Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How I Spent the Summer Banging My Head Against a Brick Wall of Bureaucratic Futility, pt. 2

It's time to start mentally preparing for the beginning of the school year, which starts (as does everything in Israel) after the holidays. Need to sell your house? After the “chagim.” Need to buy a new couch, take out a second mortgage, write your autobiography, invent a new way of harnessing solar energy? Yeahhhh, you'll get around to it after the chagim. Probably.
If I don't start thinking about school now, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are going to keep me so occupied that school is just going to sneak up on me suddenly and I'll find myself panicking the night before because I have no school supplies, haven't signed up for classes, or even paid tuition.
To be fair, I have been trying (fairly ineffectually) to sign up for classes. For over two weeks. But I have been having slight bureaucratic and technological issues. This, I'm sure, will surprise no one on this planet. Except perhaps geologists, who literally spend their lives under rocks. And yes, I just made a science pun. Deal with it.
The week before registration for classes opened up, I went in to speak to my adviser to make sure I wasn't missing any essential courses that may have fallen through the cracks when I switched majors. She noted that my major was listed incorrectly in the system, and instructed me to manually fix it upon signing up for courses on the course website.
Well, registration opened that Sunday for everyone except Natania. And the other few people who were bombarding the registration hotline, making it impossible to get through. I couldn't even sign in because my details were incorrect. According to the website, if I called the hotline, they'd be able to change my major in the system. I was told otherwise on Monday, however, when I did finally get through to a human being. They sent me to the secretary of my department, whom it turns out is only available between 10:00 and 14:00, and not at 14:30 which is when I got there. I arrived during the allotted time on Wednesday, whereupon the secretary of my department promptly sent me to the secretary of the undergraduate department. The secretary of the undergraduate department played around a bit with the computer and “fixed” the issue. The system has a lag time of 24 hours in which to update itself, so I wasn't able to check if it had worked until the next day.
The next day, I had two majors listed, neither of which would allow me into the system. This is a fairly unhelpful thing to have. I went back the following Monday to have her actually fix it this time. She typed some things into the computer, called up a bunch of people who didn't answer, and declared the issue resolved, with the added disclaimer that the entire system was closed down until the next Sunday so I wouldn't be able to sign up for classes anyway.
I was not overly optimistic that I'd be able to get into the system on Sunday. Some may call me a pessimist, but I say I'm just a realist since I was right. A few hours later, I was back in the secretary's office (which is starting to feel like home). She opened up my file on her computer and informed me that because I was missing 4 mandatory courses from previous years, I would have to repeat the second year. I just stared at her in disbelief. It would seem to me that the two times that I had done the second year would have been enough, and that doing it 3 times would be overkill.
Luckily, we cleared up the matter. Statistics I had done with the chemists as opposed to the biologists, which is acceptable though it doesn't show up in the system, and Biology of Organisms I had done without the lab part of the course as per procedure for the combined biology and chemistry major that I had started with. I had already gotten permission from my adviser to not have to repeat the entire course.
That left only 2 classes that I still need to do, which thankfully does not require repeating the second year. All I needed now was written permission from my adviser that I do not need to take the other 2 courses and the secretary would be able to force open the registration. That evening I sent an email to my adviser requesting written permission, the next day the email with written permission was forwarded, and the day after I received confirmation from the secretary that she'd unlocked the system and that after the aforementioned 24 hour lag time, I'd be able to finally register for classes.
The next day, the impossible happened! No, my mother did not eat my dad's Rosh Hashanah sweet and sour cabbage, and the Afghanis have not yet landed on the moon. I was finally allowed into the course registration site! Unfortunately, I need to take so many classes this year in order to graduate (at least 14) that there is physically not enough time in the week to take them all (unless HU has been hiding a time machine in the physics department). Not only that, but I can't confirm registration because of the two classes that I already did but which are still not listed as having been completed.

So I've decided to give up on science and instead apply to beauty school.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How I Spent the Summer Banging My Head Against a Brick Wall of Bureaucratic Futility, pt. 1

A few month ago I noticed that my credit card was about to expire in August. I was pretty sure that the bank sends you a new credit card automatically, but I called customer service just to confirm and was told that they would send it to my house by the end of August.
It was nearing the end of August and I was getting a bit anxious. I didn't want to be in the position where I was stuck without a credit card for a few days. Who can predict when you'll suddenly need to buy a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands or withdraw a suitcaseful of cash? Certainly not me. I mentioned the fact that I still hadn't received my credit card to my father and he informed me that he and my mother had received theirs a few weeks before (we'd opened our bank accounts at the same time). Well that did not bode well for my chances of receiving it.
I decided to go to the bank and talk to one of the bankers since reaching a human being through the customer service number is a painful ordeal, no matter what company (internet, phone, satellite company- doesn't matter) you're trying to get to serve you. After 20 minutes and the sum total of 3 people (out of at least 10) progressing through the line, I decided that recorded messages telling me to press a succession of numbers were not as bad as previously considered.
According to the customer service representative, my credit card had been mailed to me on July 25th. She made this statement as if that solved all of my problems. Ah, well, if it was sent out 3 weeks ago with my parents' cards which were received 2 weeks ago, then I'm sure it's on the way. Because the post office's track record is so stellar that I shouldn't even consider the fact that it fell out of the truck 5 minutes after being loaded into the truck and is probably even now floating out across the Dead Sea or being snacked on by Bedouin camels. Thank you so much for your help!
According to her, I had to wait 20 calendar days (of which I had waited 18) and that I should call back in a few days if I hadn't received it by then. I was like, great! Looking forward to speaking to you again in 2 days!
Obviously the post office didn't magically reappear my mail Harry Potter style, so I called customer service again in 2 days and the representative informed me that he'd have to cancel my credit card and send a new one to the bank, which I'd be able to pick up in 3 business days. I raised my eyes to the heavens and let out a dramatic sigh.
“Well, if I've got no other choice, I guess you'd better do that.” Three business days fell out on a Friday (not part of the official Israeli work week), my bank branch was closed on Sunday, and Mondays I leave the house early in the morning for work, the gym, then more work. I was finally able to go back to the bank almost a full week after having my credit card canceled (luckily no spur of the moment business deals or flight from law enforcement officials had arisen). This required taking a number, and waiting for an hour watching the arbitrary letter/number system slowly tick by. My number was G104 which was called after F896, which was called after H67 which was called after G103. Most of the hour was spent listening to people try to haggle with the bankers over mortgage terms and attempting to figure out their number system (with little success). Finally, I was able to ransom my credit card from the hands of the bank, in exchange for a signature and my soul. I asked the banker if the card was a different number than the canceled card and she insisted that it was the same number as my old credit card. I informed her that that wasn't possible, since they had canceled my credit card in order to prevent credit theft. She maintained that it was the same number and asked if I knew my PIN or if she should order a new one, to be picked up at the bank in another 3 days. At this point I probably would have signed over my first born as well in order not to have to go back to that metaphorical pit of darkness so I let her know that I was all set.
At home I confirmed that the credit card number was definitely a new number, seeing as I had to change all of my online credit card information and one of my credit card payments had been denied. Over the next few days I made sure that my credit card was in working order and was quite relieved to find that I could make credit card payments.
Payday came around (yes, I'm working again, but that's a story for another day) and I was quite excited to deposit my check, having paid the 4,100 shekel down payment for school. My account was bordering on empty and in order to renew my gym membership and yearly bus pass, I was going to need funds. Well wasn't I surprised when I inserted my card into the check depositing machine outside the bank and my PIN was REJECTED. Turns out I require a new PIN after all.

I had to order a new PIN to be sent to my bank branch since sending it to my place of residence wasn't an option. This means that 5 work days later, I will be forced to return to the bank and wait for another hour, listening to people trying to haggle over their loan payments (this never works) with one of the 2 bankers present (for a population of 40,000) and attempting unsuccessfully to decrypt their number/letter cipher (which was clearly set up by the Soviets).