Mother's column – When the system turns against well-meaning housewives

The power to let people wait. Photo EPA, Mykola Tys

The ultimate proof of power is that you can make people wait. Think about the refugees who stay in packed sports halls and have no idea how long it will take before their procedure starts.

Or think about the victims of the Dutch government scandal concerning allowances. First, no one listened to them for years, and now they are still waiting for compensation. Putting your foot down is of no avail if you don't have anything to stand on. It makes you crazy.

Fortunately, I do not have to fear immigration services. With my Dutch name, I am not at risk of being picked on by tax agencies, which seem to target foreigners, as turned out from the allowances scandal.

Hitting the walls

Yet sometimes, I hit the walls of the bureaucratic system too. Last May, I was fined by a very diligent parking enforcement officer. At that moment, I covered the 50 metres between my parking spot and my friend's house, taking Reinout and Sifra with me, in other words, dragging the baby carrier and trying to prevent Reinout from straying into every alley.

The first thing we did after entering my friend's house was activating the parking app that keeps track of how long my car has been parked in its spot. After that, we drank a cup of coffee in blissful ignorance about the fact that the surcharge of 68.50 euros for not paying parking taxes was already on its way.

Fortunately, there was a possibility to appeal the fine. I had to do so within six weeks and had to deal with a complex digital system. In a fierce letter, I argued why the fine was unjustified. And I attached a print screen of the parking app to prove that I truly parked between 14.45 and 16.20 for 1.58 euros, whereas the fine dated from 14.42.

Translating work

I had planned some translating work for that night, but I didn't have the time for it anymore. You would almost send them an invoice, I thought, resentfully. When dentists without embarrassment charge you 12 euros for every five minutes of removing plaque from your teeth , then a housewife should be able to receive compensation, too, for spending a night appealing a nonsensical fine.

But, of course, that is not how it works. The written acknowledgement of receipt of my appeal confronted me with the hard reality: "We will try to look at your appeal before the end of the year. You will be notified when we are unable to do so." We will see. Someday.



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