Let me start of by saying that my day did end well.
We are in the process of finishing up paperwork for our maid. One of the things you need to do is to provide Health Insurance. She had to get a physical and then I had to go back and pick up a piece of paper that says she passed the physical exam. This paper has to be brought to “Daman” to acquire a medical card.
Today I decided to take care of getting the card and I looked online to get information about where Daman was. I read that if I go to the Musaffah (industrial armpit of Abu Dhabi) and bring information to the branch there then I could get a card right away, as opposed to going to the other branches and then having to go back in 10 days to get the actual card.
Since I was going to take Cameron to the zoo, I decided that Musaffah would be somewhat on the way and a quick pop in to get the card wouldn’t be a problem. Why I thought a quick pop in was possible anywhere here is beyond me but I was feeling peppy and optimistic this morning. HA
Here is an idea of what Musaffah looks like:
I had already checked out the website and printed what appeared (HA) to be a helpful (HA) map and contact information (HA) to bring with me. I had my handy GPS and my map and was ready to go. I drove about 20 minutes out to the industrial part of Abu Dhabi and after another 20 minutes I couldn’t see what the map said I should be standing on top of. I noticed the map said it was across from Dubai Islamic Bank so I punched it in my GPS and headed over. After some precarious parking and careful darting through traffic I made it inside and attempted to ask the Security Guard while pointing to my paper that said “Daman”. He called someone over and they explained I need to be at the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (I mis-read it) and attempted to give me directions (down the street and around the corner) to where I needed to be. I hopped in my car and headed out again.
Meanwhile, Cameron is yelling at me that he wants to go bowling or he is yelling at me that he wants to go home, NOW.
Another 30 minutes go by – thanks to INSANE traffic, one-way streets and frustrations.
This isn’t really today but this is what it felt like. (This is actually from a bad traffic jam in Abu Dhabi a couple years ago). Anyway I found Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and still didn’t see Daman. I went in and asked the Security guard who couldn’t understand me but brought me into the bank manager. He kindly explained that I just needed to turn left, go straight through the roundabout and I would see it in front of me.
Fabulous! I’m so close now. So….another 30 minutes go by of me trying to make it through insane traffic and I still don’t see the damn place. I look and I look and NOTHING. Then I remember I had the paper with the branch phone number! I called the number in hopes of getting directions. HA It was the wrong number and was somebody’s house and not Daman. Fan-freakin’-tastic. At this point it had been close to 2 hours and I was getting nowhere.
I decided to head back into Abu Dhabi and find a different branch. On the way I called the toll free number for Daman. They explained that there was a branch at an Emirates Express located near the British School. Great! That’s close to my church and I can find that. During the conversation she also explained all the other things I would need. She listed off several things I had and then said I needed a “copy of my husband’s medical card”. I told her that he didn’t have one because we pay in cash for medical. She sounded confused and said that he needs to have one and we need to have one to show them in order to process this. I told her that NO ONE at his company (US Embassy) has a medical card and that hopefully there was another way. (Obviously there are and this woman just didn’t know) She then said I needed a proof of salary paper that was signed by the sponsor (Brian). I headed towards the British School and figured I would just figure it out there when I talked to a live person.
So….I find the British School. I drive around the British School. I don’t see what I’m supposed to see. I call the toll free number again and ask for clearer directions. The woman on the line said that there isn’t a branch at the British School. I then proceeded to lose it (a little) on her. I explained that I called the number 20 minutes ago and spoke to someone who said there was a branch here and I’m driving in circles and I can’t find it. She then starts to tell me about the other branches and the one in Musaffah. I proceeded to tell her that I couldn’t find the branch in Musaffah and the map on the website is wrong and the phone number is wrong. She put me on hold. I hoped she would return. I waited and waited.
She finally came back on the phone and said there is a branch in the area where I was and it is a new branch. I asked her for the cross street. She didn’t know it. She said it’s behind the British School. I told her that the British School takes up an entire block and I’ve driven around it and can’t see it, does she have another landmark or a cross street. This went back and forth a bit and clearly was getting nowhere. I then asked her where another branch was since this one DOESN’T FREAKIN’ EXIST! (I didn’t say that but man was I tempted).
She told me there as one on Airport Rd. (this is like the Guide back home - it goes on forever and stretches the entire freakin’ city). I asked her where on Airport Rd and she couldn’t help me. I asked for a cross street and she didn’t’ have one. I told her that the Road stretches the entire city and that wasn’t enough information to help.
She then said there was one on Salam Street. (another road that runs the whole city – it’s parallel to Airport Rd.). I asked her for a cross street and she didn’t have one but said it was near the Municipality of Abu Dhabi building. I told her that I don’t know where the Municipality building was and can she locate a cross street. She responded that everyone knew where it was and I just needed to ask someone. ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME? YOU ARE THE DAMN CUSTOMER SERVICE PERSON THAT SHOULD KNOW THIS STUFF. AM I SUPPOSED TO START ASKING PEOPLE ON THE STREET?? (once again – didn’t say it but maaaannn I was biting my tongue). Then she finished with the typical close of “Is there anything else I can do for you?” (Ummmmm – you’ve done NOTHING for me sooooooooo). (just thinking it). I told her no thank you and goodbye. She did mention that the place closes at 1:30 though (the website says 4:00 and there lovely telephone message when you first call says the hours are 8 – 4 too – sigh…….)
As I was getting closer, I called Brian and proceeded to vent. I had been driving around for 2 1/2 hours and couldn’t find what was supposed to be there and this is such a waste of time and I swear I’m going to get there and find out that he needs to do it himself since he’s the sponsor and then I’ll be really mad and blah, blah, blah. I told him that I wasn’t mad AT him just irritated with the lack of customer service from the unhelpful customer service people.
He told me that he would just take care of it on Sunday (remember – it’s like our Monday). I then said “No….I will get this done. I’ve spent this much time on it, I can do this”.
I punched Municipality Building into my GPS in the hopes that it would know where it was. It claimed to have found it and I was only 10 minutes away. Great!
I started driving and sure enough it wasn’t long before a GIGANTIC building with HUGE flags appeared in front of me.
Oh….that building. Yeah – can’t miss it I suppose.
I had left my house at 10:15 this morning in the hopes of a quick stop and then a fun time at the zoo. It was now 1:10 and I had accomplished nothing. Luckily I had relaxed a little in the car and Cameron had enjoyed a lovely one hour nap in the car. I was ready to get it all done.
I parked the car and made it inside. I asked the security guard where the Daman office was and he pointed upstairs. I asked where it was upstairs and he told me go upstairs and take a right. Great – sounds simple enough.
We headed upstairs and took a right and walked down a long hall until we arrived at a glass door that looked to lead down the other half of the hallway. It was locked. I stood there, took a deep breath, looked around and found someone to ask. They said something in Arabic, pointed to a button and then said “push”. I pushed the button and waited for the doors to magically open. Nothing happened. Then I pushed on the door and it worked. Great!
We headed down the rest of the hallway and couldn’t see a Daman office. I found someone else to ask and they directed me downstairs and around the corner near the bank.
We headed down the stairs to the HUGEST waiting room area. It looked like an airport. There were masses of people everywhere and lines to counters on three sides of the room. There were even men dressed like fancy waiters walking around with tea and coffee to serve people. Bizarre.
But still – no Daman. I asked someone and they directed me UP some stairs and around a corner. Then I glanced down and noticed my button was popped open. So – basically I was walking around with my shoulders and knees appropriately covered but my boobs on display. Awesome.
EVENTUALLY I found where I needed to be. There was one guy at the counter and no one waiting. He was probably THE BEST customer service person I’ve had to deal with since I’ve been here. He acknowledged my presence and told me to take a seat. When it was my turn he called me over to the counter, offered me a seat and listened as I explained what I was there for. He looked at my papers and then told me that I needed to get copies made of a couple of the forms and told me where to find the copier (around the corner) and he mentioned that we would need 700 dirhams to pay for the card. He said 600 for the card and 100 for the fine. I asked what the fine was for and he said you only have 13 days from when the exam is done to get the card (I had thought it was 30 – say thirteen and thirty and they sound really similar coming from someone with an accent and I wouldn’t have thought to repeat it because 30 makes sense and 13….???? so fine). I told him that I would need to get copies and go to my car for more money (I had brought in a small purse with a phone, id and some cash in it and not my debit card). I nervously looked at the clock and asked when he closed. He told me 2 (yeah – 2. Not 1:30 and not 4:00. Everyone here operates on different times and you can’t count on having a clue what they are sometimes). It was about 1:35 so that was good.
Cameron asked for a snack from the vending machine and I got him a water and a bag of bugles for what amounted to $.50. Cheapest vending machine ever.
I headed to the car for my debit card, stopped to get copies made and money from one of the ATM’s (meanwhile passing a Dunkin’ Donuts, a bunch of people handing out information about the No Smoking Day and doing breath testers and several waiter people serving people coffee and tea while they waited).
I gave him what he needed and patiently waited. He punched a few things in the computer and then said that I might want another copy of a couple papers for my own records (very helpful – see). So – I headed back to the copier for more copies and then back again. He gave me a proof of salary form and said my husband (sponsor) needed to sign it. I asked if it was okay for me to sign it and he said “sure if he says it’s okay”. I signed the form and a couple other pages and He finished up and told me to come back in 10 days for the card. That was it.
I took Cameron’s hand and we headed back past the 4 bank branches, 3 ATM’s, Mobile Phone companies, Cable Companies, Giant fancy lobby with waiters serving people tea and coffee and out the door into the 110 degree blazing sun and back to my car. It had been almost 4 hours but I did accomplish something and that was a good thing.
As for the zoo, we’ll save it for another day.