My wife and I have just moved back to Canada. And the kicking and screaming – at least about moving West of the Atlantic-  has ended.

Once we made our peace with leaving the UK and heading home (going through the full grieving process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), we got excited and starting looking forward to our new life back in Ontario: a new job, a new home, new neighbours – all in a lovely, vibrant, lakeside town close to several dozen people we care for.

And I wished I could leave it at that.  But I can’t.  As I started the process to receive overseas shipments and change licences and register cars and ship cats, I started the paperwork associated with returning to my Native land.

And I naively began to negotiate the corkscrews and Immelman turns of the roller-coaster called BUREAUCRACY.  As I delved into the documentation, the processes, the organisation, the departments, the forms, the websites, the personalities and the money, I started the long, dismal, frustrating and worrisome spiral into the government’s “adminosphere”.

I felt like Alice dropping into the rabbit hole.  

And here I am, five weeks after leaving the UK, still dealing with the aftershocks of several counter-intuitive processes that have affected every aspect of my move.

Why can’t things be simple – and if they can’t be simple – then why can’t they be explained in a simple fashion? Websites were confusing and the staff who should answer questions could only parrot what was in the website.  I could not find out what forms to fill and who to give them to.  But, I was warned several times by several people that  “It is your responsibility to ensure the documentation is fully completed and accurate. It is also your responsibility to pay any additional storage charges, processing fees or other related service charges incurred due to incomplete or inaccurate documentation.”

And then I think about the zany, crazy, unbelievable hoops that the multitude of faceless mandarins and pogues sitting at their computers have made me jump through. I only have one thing to say…”What the eff?”

It all started with the several requests from a myriad of third parties to provide numbers, numbers, numbers…serial numbers, vehicle identification numbers, passport numbers, telephone numbers, service numbers, social insurance numbers, shipping numbers, tax identification numbers…sometimes I feel I should just refer to myself as 132657 – it is easier to find my dossier and everything that is linked to it that way.

Using my 13-letter first name just confuses people.  “I am sorry, Sir…is that your surname or given name?”  Just pretending that I am an account named “one-three-two-six-five-seven”, vice a real person with a name, seems to get faster results.

It did not stop there.  It carried on to a number of phone calls to various companies to cease accounts, open accounts, transfer accounts, to pay off outstanding balances, to provide meter readings and so on.  All I can say is that I would really like to know what “training and quality control” purposes my various expletives and curses served as I stumbled through eight automated menus, trying to decide if my request fit better into Option Three – “residential customer” – or Option Nine – “household services”.  All I ever want to do is talk to a real live agent who will answer my question.  And typically, after finally weaving my way through the Orwellian labyrinth of options and making it to “please dial zero or stay on the line to talk to one of our customer service representatives”, I abandon all hope when I hear the dreaded:

“All our agents are currently busy serving other clients. We appreciate your patience. Our wait time is…”


And then, the coup de grace?  Finally talking to real person, but then being told that unfortunately they are in the wrong department; they must transfer you to another department; then bouncing between departments, as they all deny culpability; and then inevitably having someone drop the call, as they hit the “This-question-is-too-hard-button” on their console.  I can just see them giggling uncontrollably as they determine which customer representative wins the money pool for frustrating a customer the longest (probably using the “quality control” recording as evidence of their prowess !)

After a full month of such frustration, and for you math-heads, I propose that the two pertinent telephone proportions are:

Probability of talking to someone real    1 / ($ value of the transaction to be discussed)


Probability dropped call Time spent on hold

I wished that was the end of the “frustocracy”, but it was simply an introduction.

The next joy came with the return of all our worldly possessions to my home country.  Yes, I had just spent three years on Her Canadian Majesty’s service, with orders issued by a Governmental department, looking after Canada’s international interests and upholding her reputation. You would think it would be simple for a servant of the state to come home and collect his goods…especially if he listed all his goods in quadruplicate and handed it to several sister organisations that protect Canada and her borders.

But no…it was not.

I still had to answer to several agencies – all who have a common purpose and objectives, but no collaborative synergy (virtual or physical) to make that task easier.  No less than seven times I had to explain who I was, what I needed, again providing several numbers (usually 123657) before they each asked me questions I had already answered to someone else – verbally and in writing – even when the previous interrogator confirmed they would add explanatory notes to your electronic file.

My response? You guessed it….aaaaaarrrrgggghhhh!

And I went through this with my suitcases, my cats, my furniture shipment, my car…quadruple the pleasure! First I talked to those who protect our borders, then those who regulate our alcohol, followed by those who licence our foodstuffs and livestock, finally succeeded by those who control our roads.  And how did they wish to communicate? E-mails and scanned document that I could sort out on my hand-held smartphone, even without  home phone and internet? Nope. By facsimile.

Seriously, facsimile?  Who owns one of those? Can we create more of an embuggerance?

And that inconvenience leads me to another one of those moving pleasures – dealing with the new utility companies.

Funny how in this global village of instant connections, of immediate pictures of tsunamis in South Eastern Asia or earthquakes in the Middle East, of techno-savvy agencies discovering clandestine illegal e-commerce rings, of e-spam infiltrating every e-mail account that I own, that the gas company or the phone company cannot determine if I am a credit risk or if I am good to honour my monthly gas bill, or phone bill. That really, they do not need a deposit from me.

That these multi-million dollar oligopolies can’t access a credit check to find out the Bank trusts me, the Mortgage company trusts me, the car dealership trusts me, Leon’s and The Brick and Future Shop and Best Buy all trust me. I am not a flight risk.  I can honour  the $69.99 fee charged to simply flick a switch at the cable box, or telephone junction, or to execute a few key strokes on the computer to grant me a new alphanumeric identity on their databases – reinforcing my status as just another permutation of “132657”.

And for the pleasure of lending them my money interest free, they will honour me with their presence and grant me service: hooking up my cable or phone, confirming my meter reading, or completing another 20-minute house call service, conveniently on a workday some time  between 0800 and 1700 hours (with no guess as to if it will be morning or afternoon!), during which a responsible adult must be available to allow access or the appointment will be rescheduled for another day some time in the next two weeks.

Somewhere in all this confusion and edicts, I seem to have lost the bubble on who is the customer and who is the service provider.  And by the way, when I ask for high speed internet, I am sure, as most of us in Canada are, that I mean wireless internet…how can you come to install internet and cable NINE days after the initial service request  without a wireless router in your truck?  At least The Cable Guy offered a solution to “132657”– tether your laptop to the DSL cable, initiate another request with the Command Centre, and a new Cable Guy could probably return in less than two weeks with a router – for a nominal fee!

Again, all I can say is, “Seriously!!”

And my favourite…wait for it…goes to the Private Contractors who look after Ontario’s driver licence conversions.  My wife – who has reverted to her maiden name – used to have a drivers licence in Ontario under her former married name. In order to prove she is the same person who was entered in the Ontario Ministry of Transport 1990 data base, she must now apply and pay for a duplicate replacement copy of her obsolete marriage certificate before she can be issued a new Ontario drivers’ licence.  That folks, is my winner in the Office Pogue Request of the Year….

And while almost all the nausea has passed – to quote my moving blog of March 2012, while I now “find that I have been…transported into my new house – sitting in my favorite chair watching the game on my high-definition flat screen, while drinking  a cold micro-brewed beer”, the pain has not passed.

I still must gird my loins and submit 45 days of receipts for my moving expenses, all the while waiting for a nameless bureaucrat  – who has likely not moved in decades (if ever) – to approve the expenditures and ease the tension on stressed credit cards and depleted bank accounts.

As I said, I hate moving.  We continue to jam “50 kilograms of furniture and stuff” into our “one kilogram bag” of a house; but we are approaching the point where this house is almost our home. 

And once that is done, it will take a heck of an offer to dislodge us again. I am sure that we wont be considering any changes too soon – it’ll take at least a year or two until we develop “moving amnesia”.  By then I will have forgotten the pain of the “adminosphere”, and foolishly, I will challenge the pogues and mandarins…reciting over and over again, “Nil carborundum ab illegitimate!”  Maybe this time it works. Wish me luck!

I know that many of you may have moved this year….any of you have an entertaining nugget or two that will console me and let me know that I am not alone in trying to climb the “Computer Says No” Wall?