In my bag there were four newspapers, a book, a bottle of water and a simit. I even considered buying a small folding chair on the way. Why all this gear? I was going to the Great Big Horrible Foreigners’ Police Office this morning, to get my residence permit extended. The last few times I went there, I remember waiting for hours in a hall with about a hundred others and only about three chairs available, so I thought it would be a good idea to go as well-prepared as possible. Something to eat, something to drink, something to read and a whole lot of patience in my system. Now, taking something to sit on, OK, that seemed a bit much, so I just wore solid shoes that would support me nicely for some hours.
The Foreigners’ Police Office is a long way from home, so I left early and arrived there two minutes before ten. I took a deep breath and stepped inside. First stop would be the queue (well, it’s not really a queue, just a bunch of people jostling each other) at the information desk to get a number. After that, I would have to wait for the counter where residence permits are extended, with more people holding a number but nobody knowing whose turn it was. But the hall was empty. I was directed to what used to be a big empty room, and guess what? There were a whole lot of chairs where people could sit and wait! I was welcomed by a smiling woman behind a desk, asking me what I was there for. She gave me number 150.
I sat down and looked around. A monitor indicating which number was being attended to, and at which desk! Wow! It displayed numbers 105, 106 and 107. I took a sip of water, and started on the first newspaper. In the meantime, I heard the numbers go higher and higher, and within half an hour number 135 was on the screen. I quickly read newspaper two, and just when I was about to get my book out, it was number 149. And yes, 150! A smiling guy took my forms, typed some things, put some staples here and there, and ten minutes later said: “Your residence permit can be picked up tomorrow after two”. Totally flabbergasted, I left the building. It was 11.07. The Great Big Horrible Foreigners’ Police Office had turned into the Nice, Friendly and Efficient Foreigners’ Police Office! Hurray!