(Originally broadcast on Nov. 13, 2009, on The Frank Show, here.)
Well, as we end the week, if I seem less American, maybe more Romanian, let me explain.
I received my residency card yesterday. Yep. For me, it was a big day. I know citizenship will have to wait, but still, I feel suddenly like a true Romanian, a Dac, just being a resident. I’m ready to drink lots of polinca, have my old Dacia break down on the side of the road, and eat slanina and onions for breakfast.
I’m not sure I can explain how satisfied I am. I suppose I now feel I have an identity here. Maybe I’ll change my name to Petru.
But like many things here, maybe most things, the process did not come without confusion and surprise.
My one question is this: why does the government care so much where I live? Now, I know it’s not easy to get a so-called green card in the US. Residency there does not come easy at all. There is a lot of confusing paperwork everywhere. But I’ve lived in the US, Mexico and England, and no one cared THIS much what my address was.
A driver’s license in the US is the only photo identification we usually carry. On that is our address. But you know what? You just go into the office there and TELL them your address. You don’t prove it. You don’t fill out forms in triplicate. You don’t go to the police station. You don’t pay a notary. You don’t have the owner of your apartment attest to it. No one takes responsibility for you.
Yes, at banks in those countries, they need to know your address, because of anti-terrorist regulations and other things. They DO want to know that you live where you say. But all they require is a phone bill, or electricity bill, showing your name and address on the envelope. The phone company or electric company requires no proof at all. Maybe in big cities you need to show your rental agreement to enroll your kids in school, to prove you live in the district. But except for special situations, no one cares where you live unless you owe them money.
You see, in these other places, if you give the government a wrong address, it’s your problem. You will not get mail. It will be sent to the wrong place. Maybe your credit card will not be approved because it does not match what’s on file. Or maybe you’ll have trouble buying a computer over the internet. But that’s YOUR problem. That’s YOUR responsibility. Not the government’s.
Honestly, it feels a little creepy to have the government THAT concerned about where I live. I suppose it will be useful for when I get lost. I can find a policeman, or walk to Piata Victoriei (I do know where that is) and go up to the government building. All I will have to do is show them my identity card and they can drive me home. That will be nice.
The Romanians I’ve talked to didn’t even realize it’s different other places. We can move anytime and not tell anyone, except maybe our mothers, as long as we don’t want our mail. The truth is, I don’t think governments there really want to know where we live as long as we vote for them.
So my guess is I’m seeing just one example of the vestiges of pre-revolution Romania apparently living on. For no discernible reason. I know there are other examples. And this is just one. But that’s how you change things, by erasing one antiquated, silly, intrusive and cumbersome rule after another. My suggestion is, you get rid of this one. And now you have to listen – because I’m a resident.