I’d left my friends in the square. “I’ll just pop in and pick up this wretched certificate” I told them. “Wait for me, I won’t be long.” Famous last words.
Last week I wrote about my discovery that “enchufe” had enabled me to get the Ayuntamiento to provide me with the certificate I needed from them, explaining that they had changed my house number from number 21 to number 1. 74 – Plugged In. Paco, the town hall’s Tesorero (Chief Exec), had clapped me on the back, assured me that my certificate would be done and I could come in on Monday. So I rolled up on Monday, stupidly thinking I could pick up the certificate. Sigh. When will I learn that things just don’t go so smoothly?
Paco’s door opened and I was ushered into the inner sanctum of the Tesorero. Piles of paperwork, as would be expected. One of these must be mine, surely? Paco waved my “solicitud” to show that he’d read and understood what I needed. I trotted out a few niceties, explaining that I was delighted to be part of his village, but now needed to take the next step and formally sign the Registro de Ciudadanes de UE, pay my taxes here in Spain, and become a full contributing resident of this great country. I think it sounded less sycophantic in Spanish.
He sat me in front of his desk, and went and got Pedro from the main office. Pedro was plonked in front of the computer. Ah yes, I thought – there’ll be a standard certificate for house number changes, and they will just insert my two address versions into that. No.
Paco began to stride up and down, fingers pressed together in a statesmanlike fashion. He started to dictate. The first three paragraphs set out that this was a certificate, and that it was being issued by the Ayuntamiento, the Secretary (Paco) having seen all relevant original documents. Then followed a couple of paragraphs setting out the law under which the Ayuntamiento was allowed to issue such certificates, and that the Secretary was deemed to be the appropriate person so to do.
Then we got to the business end of things. The next sentence explained that the house formerly known as number 21 was now known as number 1 and that it was the same property listed in the land registry as number 21. Well actually, at that point Paco dictated number 23 so I leapt in to correct him. “Just testing to see if you were listening” he said. “And to see if you were understanding it all”. I smiled and waited for the final lines to wrap up the certificate. Another sentence followed. As far as I could tell, it said exactly the same. The house previously known as 21 is now 1. OK that must be it now. A third repetition followed. Then Pedro was instructed to indent. “Punto Uno” dictated Paco. Point one seemed to be exactly the same as the three preceding sentences. Though it did mention escritura, so it sounded important. “Punto Dos” was similar, but mentioned the land registry. And various other things, through several paragraphs. “Punto Tres” seemed remarkably similar – longer than Punto Uno but shorter than Punto Dos.
Paco asked if I was happy with how it looked. I tentatively mentioned my surprise at the complexity of the document. What surprised me more, though, was his response. This was no overly-bureaucratic or unnecessarily lengthy document – amazingly, he had grasped exactly the ramifications of the house number change for all sorts of different aspects of Spanish administration, and has specifically worded a paragraph to address each of them. “We don’t want to risk one single organisation rejecting this document because it isn’t worded just the way they need it” he said. I was quietly impressed.
Detail completed, Pedro was instructed to insert my name and NIE number into various parts. “Essex” is a particularly difficult word for Spanish people to pronounce or spell. Paco was interested in my second surname, Lopresti, and that it means “the priest” in Italian. I threw in my mafia connections just for good luck. But he largely gave up on my surnames and just dictated “Tamara Veronica mmmm …… ” and waved his hand to indicate that Pedro should insert the more complicated bits.
They reached the signing off. This involved several more paragraphs, mostly reiterating the competence of the signing officer, a further confirmation that he had seen the relevant documents enabling him to confirm that number 1 was, indeed, the house formerly known as number 21, and some more mentions of the law under which this certificate could be issued. It wasn’t really a certificate – not as we’d know it. More of a complex legal statement. He’s a clever man.
Pedro printed off four copies. Paco signed each one with his grand flourish of a signature. The pen ran out of ink after he’d done two. “You use too much ink” I said. Pedro looked a bit shocked at my cheek. Paco disappeared to bring the mayor down to sign them all as well. The mayor remembered me from a couple of brief meetings, and congratulated me on taking steps towards becoming a resident. I told him I hoped my taxes would help a bit with the crisis. He looked hopeful for a moment and asked if I expected to pay a lot of tax. “Not really” I said. His face dropped.
Finally we went through to the main office where my copies were placed in a thick, expensive envelope and I handed over €1.35. Paco said it was a bargain, kissed me on both cheeks, reminded me to go and see his mother for coffee again, and then turned his attention to more pressing affairs.
© Tamara Essex 2013
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT
In English we use the “…ing” ending much more than they do in Spanish. Shame, really, because it’s one of those Spanish constructions that it quite easy to remember, once I had twigged that the N in iNg corresponded to the N in hablaNdo and comieNdo etc.
We would say “Did you have difficulty findING a place to live?” whereas in Spanish it is “¿Tuviste dificultad para encontrar un lugar para vivir?” using the infinitive. Or in English “It was a waste of time readING that book” but in Spanish “Fue una perdida de tiempo leer ese libro”. Another example – “There’s no point havING a car if you never use it” translates as “No tiene sentido tener un coche si no lo usas nunca.” Finally – “It’s no good askING Tom” becomes “No sirve nada pedirselo a Tom.”
So in Spanish we need to remember to use the infinitive much more instead of the …ing ending. Oh and this is just as hard for Spanish people! Despite speaking English at a pretty high level, my intercambio friend Jose sometimes slips up and would say “It was a waste of time to read that book” or “Did you have difficulties to find a place to live?” When he makes a small error like that, it helps me to understand that if I get the same thing wrong, I will be understood but the person listening will just trip up slightly thinking it didn’t sound right, and might miss the sense of what I’m trying to say.