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Have you ever had your patience tested by bureacratic procedures which appear to make no sense at all? Let this article be an ode to the common suffering, and a celebration of the extreme feeling of accomplishment after reaching victory, to all of us who have tried heroic acts such as filling out - correctly, I might add - tax returns, bank loans and such.

On a recent visit to the Czech Republic, the country I escaped as a teenager, I decided to apply for a passport. Having reconnected with my family there and having found out that there would be a visa required for all Canadians traveling to the Czech Republic as of April this year, I thought it would be a good idea to have one. Also, I guess that some form of nationalistic pride stays with us, even as we move away from where we were born..

I start at wicket number 18, with my original birth certificate proudly in my hands. I am confident this procedure will be quick and easy. My idealism is about to get shattered.

"This is not the correct certificate, Miss. It is missing one page. Yes, I know all of the information is on what you have but I cannot accept this without the first page. Please go to wicket number 17." I can handle this; it's a reminder of why I left.

At wicket 17, the lady informs me, "Miss, you need to go to the first floor to get confirmation of Czech citizenship. No, it is not good enough that you have an unexpired passport from 8 years ago. The country has split into two since then and that passport is no longer valid, even as evidence of citizenship."

On the first floor, am redirected again. "To get confirmation of Czech citizenship, you need a birth certificate from our other building about ten minutes away. Also, you need confirmation of permanent residency from wicket 8."

The lady at wicket 8 is not there and does not appear even after a ten- minute wait. Apparently she is on her break. I decide to try my luck in the other building and come back to wicket number 8 later.

In the other building, a sign says to knock on door number 7 for birth certificates for foreign country purposes, door number 6 for Czech Republic. I live in Canada so I figure door number 7 would be for me.

Door number 7 is closed and has a sign directing us to door number 8 for information. Yes, a live human being!

I knock on door number 8. "Miss, here we can give you information but we cannot do what they do behind door number 7. Wait outside for your turn."

15 minutes later. "Miss, we can give you a birth certificate to use in foreign countries. For a birth certificate to be used for a Czech passport, go to door number 6." At 8:55 am, I sit down beside door 6.

At 9:50 am, I am called in. Strangely enough, they do not appear surprised by my request for a birth certificate and they don't send me elsewhere. With the "real" birth certificate in hand, I go back to the first building. Back to wicket number 8.

The miss responsible for wicket number 8 is again not there. Another coffee break.

12 minutes later, she appears at wicket number 8. I raise my request for confirmation that, at one point in time, I had permanent resident status in Czechoslovakia. Miss looks through her records and informs me that I had never left the Czech Republic.

I try to explain to this gentle soul that I escaped Czechoslovakia in 1985 and, in fact, have lived in Canada for over 15 years. She states that, according to her records, I have never left. Because I never left, I have a citizenship card that I need to show her.

I explain further that, when we left in 1985, we were required to leave our citizenship cards at home. We were only allowed to take our passports while away from Czechoslovakia. Since our apartment and everything inside it was confiscated after our escape, the citizenship cards would not have been recoverable. I can see this is making things even more difficult for her.

"The police would have notified us. They didn't. I don't think you ever left."

This conversation goes on for another few minutes. I offer her a way out of the conundrum: I tell her that whether or not I had ever left makes no difference to my being able to get confirmation of permanent residency. At this, she relaxes visibly and issues the residency confirmation. Now back to wicket 18.

At wicket 18, where I am to get confirmation of Czech citizenship, I am asked to fill out a form and to hand in a birth certificate and confirmation of residency. I hand those over and the lady asks me to come back on Wednesday. It is Monday 10:20 am and I am leaving for London early on Tuesday. This good soul is actually helpful to me and offers to have it done by 11 am. Excellent. I will have enough time to get the passport now.

I pick up the citizenship certificate and apply for the passport. My first application does not pass muster - my signature falls outside the box. Then I am told I have to pick up the passport in person in the Czech Republic or at an embassy in Montreal, Canada. There is no embassy in Vancouver and the lady doesn?t think that it can be just mailed. They need a signature. MY signature. NO powers of attorney will be accepted.

I WAS able to get a passport that day, just for shorter duration. The other one is still waiting to be picked up in the Czech Republic. When I get over there next, I wonder where they will send me then. Montreal? Moscow? Tokyo?

In situations like these, we can be frustrated or we can laugh with it all. Just think of Dilbert cartoons and the saying, "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." Let's do the same. With humor, things may not get much faster but they ARE less stressful!:)

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"A problem cannot be solved from the same mindset that created it."
Albert Einstein


In our "me" culture, we have often tended to reject any notion that we should change for anybody under any circumstances. "If you don't like me just the way I am, well, you can just go on your merry way", is a frequent answer to a request for change of behaviour.

My assumption is that this "me" thinking is responsible for many of the problems our society experiences with high rates of divorce, business disagreements, high turnover rates and problems in schools. Bosses, employees, partners, spouses, parents and kids alike are wanting their autonomy so much that most requests for change are seen as an attack on our individuality.

Does this need to be the case or can we be more flexible without losing our autonomy? I think so. Recently, I talked to my boyfriend about a friend who has liked a girl for a long time but, being more casual than she is, has decided to keep wearing his shorts and T-shirts, rather than ever get dressed up for her. He is still pursuing her. My boyfriend?s simple question was, "what is more important to him? The girl or the shorts?"

A simple question, and so applicable to so many situations. So often, we take actions that help us be right, but less happy. What do you do when you are asked for change of behavior? Resist on principle, or ask first, "What is more important to me?" Asking first gives us the perspective to decide what we really want. This isn?t about giving in to others, it IS about giving to ourselves:)

"The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. Do the important things first - because where you are headed is more important than how fast you get there."
Stephen Covey


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"Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for."
Earl Warren






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