The ‘No’ Game

Sec´y. Houston  (LOC)It’s Neděle (Sunday), which is taken from two words: Ne and Dělat (No and Do). Together they mean the Do Nothing Day.

And on most Sundays I follow this linguistic combo like it’s a direct order from Rip Taylor himself. I lounge, loaf, recline, read, scratch, snore, stretch, surf, stream, download and view in an impressive impersonation of a 16-year-old nihilist.

But not today.

This Sunday, I am preparing for a Monday morning visit to a governmental office. There are problems. First, everything will be in Czech. And not just Czech, but the light-speed Czech that is taught to Czech BITS (bureaucrats in training) at the Grumpy McMisery’s School of Bureaucracy.

Secondly, all bureaucrats (especially Czech bureaucrats) share a deep, intense love of telling a person ‘No’. To tell a person after taking a half a day off work, sitting in an endless line on a chair roughly as comfortable as doing jumping jacks with a toaster in your rectum, that they cannot accomplish what they have come to do is the one thing that keeps a bureaucrat from stabbing his coworkers to death with a staple remover.

Usually, this ’No’ comes after an exhaustive series of questions. And as I scrape and sweat this Sunday, I imagine just that in a paper chase version of Sun Tzu’s advice on knowing thy enemy.

“Do you have your passport?” Boris the bureaucrat is frowning; his fall back facial expression.


His frown deepens as it appears that I am not a wanted criminal. “Notarized housing form and five fingernail clippings of your landlord?”

“Here.” A man takes them to ‘the lab.’

“Two pictures that are exactly 51 x 51 mm in size and such that your head is between 25 and 35 mm from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head and perfectly cut so that there is no mess in or outside the margins?”


Boris inspects the pictures with what appears to be a tricorder. “Six months of bills, forty-four paychecks and a picture of you cleaning your bathroom.”


“You need a new toilet brush.”

I wince; this could be it. “I got one yesterday, this was the last toilet brush’s last hurrah.”

“Hm…Fine.” Disappointment takes a mustache ride on Boris’ face, and it appears I might win. “Well, we only need your cat’s head superimposed on your uncle Bert’s wedding picture and that should be that…”

“Oh, I didn’t bring that.”

For the first time since I have sat down, Boris the Bureaucrat smiles. “Unfortunately (2nd favorite word), we can’t do it. So I am afraid that the answer is no.”

This dramatization has been brought to you by paranoid foreigners in the Czech Republic, the organization of people who have been there and done that, and the letter fuck!

While I may be exaggerating a bit (ask the others, it’s actually not too far off), this is why I am gathering every single paper that I have accrued over the last nine years. It is all in an attempt to avoid being told no.

Still, keep your eye peeled to the news for a man who gets arrested for shoving a tricorder up a bureaucrat’s exit only passage.

It’ll be the only time Boris shouts ‘No’ in displeasure.


  1. #1 by Simon Henton on May 6, 2013 - 11:12 am

    Absolutely correct – although a dramatisation there is very little exaggeration.

    Czech bureaucrats are not racists though – even Czechs get the same attitude.

    • #2 by Damien Galeone on May 6, 2013 - 5:41 pm

      Simon, that is a damn good point. The Czechs get it just as bad as the foreigners do. We should all stage a revolt against bureaucracy!

  2. #3 by Tiffany N. York on May 8, 2013 - 7:08 pm

    Hmmm, dare I ask what it is you are trying to do (establish citizenship?) or is that CLASSIFIED INFORMATION?

    It all sounds almost as difficult as trying to figure out your CAPCHA phrases!

  3. #4 by Tiffany N. York on May 8, 2013 - 7:11 pm

    Oops, I mean CAPTCHA! Sorry, but I’m so anal about typos.

    Actually, I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could be accurate on the first try. (Clearly, I need to get a life.)

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