As legal non-citizen residents of the great nation of Switzerland, we have to renew our permits annually. Coming from the United States, the thought of doing this struck fear and dread into my soul. Not only do I have to deal with a government office, I have to add the horrors of doing it in German, with my children. Oy. (Sarah, at 6, is now required to sign her own name on her permit.)
But, I should have known better. The Swiss don't have a reputation for efficiency for no reason.
We received the paperwork in the mail, telling us when to appear and to bring new passport photos of ourselves. (In case we have somehow become better looking since last year, which is possible, because our last year's permits had no where to go but up. Jason and I look like the couple you see on the nightly news who have just been arrested for making meth. We actually wondered why we got married in the first place, as we both look so hideous, we couldn't imagine being attracted to each other. But, I digress. We're much better looking in person.)
Getting the passport photos was painful because we had to go into a photo booth, put in some coins (8CHF) and let the machine take our pictures. Should be easy enough, but Daniel was terrified of the whole thing and screamed. This is problematic because one of the rules was that no teeth can be showing.
After 6 tries with Daniel, we chose one with his eyes open and his teeth showing, figuring the woman would reject us and our silly photographs and we would have to mail in a new one.
So, off we went to Frenkendorf. This meant a 15 minute train ride through the largest freight depot in Switzerland. Daniel was in heaven. "Train! Train! Train!" he shouted as we went by.
Our appointment was at 3:30. Wanting to be prompt we were in the office by 3:25. There was one family at the window.
That family left, we approached the window and handed the woman our passports and new photos. She had right next to the window our paperwork. Can you imagine that happening in a US government office? Seriously. We had an appointment and she was ready for us. Bizarre.
She laughed at Daniel's picture. (It is funny.) Didn't faint at the rest of the family's pictures. (Sarah looks something like Wednesday from the Addams Family.) Gave us forms to sign. We signed them and we handed them back to her.
Then we all said "Tschuss!" and headed out the door. Time? 3:28.
Seriously. We were there for 3 minutes. No waiting, no whining. 3 minutes.
This was on a Monday and we got our new permits in the mail on Friday.
This is how bureaucracy should work.