behind the counter speaks English. I tell him I want the “Einer für Europa” contract, which includes about 100 minutes per month for calls to other EU countries (so I can get in touch with my sister if need be). Great! We need to see some ID, bank account information, Meldezettel, and…

“Your residence permit card, please?” I’m sorry?

“I’m afraid we cannot sell you a contract without a residence permit card.” I would like to take this opportunity to affirm, for the ages, that this is a load of crap. That’s not to say it isn’t policy, but that the policy is itself crap. You don’t need my residence permit card (which, of course, I don’t have, because even if I had been able to turn it in on the day of my arrival, wouldn’t be here now, because it takes them two to three weeks to even start looking at your application). All you need is money and ID, both of which I would have been happy to supply. Besides, this isn’t a contract that locks you in for two years—that’s why I picked it. So instead, I bought a decent enough phone and some pay-as-you-go minutes. Of course, it wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had no idea what my new number was, or, indeed, how to find it. Well done, me!

Either way, I still had to get my Semesterkarte, so it’s over to the Information desk at the Stephansplatz U-Bahn station. I tell the gentleman I want to buy a Semesterkarte. Sure thing, he tells me. Where do you go to school? The DA. So do you have a Berechtigungskarte?

Say what?

Apparently, the DA isn’t on the Wiener Linien’s list of universities, so I have to go to a different station, down in Erdberg, to get the aforementioned Brechtigungskarte—making sure, of course, to have a passport-sized photograph for them to put on it. Then, I can come back to Stephansplatz, fill out an application, pay 75 Euro, and—hey presto!—get my Semesterkarte.

Whatever happened to German efficiency? Okay, fair enough, this is Austria. But this amount of running around seems troublesome, if not downright obstructive. Before you can fill out one form, you must fill out two more. In block writing, in triplicate, and stamped by an appropriate authority, who isn’t here right now because it’s lunchtime and can you maybe come back after two but before four-thirty and take a number?

It’s times like this I have to remember to take a deep breath and do things one thing at a time. I don’t have to have everything done right away. Slowly and surely, things will get completed. I will have my residence permit card. I will switch over to a decent contract, and buy my Semesterkarte, and start finding other things to worry about. In the meantime, I have to fill out some forms.

Oh yeah.

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