Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And... the saga continues

A little while ago I wrote about my experience dealing with the SAAQ (and not the fine people at the SAQ) to get my driver's license from BC exchanged for a license from Quebec. Well, it's January 20, I still don't have a license and because my temporary license expired yesterday, I'm not even allowed to rent a car this week. OK, I'm partly to blame for this little mishap, but why oh why is this entire process so painful?

When I arrived in Halifax yesterday (on time, woot!), I walked over to the car rental counter, and handed them my credit card and temporary license (a piece of paper that honestly doesn't look like anything official, I wouldn't even rent myself a car with this ID). The lady at the counter handed me back the license and said it was expired. What? Yes, in the right-hand corner of the paper was the expiry date (in French, because Quebec does not publish bilingual documents it seems): January 19. And since that was the only license I had, she said she couldn't rent me a car. However, if the fine people from the SAAQ were willing to fax her an updated paper, she'd be happy to give me a set of wheels.

So, sitting near the rental counter, my luggage, laptop and purse plopped on the seat next to me, I try calling the SAAQ. The 1-800 number I initially try refuses to let me through, as I am calling using my cell phone which uses the 514 area code and should be calling the 514 number instead. Since I'm not entirely sure how this will show up on my phone bill, I use my calling card instead and phone the 514 number. Lucky me, I'm only on hold for a few minutes.

I explain the situation to the lady on the phone and she sounds a bit stunned, then asks me to confirm my home address to make sure the license was mailing to the right place. That's when I look at the temporary license and notice the root cause of all my problems: 2848. My address is 2248, not 2848. You would figure that I would have noticed that, but it is a new address and the numbers never jumped at me for being wrong. It only took 30 minutes for the rep at the SAAQ to complete my file and type in a few pieces of data (and I do get my Hydro bill, so I'm sure the address it gave her was correct). But she got the numbers wrong. So my license was probably mailed on time, but it had no way of reaching me.

OK. I can deal with this situation later. How do I get an extension to my license so I can rent a car a make it to the client? Just so happens that I can't. They cannot issue another temporary permit, unless I show up at an SAAQ office in person to sign more paperwork. None of my pleading is getting through. If I was staying in Halifax for the next two months and needed a license, they could possibly mail a new one to me, but since I'm back in Montreal this weekend, they can't help me.

At this point, I'm slightly discouraged and ask if they can change my address and mail me the license again. Can't do. I need to go back to an SAAQ office, explain the situation, wait in line to get a new temporary license, get my picture taken and sign a few times for the process to start all over again. Oh goodie. But don't you think they would have my picture and signature on file, I was there on December 30. Nope. Pictures and signatures are erased from their system after ten days. Just perfect.

No choice then, I'm stuck all week in an industrial park without a car. I took a taxi from the airport ($58, tip included) but fortunately am getting lifts between the hotel and the client from another consultant who happens to be staying at the same place as me. Also good is the fact that 2848 doesn't exist, so I don't really have to worry about my license being misused by someone. It's probably on its way back to the SAAQ with the letters "undeliverable" stamped on the envelope.

I look forward to spending more time Friday morning in line at the SAAQ office to fix this little boo-boo. Word.

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