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Sunday, October 23, 2011


Several years ago, a programme on British television had a section called, 'Jobsworth', where the presenters awarded a prize to the person who claimed their actions were unavoidable, as to act in any other was would be, 'more than my jobs worth'.  Some of the more ridiculous examples were when bus drivers would leave a lone child at a curbside, at night, in a rural area, as they did not have the correct fare.  Common sense failed to prevail, and fortunately, the next driver was not so short sighted.  'Jobsworth', is a word that has become so prevalent it made its way into the dictionary. Fortunately, most of the 'Jobsworth's' that I have met have been more ridiculous than irresponsible. 
Perhaps one of my favourite stories of someone who acted out of compassion, rather than adhering to the rules, goes back to when Samantha and I were still commuting to Texas, and back, during the school holidays.  The world's security was still reacting very much to 9/11, and Houston airport had upped its level quite drastically.  We had disembarked and gone through immigration, picked up our luggage and made our way through customs.  In an effort to carry as little as possible on the smaller plane, that took us from Houston to Austin, I put all my purchases made at the airport into the suitcase, before surrendering it, again, to the baggage handler for the shorter flight. This time, I put all my excess hand luggage into the case, placed it on the conveyor belt, and exited the area, before realising that I had dropped my passport into the bag.  I ran back into the restricted area, and was stopped by a uniformed official, who ordered me to 'STOP right there!'.  I froze.  She continued to pile on bags to the moving path, and I bent my head round to see if my cases had yet been added to the queue. 'Ma'am!  I said STOP!  Stay still!'  Now, I am not usually one to disobey orders when given by a USA customs official, but whether it was nerves, or adrenaline, I did just that.  'But.....',  I started.  I am not quite sure of the width of the belts, but added to the surrounding areas, it would take an Olympic long jump world record breaker to make the leap.  Her nametag did not say Flo-Jo, but she must have gone to the same athletic school!  And quick!  Mach One was a crawl in comparison!  I was standing face to chest (she was quite tall) with someone who had the authority to take me into custody, and I was arguing!  'But I put my passport in my bag, and I have to go through another round of security'.  Fortunately, she considered me to be more stupid than a threat, and ushered me to the 'Helpdesk'. 

At this juncture, I must point out that I held an original paper English driving license; one that did not require a photograph.  Standing in a queue that wound around half of Texas, I realised that time was marching by, and we would not catch our connecting flight.  Before the first time we missed a connection, (which became a regular function of our trips) the thought was rather worrying.  I found a rather kindly faced official, and attempted to explain my predicament.  She suggested that I go to the guard who was by the scanner.  The guard was rather bemused by my story; he stood and smiled, and nodded, and then looked at Samantha and said, 'Huh?'  I stopped rambling.  'I put my passport in my suitcase', I said as though he was deaf.  He asked if we had a driving license.  Samantha produced her provisional card, which displayed her likeness in beautiful colour, and he was more than happy to let her through to the next section.  I produced mine.  It was a green piece of paper, which displayed my name, address, date of birth, expiry date and an empty space for any future violations I may commit.  Picture free, it did not have so much as a 'wingding' to confirm that it belonged to me.  The guard looked at me, with what can only be described as pity.  I opened my purse and showed him a picture.  'This is me and my dad', I announced ungrammatically, 'taken at my engagement party twenty years ago'; was all I could offer.  He said, 'Thank you, ma'am.  Have a nice flight', and waved me through!

Unfortunately, the 'Jobsworth' I met this week did not attend the same school as my saviour at the airport. 
Roger was out of the office on Thursday morning, and it fell upon me to become 'Roger, Phase II'.  I had made a trip to the Courthouse, which is always an adventure with Samantha playing chauffeur, and she stayed in the car.  After filing my papers, and throwing my head back a couple of times, laughing, to comments from Clerks that I did not understand, but they considered to be amusing, I left. I greeted staring attorneys with a nod, who always look at me as if they are thinking, 'Hmm new blood?'.  I found Samantha parked around the corner and attempted to enter the car, but found it to be locked.  When I was young, my dad would leave Elise and I in the car, if he had to make a quick stop.   He would tell us that if a Policeman should come along, to tell him that we were 'waiting for daddy. He wont be long'.    I looked in the car, and Samantha was mouthing, 'I'm waiting for my mum; she wont be long!'   It is very crowded around the Courthouse area, and the jail is attached. Samantha found this to be highly amusing, and finally unlocked the door, to the disappointment of the awaiting 'arrest her' groupies. We then had to go to another government building to drop off, and pick up some paperwork, where Samantha, still chuckling, decided to come into the building with me.  As we entered, we were met by a guard at the security desk.   I am guessing that his retirement party was delayed due to the civil war and then forgotten.  I am not entirely sure as to how effective he would be should an army of terrorists invade the building, but he nonetheless stood firm with me. 
'Why are you here?'  I explained that I had come to drop off some papers on the fifth floor.  'What papers?' I waved my parchment at him.  I reiterated the purpose of my visit.  I was here to drop off, then collect some papers from the fifth floor.  I told him the department I was visiting, and one name of many whom I had come to see.  'But what is the purpose of your visit', he said again.  I repeated my reasons.  'Show me the papers!'; he demanded.  The papers I had bore neither the name of the person whom I was to see, nor the reason for my visit.  He told me that the lady whom I wished to see had left.  I told him that I could see anyone on the fifth floor.  'Why?' he asked again.  We went through the same procedure. I looked for the cameras; not the security cameras, but the America's funniest video, cameras.  Alternatively, there was a switch behind this man's left ear, and he was a robot.  Stepford wives revisited and renamed, 'Austin's Guards'  Trying to remain polite, yet becoming more firm in my application, I told him that I was here on official business, and could he please announce to anyone on the fifth floor that I was here, and if necessary, could they send someone down to escort me.  Quite reluctantly, he looked through his book, and dialed a number on his telephone.  His mumbling was not only incoherent to me, but apparently also to the receiving party, as he handed me the phone.  A very confused lady enquired as to my business.  I told her whom I represented, and that she was used to seeing Roger.  A heavy sigh was followed by the words, 'and he wont let you come up?'  I confirmed.  She asked to be re-connected with the guard.  He was not happy with her instruction, and reluctantly gave me a pass and asked me to fill out my details on the register. 'You can't be too careful', he said, almost jovially.  I entered the elevator with Samantha, my papers in hand, and my bag on my shoulder, approximately ten minutes after my arrival.  Not once did he ask to search my bag!  Admittedly, I am not accustom to carrying a firearm with me, but he was not to know.  If I came in with a rocket propelled grenade over my shoulder, I am sure he would have said, 'What is your business here!'  Perhaps he feels terrorists will tire of the questions and go and pick on another building! Perhaps he was just bored.  Perhaps he just doesn't know how to play golf? I picked up my papers, waved to the receptionist, and went back down to the lobby.  I signed out and left the building. 
I am a big fan of security, real security;  I have no problem in having my bag searched or being scanned (although I don't relish the thought of having to go through the new x-ray machines) but 'Jobswoths' are not going to achieve anything, except the higher sales of painkiller from the headaches they cause. 

My week ended with a couple more trips to the courthouse, where I met real security guards, who were most polite and welcoming.  They did check my bag!  Samantha stayed in the car, locked the door and repeated the 'my mum wont be long' scenario, to the delight of the apprehensive crowd.   I went into another building to drop off some papers, and the young security officers at the desk were oblivious to my entering.  I don't think I was wearing my invisible cloak, but I am never sure!

We did have fun yesterday and there was a vast amount of security guards, directing traffic, zealously.  We went to the Dogtober Fest in Austin.  Oh my, I promise that will be....another story!

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