In our second monthly column reflecting on the Romanian experience from the perspective of a native whose life has primarily been spent abroad, BR’s resident repat will temporarily fill the expat’s shoes by musing on life back home, more specifically, car registering hell.
By Eugenia Pupeza
I got my driver’s license 18 years ago, in Italy, so I am no novice to bureaucracy, or chaotic driving for that matter. Or so I thought. The past month and a half as a car owner and traffic participant in Bucharest have tested me in many ways, as I motivationally sing Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive before approaching the Arc de Triumph roundabout intersection and the Piata Eroilor subway-building nightmare.
But today, a short story about how I came into the legal possession of my vehicle – I call it “How to Test Your Every Last Nerve” or “Arm Yourself with a Phenomenal Amount of Patience”. As in every country (though in this case, I can only speak of experiences in Italy and the US), when you purchase a car, you have to register it at the respective Registry of Motor Vehicles. Simple? Perhaps everywhere else. In Romania, the friend from whom I was purchasing the car and I are wandering around the Pipera DRPCIV (where basically every car-related transaction occurs in Bucharest and Ilfov), when we are approached by a woman yelling “ACTE!” (papers) in the middle of the street, next to the crosswalk. We say yes, and follow her into the building across from the Pipera DRPCIV.
After many twists and turns past insurance brokers of every kind, we sit down at a table and she starts to place a Contract for Selling/Purchasing into a typewriter. Yes – I said a typewriter. My friend gives her the papers, I give her my ID, she asks us the sale price of the car and types away, as we stare in awe at each other, at her, at each other. “Is this legal? Can this really be how things are done?” our silent gazes ask. However, being so awestruck, neither my friend nor I can say a word. Following what seems like an eternity of typing, we are asked to sign the contract, pay for the insurance, pay her the broker’s fee for preparing our documents and are rushed on our way. “So, we go to the police with the contract and that’s it?” we ask. Of course not – my friend must go the District 2 Public Finance Administration to renounce ownership of the car and get the contract signed and stamped. She does so the next day – it only takes four hours of waiting in line.
Step 3, I must take the signed contract to my District 1 Public Finance Administration section so that I can assume legal ownership and pay taxes. I go the following morning at 8am – only 20 people in front of me!!! – I rejoice. I leave the office three and a half hours later, much less joyful.
The wait begins
Finally, Step 4, the final step, taking all the documents and the old license plates to the Pipera DRPCIV. Despite hearing horror stories of public administration office lines, I myself had never really had to wait very long. Five minutes to reissue my birth certificate, 10 minutes to get my passport, 10 minutes to convert my driver’s license from the Italian one to the Romanian one. So all I would have to wait here would be maximum one hour. I would do it during my lunch break. The following day I arrive ready to take my number to wait in line – it says 524. I feel a chill go down my spine. Could my luck finally have run out? I look at the screen that displays the numbers being served – it says 128. It seems like I’ll need an actual strategy this time. I put the license plates back on the car.
The opening times for the Pipera DRPCIV are 7am – 9pm. I’ll come in the morning at 6am, I resolve. That way, I’ll be among the first in line for sure. The following morning I take the license plates off the car once more. I show up at 6am – people scattered everywhere. Is there a line, I ask. No, but there’s a list that was started at 2am as people show up. I look at the list – 167 people in front of me so no way I can make it to work by 8am. I put the license plates back on the car. New strategy – I’ll come after work and wait in line as long as it takes since they close at 9pm. The following day, I take the license plates off the car. I show up at 5pm – certain of my victory. I go to print a number at the machine – all numbers for the day have been given out. #Killmenow #fml
I take an Uber home and the mystery is revealed. Apparently, the driver tells me, because the “environmental stamp” and hefty tax have recently been removed, everyone and their long-lost grandmother are registering their used cars. He tells me to get an appointment online. Not possible – appointments are only available after a one and a half month wait, whereas I have to register the car within 30 of signing the contract.
Finally, I do what every Romanian does when in need of help – ask the family. The following day my cousin goes to the Pipera DRPCIV at 1pm, gets a number and brings it to me at work. At 5pm, I take the number back to the Pipera DRPCIV, wait one hour and everything is solved. I have that “on top of the world” feeling that I imagine one gets when climbing Mount Everest; where else can you get such a feeling from a few dealings with public administration offices? Moral of the story – if you don’t work for it, you don’t feel you earned it, and family is everything.