Red Tape

I’ve always known that Spain has a ton of unnecessary red tape, but I never really knew the extent of it until yesterday.

I know that when I have to go to the bank, I get up at 6 in the morning, I eat an enormous breakfast (so that I’m full in case I end up waiting there all day), and make sure I’m the first person to be there to avoid the line that always builds.

I know that when I need to turn in any papers for my visa or job, I know that I have to make a ridiculous amount of copies of useless papers and make sure that they are in the correct order and that they stapled correctly, etc. and that I’m going to wait for hours so I bring my homework, iPod, a book, anything to keep me entertained while I wait.

I know that when I have to go to the grocery store, I know I’m going to wait in line for a good époque.

And I know that honestly if I go anywhere, I’m going to wait.

But yesterday, I’ve never seen it worse.

I received a letter saying I had a package waiting for me, but it was all the way out in Barajas at the airport, which is a good hour away. First, it seems a little ridiculous to me to have to go all the way there for my package. But moreover, not only is it far away, but they close every day at 2pm and they don’t work weekends. So therefore, I would never have a chance to get it because I work everyday during their open hours. It makes me wonder what the rest of the country does when they have packages and things, but they work, and can’t make it either. I guess that’s one of the reasons why nothing gets done here…

So I asked one of the teachers I work with if she could help me understand what I needed to do to get the package. She read the letter they sent me but she didn’t really understand it either. Fortunately, she called them for me and said that I had to go there and that I had to write a formal letter saying that I was an American, that the package was a gift from my parents, that I work here in Spain and what is inside the package and how much the contents are worth.  Seems a little unnecessary, but whatever. I wrote the letter. Luckily my co-workers are wonderful and they let me ditch the remainder of my classes to get the package because they understood that I’d have no other way of getting it. But that makes me really sad because I would much rather be teaching my students than having to go all the way to the airport for a package. Something just isn’t right when I have to miss out on Spanish children’s education to get a stupid package.

So I left the school to catch the bus. I knew at the time that I had two options to get to the airport: 1. Catch the 800 bus that will take me right to the airport; or 2. Take the train across the entire city of Madrid which would essentially take me the entire day.

To my surprise, that lone 800 bus that comes once every never showed up immediately and took me to the airport within 40 minutes. Well, it took me to Terminal 4. I needed Terminal 1. So I waited 10 minutes for the next bus to come by and take me to T1. 25 minutes later, I arrived at T1

Then I wandered the airport to find out where the Correos office was. And not to my surprise, I had to catch another bus. I waited 10 minutes for this one to arrive, and then another 10 minutes on the bus, and finally, I got dropped off where I was supposed to go.

From there, I went to the Aduanero where my package was supposed to be. I waited about 5 minutes in line there for the guy to finally ask me, “Where is your form?” I handed him the letter I got in the mail and he said that that wasn’t the form. I had to go to another building, get some form and then bring it back. So, I wandered through the lost streets of this industrial zone to find out that there were actually two Correos buildings so I had to decide which one was the correct one. I chose the correct one first try, thank god.

I get there, I wait in line for about 20 minutes, the guy takes my paper and tells me to have a seat. So I wait another 10 minutes and the guy finally hands me my papers. So I go back to the original building, the guy looks over all my papers, asks me a few simple questions, and then stamps the form I had brought him. Then he says that I have to go back to the building I had just come from to get my package.


I swore I was in some sort of film or prank. It was something straight out of the films where the characters never find where they need to go. I was waiting for the TV crew to pop up from around the corner to tell me that I was being filmed in some trick. But they never showed up.

Begrudgingly, I went back to that building, waited 10 more minutes, paid 5 euros for some ridiculous tax fee, then took a seat to wait for someone to actually bring me my package. 10 minutes later, I finally had it in my hands.

Then I had the pleasure of catching the bus back to the airport, and then from there ride the metro back home that takes 50 minutes.

All in all, it took me about three hours, tested all my nerves, patience, and clarity, wasted my whole day, and finally, I got to celebrate by opening my package of contact lenses, flannel shirts, and chapstick.

Enjoy: Red Tape by Circle Jerks

3 thoughts on “Red Tape

  1. O-kay. That was pretty shitty, and that’s how the whole red tape (paperwork?) works in Spain. I knew that for official documents it was like this, but I didn’t expect this of Correos. At least, you got lucky with the bus, though.


  2. Graham! I know what you mean with the Spanish red tape laws. All a guy wants to do is get down to business and figure out what to see in Spain when a big pile of bureaucracy lands square on his lap.

    Remember by first foibles at the Ayuntamiento here in Caceres. Wasn’t a pretty time!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s