Way back in the mists of 2012 I was stuck behind a slow lorry on a trunk road, so I pulled slightly across my lane in order to see what was happening in front of it, and then I pulled back in again.
Two minutes later I was pulled over by the police and accused of illegal overtaking. I said that I didn’t overtake, I wasn’t accelerating, I wasn’t indicating, and indeed if further proof were required, I was still behind the lorry! The police officer said “Ah, but you were thinking of overtaking”, and he gave me the ticket. So I went to the driver and vehicle office and appealed the ticket on the grounds that I wasn’t overtaking and that as far as I was aware, thinking is not yet illegal in Argentina.
That was 2012 and I never heard anything of it again. Until a few days ago when I got a phone call to say that I owed lot of money from an unpaid fine and that if this money wasn’t paid by two days before the phone call then I was going to be taken to court. So I asked for more details of the supposed fine, and suggested that it also might have been more useful to have phone me before rather than after the cut-off date. And she said she didn’t know any more (reading off the script in front of her) and that I should go to Rentas (provincial government office).
The next day I went to Rentas. Rentas is a typical government establishment, housing a bewildering selection of bureaucratic services. I took a number and waited for a couple of hours until my turn came up. The lady at Rentas confirmed that the fine was indeed related to the 2012 incident, which would suggest that my appeal had been refused, but unfortunately she didn’t have any further details, and for those I would have to go to Godoy, which is the driver and vehicle office where I had made my 2012 appeal on the other side of town. Since government services only work in the mornings, and since I had already spent the morning at Rentas, I had to wait till the next day for Godoy to open.
The next day I went to Godoy, which is similar to Rentas in that I took a number and sat and waited. The man in Godoy informed me that my 2012 appeal had been refused. So now we know that thinking has been banned in Argentina. He had no idea why my appeal had been refused since there was no written explanation, just the word “negated”. There was a pleasing coherence about the whole thing; in order to confirm that thinking has been banned, the judge would also need to be consistent in the way that they made their decision; such as might have been produced by a random action such as tossing a coin. So with that cheerful thought, when the man asked if I wanted to offer a new appeal but I decided that I was happy to understand that thinking is now illegal in Argentina. And I had already wasted enough time on this.
Fortunately the fine was by now so old that the Province of Cordoba are offering a hefty discount to encourage people to pay old debts, so they took off all the interests and charges, and left me with the same number as the original fine, now worth significantly less owing to three years of 40% inflation. Which if you ever wanted a way of encouraging people not to pay their fines for years on end… but we’d better not explore that too deeply since thinking is now banned.
The man in Godoy told me that I could pay the fine by card at Rentas. So the next day I went back to Rentas, took a number blah blah blah. At lunch time when my turn came up, the lady said, you can only pay by card. And I said that’s what I intend to do. And she said, but the system is down, so you’ll need to come back.
So the next day I went back to Rentas, etc etc. And the lady said, ah but your fine has had the Provincial discount applied to it, so we can’t deal with that here, you’ll need to go to the Banco de Cordoba, provincial bank. And they’ll be shut by now, so you’ll need to go there tomorrow, but the bill that you have here has a cut-off date of today, so you’ll need to come here early tomorrow, in order that we can print you a new bill with a new date and be in time to get to the bank before it closes.
So the next day I went to Rentas, and then the bank, and now we all know that thinking has been banned.
The academic year started last Monday. True to form, schools closed again on Tuesday. Usually that’s for the teachers’ strikes which are scheduled for the start of most academic years. This year it was because it was raining. They decided that they were going to shut for the whole of the rest of the week owing to rain. Except that on Wednesday it wasn’t raining, and on Thursday they opened again, possibly owing to the complaints from many parents who hadn’t yet heard that thinking has been banned, or were possibly just looking forward to their kids being somewhere else after the long summer. So hopefully this week we might even manage five days of classes.