19 October 2010


If you want to import a motor vehicle to Canada, it will need to be inspected to ensure that it complies with Canadian standards. After all, who knows what the car has been through in whatever shady part of the world it comes from. Is there any rust under the hood? How about oil type and pressure? What exactly comes out of the exhaust pipe? And does it have permanent running lights?

The inspections are not limited to motor vehicles. The same thoroughness also applies should you want to import - yourself. As part of the proceedure to obtain Canadian permanent residence (what they would call a "green card" in the States), applicants have to undergo a medical exam no less rigourous than the one administred by the department of motor vehicles. Yesterday, it was my turn. Armed with the required documents, passport pictures, health card, and a lot of reading material for the anticipated waiting time, I arrived at the clinic at the agreed time. It's the same place I have visited before, so I had expected them to already have a file for me. But that would just make it too easy: The records are not shared between the different departments of the clinic. So, for the first 30 minutes, I filled in essentially the same form three more times - once for the doctor's examination, once for the lab tests, and once for the x-ray. If I had been in any doubts about my own name and date of birth, they would have been quickly dispelled. A number of (certified Canadian?) trees were sacrified for the paper involved in achieving this certainty.

Just 75 minutes after my scheduled appointment, I was called into the doctor's office - where I was welcomed by a calm, gentle and yet assertive woman who strongly reminded my of my childhood orthodontist. To soothing classical music playing from a stereo, she walked me through a questionnaire on my addictions (no questions on chocolate, fortunately), and professionally examined me. In less than 10 minutes, I was done. Form 1 was signed and stamped.

Form 2 was dealt with 30 minutes later in the adjacent lab. For lack of motor oil, I had to volunteer other bodily fluids, vials of which were labelled with my name (I checked!) and will presumably be kept on record in Ottawa for the rest of my life. By late morning, Form 2 was completed.

And that made it time for me to gatecrash the so-called "private lounge", an open waiting room with a small snacks and drinks buffet. I still don't know what distinguished the patients in that section from us outside. It seemed a bit like in the old USSR, where some were created more equal than others. Whatever - that granola bar was exactly what I needed to boost blood sugar levels and tackle the last stop on this tour the force: Exposing myself to an extra dosis of radiation!

Downstairs in radiology, I had to take a number and wait my turn - again. And when it arrived, the receptionist's computer crashed. Eventually, the problem was resolved and I was duly processed in. A nurse quickly rebuffed my notion of posing for the required upper body x-ray with a bare chest, and asked me to change into one of these fashionable, one size fits none blue night gowns they like to dress the seriously ill in. I definitely looked drop dead gorgeous. For all the trouble, the authorities hopefully find this exercise insightful as the rays penetrated my lungs. Just under four hours after I got to the clinic, form 3 was signed, sealed and delivered to Ottawa.

So, dear Canada, you now know me inside out. I hope I comply with your exacting standards. And as for those permanent running lights, are you saying that I am not bright enough?

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