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rules and regulations

D’s mom, comparing life in America to the one she knew in the Soviet Union, once succinctly summarized the difference by pointing to a sign at a public beach, which enumerated prohibited behavior: “In America they tell you what you cannot do, and anything that is not explicitly forbidden is allowed. In the Soviet Union, it was the opposite: if it was not expressly permitted, then you couldn’t do it.”

The Philippines is a far cry from the Soviet Union, of course, but coming from the States the sheer volume of rules and regulations one encounters here comes as a bit of a shock. Seemingly everything requires a permit of some sort. Forms are issued in duplicate and triplicate for the most mundane of things, and for each exemplar we are requested first to print our name and then sign above it. The windshield of our car is quickly filling up with stickers as – in addition to the vehicle registration – our son’s school, our neighborhood, and our condominium all have stickers acknowledging our right of passage.

Our condominium helpfully issued us a “residential welcome kit,” which consists of twenty pages of house rules and several dozen pages of advisories (more rules and guidelines), with four pages devoted to residential services sandwiched in between. The procedures and regulations run from the mundane (how to book one of the function rooms) to the extravagant (use of helipad) to the slightly absurd (“horseplay will not be tolerated in the swimming pool”).

The pet section alone spans four pages and includes such helpful notes as “there are muzzles for all types of animals” and “the use of retractable leashes is highly discouraged.” Also, the condominium apparently only allows spayed/neutered pets. Domestic animals can only be brought into and out of the building via the basement and only on the service elevator. This regulation drives D bonkers, especially since the service elevator is frequently undergoing maintenance, at which time one of the regular elevators is designated as an alternate service elevator. There are also explicit guidelines on “how to control the pet” while inside the elevator.

For that matter, household employees also are only allowed to use the service elevator – unless they are accompanying a tenant – a regulation that one nanny we interviewed found so galling that she decided to seek employment elsewhere. Even Munchkin, who chafes at established rules and procedures more than most kids, has cottoned on to the fact that his life is now circumscribed by excessive regulation. “Our condominium’s rules are that you must finish all your dinner,” he explained to an uncomprehending Junebug this evening. Fortunately, our kids’ wild streaks are a mile wide; a few more restrictions than they are used to probably won’t do too much lasting damage.

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