I clicked on the RTA website to pay a parking ticket fine when a question popped up asking me whether I trusted the site.
When I clicked, ‘yes’, the whole transaction vanished, leaving me with my mouth open and my credit card still in my hand. I had just punched in the three digit code which you find at the back of the card a second earlier.
“Let’s try again,” my wife said. “It’s only Dh100.”
After another round of filling in the online form, the question popped up again.
“Ignore it,” I said, and when my wife clicked on the other button, everything froze. “That’s Dh200 gone,” I said with hysteria building up in my voice. “Let’s call the Visa emergency number.”
It was the last day of Ramadan, the humidity level outside was in the high 70s and I had earlier in the afternoon spent about 30 minutes soaked to the skin trying to find a branch office of the RTA in Al Quoz.
It was my fault, of course, as I had put off renewing my driving licence till the last day. The RTA had kindly sent me many reminders telling me that my licence validity was expiring. “You get black points driving with an expired license,” my wife told me helpfully, trying to get me to get the paper work done.
On the day before the Ramadan holidays began I had called up customer service to find out the working hours of the office, and the lady said that it was open till 2 pm.
Hoping to get everything done fast, I arrived at the Barsha police station at noon only to be told that the “system was down”.
The security guard calmed me down and pointed to a sign on the door.
“Why don’t you go to the branch office near Noor Islamic Bank. They work until 6 pm,” he said, and that’s when the search started.
Now sweat was really pouring off my face and into my eyes as I walked to the watchman’s room at one of the car dealer showrooms.
“It’s on the other side of Shaikh Zayed Road,” said the watchman grumpily as I had woken him up from his afternoon siesta.
I finally found the RTA office, hidden in a Municipality building. There were other ministry offices here also, each had a small section to themselves, something like the ‘boutique offices”, tiny share-spaces you see in the developments in New Dubai.
There were barely a few people waiting in line on this deadly, blazing afternoon. Not many people were up and about at this time, especially if you haven’t had a drink of water since dawn.
“Number 5082, please go to Counter Number 3,” said a voice over the loudspeaker after a few minutes.
“Do you have an ID card?” asked the man behind the counter.
I proudly pulled out a printed form from the Emirates Identity Authority which gave my application number and the appointment time for my biometrics, which is sometime in October.
“I can’t take that,” said the RTA staffer.
I quickly pulled out my e-gate card which I have never used since I don’t travel that much and since its only function is to identify me, but the man wouldn’t take that either.
I started stammering, not in the cute way that Hugh Grant does in the rom-coms, but in a really unintelligible way: “My driving licence expires today. My wife doesn’t drive, though she has a licence. It’s very hot outside…” I said.
The man just shook his head and that’s why my wife and I were trying to pay the traffic fine and renew the licence online. That didn’t work too and now I am taking the Metro for the next few days till the government offices open again.