Monday 3 October 2011
Armed with the requisite papers, I’m off to my appointment to register as self-employed. I’m on foot, as it’s not far, but I struggle once again with locating my final destination (a government office called “Vivero de Empresas”, which translates, I think, as “Nursery of Companies” – cute ;-)) Street signage can be described as sporadic at best in the historic part of town, where hoards of hapless tourists shuffle from cul-de-sac to dead end clutching their maps in sheer exasperation. But in the newer parts of Toledo, you might sooner spot a Morris dancer doing the splits on a milk float than a street sign.
I know I’m close, so I ask a passer-by, who points me in the right direction. The irony is that there’s an enormous plaque commemorating the street’s inauguration, but nothing to tell you its actual name.
The office is a swish, modern building made of fancy iron grating superimposed on vast glass walls. Inside, it’s spacious and seemingly deserted. Because of the economic crisis, I’m guessing, there aren’t too many people wanting to register their new businesses.
I’m ushered straight into a woman’s office and she starts to process me by taking basic personal details. Then she hands me over to a tall, bearded young guy in bright blue pants.
Within minutes, we happen upon a stumbling block. I will need to make a monthly €250 social security payment (which I was already aware of that, otherwise I might have toppled off my chair) by DIRECT DEBIT. I explain that I cannot open a bank account without first completing this self-employment registration, which is why I was here.
He scratches his head. He’s never been confronted with a problem quite as exotic as this one. Luckily, his colleague at the desk opposite has. I get passed on to him, a veritable veteran of the civil service establishment, and close to retirement age. Besides letting me bask in the comfort of his innumerable years of experience, he’s also in a splendid mood, which isn’t soured in the slightest, when he can’t find a suitable box on the system that describes my type of professional activity. Story of my life. We settle for something or other in the ‘creative’ field. Then he gives me a payment slip, so that I can make the first social security payment in cash. Success!
Tuesday 4 October 2011
The day has come. I walk into the Santander. I sit down opposite the first available Customer Service person. Her name is Maria. I tell her I want to open a bank account. (By now, I’ve had plenty of practice with that phrase and it comes out smoothly and confidently.) Maria peers at me cautiously.
With a glint of triumph in my eye, I shove a pile of papers her way. She shuffles through them. She smiles. Then she utters the magic words: “It seems to be all there.”
Twenty minutes later, with my right hand in a cramp after being made to sign a ream of documents that would stretch all the way to the outer rings of Saturn if laid out end-to-end, I finally have a bank account. I celebrate with coffee and Toledanian marzipan cake.
Monday 17 October 2011
By now, I have been paid (yes, right into my brand spanking new bank account), and so it’s time for the last essential step – getting online from home so that I can actually WORK from there. I’ve been lugging my laptop around cafes, libraries and acquaintance’s offices for an entire month. Which, curiously enough, has caused an inexplicable spike in my productivity…!?
So, it’s around noon this Monday when I trundle into the local high street branch of Spain’s biggest phone company. And there I’m told something really shocking: The engineer will be at my house the following morning at 9.30am. I feel compelled to repeat this information back to them three times, just to make sure I’ve heard right.
Tuesday 18 October 2011
It’s 9.34am. The Telefonica engineer arrives, and he plugs in the broadband. I can skype from home!
There will be more cake, but, as you’ll all be relieved to hear, no part IV. Phew! Thanks for suffering it out with me…