The old MOT here in Turkey used to be a very sociable affair. There was no choice, really, because it didn’t matter how early you arrived on the appointed day (there used to be 2 a month in Ortaca) you were going to be faced with what appeared to be a couple of hundred vehicles parked up in a long, snaking queue that meandered around several blocks. Savvy Turks would have saved a place by parking up the evening before, gone home to bed and then rejoined next day after a leisurely breakfast.
As the old test was phased out by the new one, Ortaca became a mecca for those who knew their vehicle wasn’t going to pass anything remotely like a real check – I’ve met people from as far away as Aydın bent on keeping their old banger ‘legal’ for one more year as they brewed up and picnicked at the roadside! Emergency kits passed up and down the lines as those who had them lent them to those who didn’t – it was all very casual and amiable considering that your whole day was going to be taken up. Anyway, what else would you be doing with your time?
Our old Dobló had to go through one more test before we traded it in for a new one; a case of not very good timing on our part which entailed driving to Muğla to the new TÜVTürk testing centre and our first experience of the new system. Now, TÜV stands for Technischer Überwachungsverein and is a German based standards organisation so we had high hopes of a quick, efficient turn-around as we arrived on the dot of opening time. Certainly it looked very promising as we joined the short queue at reception.
There was a slight glitch when the guy pointed out that the little card that has the hologram stickers was full and we’d have to get another before the test could be done. Our exasperation showed and he kindly organised one of the guys awaiting his test to take us next door where we could get a temporary one.
This ‘office’ turned out to be a small, semi-derelict kiosk about the size of a phone box. Jammed inside was the patron surrounded by shelves packed with booze, cigarettes, crisps, snacks, a belting hot electric fire (it was winter) and a laptop and printer! This fellow took our details, hit the print button, gave us a ‘form’, told us to go back to reception and pocketed our TL20.
Back at reception we were stunned to be told that the test could not proceed because there was ‘borç’, a tax debt on the car! We knew there was not and were able to show all the dockets that proved we were up to date. It made no difference, the computer had locked us out – we’d have to go to the Muğla tax office and get it sorted. Our ‘efficient turn-around’ was fast deteriorating as we sank into the bureaucratic quagmire.
Our spirits were lifted somewhat by the staff in the Muğla maliye office, they really were helpful and kind as they ploughed their way through the system that even they don’t seem to fully understand. Lunchtime came and we wandered off for an hour or so before making our way back to the office – it was a ‘Eureka!’ moment; they’d found the problem and prepared the forms for the müdür (manager), unfortunately he was out and wouldn’t be back for another hour. Would we like a glass of tea? I told you they were kind.
Eventually the manager returned and our papers were signed, the borç was removed from the computer and we were free to go back and get our MOT done; it was now after 3pm!
From that point on everything was plain sailing. The test centre was as efficient as could be desired and we were on the road home in short order.
So, what was the problem, the borç, the debt? What hadn’t we paid? Go on, have a guess. Bet you can’t get it. It was nothing you’d think of; the tax authorities had actually overcharged us about three years earlier and once they discovered it the matter had to be resolved. Now, a rational person might think that telling you you’d over-paid on any one of the next half-yearly car tax payments would be a reasonable course of action; or a letter, perhaps, asking you to call when next it was convenient. But tax systems are not reasonable people; they are designed get money out of you; to stress you; to reduce you to gibbering, slobbering insanity. Tax systems are living, malignant ‘things’.
There is a little twist in the tail of this tale – the nice lady at the tax office asked me if I wanted my money back or to just forget it. It wasn’t a lot but it wasn’t insignificant either and ‘on principle’ I asked for it back assuming it could be dealt with there and then. Oh no! Not a chance. I’d need to present a petition, a dilekçe to my local tax office. Here there was another act of kindness (or was it sympathy for this foreign fool who was idiot enough to want a refund?); she wrote the petition out longhand for me and even put it in an envelope.
I still have the petition 6 months later. Why? Because I don’t have the bottle to try to collect my dues; I dread what might befall me! I’m also living in dread as the days slip by because I know that some time I’ll be going back to the MOT place and the man will look on his computer and say . . .
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü