Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Yesterday I met with a government bureaucrat.  She was polite, friendly, helpful, and generally nice.

Anyone who says there should be less people like her in the world is an asshole, plain and simple.

And she seems to be the rule rather than the exception, based on my interactions with government bureaucrats.  The government bureaucrats I have met are by and large nice people who are able to make the process as efficient and painless as possible, with painless privileged over efficient but often making things painless can lead to things being efficient just because pained people aren't the most efficient people to work with.

But there are, of course, exceptions.

Yesterday I found out that there were some errors in the system that I didn't have the stuff necessary to fix.  So I had to come back today, saw a different bureaucrat.  She was one of the exceptions.

I was there to fix two errors.  At some point, somewhere, someone had misspelled my name with a "n" in place of an "m", not a hard mistake to make, the two are right next to each other on the keyboard, and in lowercase they don't look all that different.  Presumably took less than a second.  At some point, somewhere, someone someone had miss-typed my birthday as 30 instead of 03.  Both of those errors combined (though they may have been separated by years and many miles) probably took less than a second.

How long could they take to fix?

The better part of an hour and now they're going to have to get in contact with the hospital where I was born to verify the veracity of my birth certificate.  Which is expected to take weeks (guess they don't use first class mail, it could be done in two days, three at the most.)

But let's stick with the better part of an hour.

First off, I had to fill out a form.  "Which one?" I asked.  "There's only one." I was told.

Now this office had a variety of functions and it's a fair bet that the reason for me being there was completely different from most people coming in.  And I don't mean the "I'm here to correct two errors in your computer," reason.  I mean the reason I had come the day before.  I was never asked what it was I was doing when the errors were discovered, and I have a suspicion that by filling out the form she had me fill out I effectively applied for something I neither want nor need.  But the person wouldn't talk to me further until I filled out the form.

Also, my handwriting is bad.  Very bad.  It took me three tries to fill it out (there was no recycle bin evident so I folded up the failed copies and took them with me) and even with me filling it out in what might pass for legible, my handwriting probably introduced more errors than I was there to correct.

But what stands out isn't having me fill out the apparently unnecessary paperwork that is, as near as I can tell, for something I neither want nor need before being allowed to try to get the errors in their system fixed.

What stands out was this:

"I still have to-" she stops talking to me and has a conversation with one of her coworkers who had just walked up to her and dropped something off.  Not sure what it was about, clearly unrelated to me so it's not my business anyway.  I wait for the conversation to end.  It does.  The coworker starts doing something else, unrelated to her, she turns to me.

Some moments pass.

I try to find out the end of the sentence she had started.

I can't remember whether the "Excuse Me" is something she actually said or I mentally added based on tone of voice.  I'm leaning toward the second.  What I do remember is that she said, with great annoyance, "I'm talking to this gentleman here," pointing to the empty space over her right shoulder.

The gentleman in question was actually still around.  If she had pointed over her left shoulder she would have pointed at him.

What was very clear is that she was lying.  She was not talking to him.  She had been, but the conversation had ended.  She had ended it.  She had ended it both audibly and visibly.

She had ended it so thoroughly that she had completely lost track of where he was and what he was doing.  She did not notice that after she had ended the conversation and turned her back on him he had been forced to walk almost halfway around her to get to the work he had to do which was, apparently, completely unrelated to her.  She also didn't notice when he finished with that and walked away.

From well before I tried to find out how the sentence, "I still have to-" was supposed to end, until, at the very least, after I left the building, she did not say a word to "this gentleman here[sic]".  In fact, she never so much as acknowledged his existence with the sole exception of the false claim that she was in the process of speaking to him which she was not.

I understood that she had been speaking to him, that's why I had silently waited while the conversation was taking place and for a period afterward in case either of them realized they had left something unsaid.  But when she claimed that she was talking to him in the then-present tense it was a lie, an obvious lie, and an undeniable lie.

I don't know why she chose to lie to me, I don't know why she used the lie as an excuse to be annoyed and offended   But I do have a suspicion that she's the kind of bureaucrat people think of when they think, "bureaucrat," and that's a shame because, as I said, she seems to be the exception.

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