I arrived at a leisurely 10am, as service was merely starting; was about to pick up number 32 for the queue at the N desk for people-with-brains-not-just-biz-minds, when a young woman in a swirl and a smile slid a 23 card in my hand (I have that rock-star effect on chicks lately, I find) and that by itself cut my waiting time there by one hour. A kiss to you, lassie, whoever you were. All papers were OK, well almost, just go and do me xeroxes of this and that passport pages, at 3 baht a sheet, hi, hi, ma’am.
Then there was another rather lengthy wait for getting the 1000-baht-squeeze reentry permit stamped in the passport but that was by for the course and by 12:20 I was out of the premises − amazing! I felt like a marathon early finalist.
Then it was another taxi ride to the Labour Ministry in another part of town, Asoke−Din Daeng. At one something pm, I went up the stairs to get a queue number (446), saw that 410+ was being processed, went down for an excuse of a meal at 30 baht the bowl in the refectory, then back up again (419) and went on reading that Middle Temple crime story of a century ago on the iPad I started reading last night until my number was called. I had to prevent myself from crashing discombobulated to the floor by the water cooler: the night before, had gone to bed at 2am, got up at 4am to pee, and by before 5am ’twas clear I wouldn’t go back to sleep − a condition known in colloquial Thai as ‘por sor dor‘, polite shorthand for prasart daek, your nerves are all fucked up.
And then that’s when the proverbial fan was hit: I had failed to get the big guy at the ministry, who had got us waiting for a week to sign his name twice, to honour an extra piece of paper which was plainly conceived to address businesses only and which on the two previous occasions (this was the third year) the ministry had dismissed as below their status to fill in, given that the sponsoring letter addressed by the big Culture Min honcho to the big Labour Min honcho (besides the one to the big Immigration honcho) amply covered the ground, show us some respect, ai ha.
Followed a palaver which involved no fewer than half a dozen officials at various levels of (in)competence and authority. My last year’s file was threatened to be dug up anew to disprove my point that the form had been ignored two years running. I was even threatened with a phone confrontation with the department’s lawyer who would no doubt have sworn that the form was abiding to all since-we-say-so, but mercifully the call never got through. Staking my ground in fluent Thai without getting mad and with an ice-floe smile took really a lot out of me in my semi-comatose condition.
Eventually, some sort of a twisted solution involving scanning practices I’m not sure are legit but who am I to query them was worked out involving that damn form I was told to “fill in but leave the bottom empty” and, as I claimed loud and clear that I wasn’t up to filling in a form that was nonsense in my particular situation as an adviser to a ministry (amount of employer’s registered capital? and other arrant sallies), some lady behind the reception desk, quite nice-looking to boot, took pity of the hapless vintage farang clown there and told him, ‘Give me a hundred baht and I’ll “run” it for you’, whereupon, after a 15 minutes’ delay, upon being provided with an official receipt for the hundred baht − all legit here, you know! − and upon having to fork out the usual 3000 baht for one year’s worth of extension, there was my labour permit stamped valid for yet another year.
That’s how miracles happen in this blighted yet quaintly blessed bureaucratic land, give or take a military coup or twelve.
I profusely thanked one and all (korpphrakhun yang soong [‘A Thousand Thanks Your Lordship’] with a beaming face usually works wonders) and told them that next year, I’d desist and ask for my Thai-citizen daughter to vouch for her father, bless her, whereupon the “bida” in question won’t have to show his impish face ever again in this pricey Labour circus, amen.
By the time I was home pancake flat, it was well past 5pm.