It was Monday morning, and Samantha still had not received the documentation she required to obtain a driving license. She chose not to take the path I suggested, to wit, take a copy of their own rules and regulations and point out that if you have a social security number, you must provide it. As she had already applied for a number, she thought it might complicate matters in the future if she followed my advice. A further trip to the government office was, therefore, the only option, to see if she could be given the information over the counter so to speak. We took a ticket and waited to be called. The lady whom we encountered on our second visit, confirmed that there was no indication that Samantha had ever been to the facility. It would appear that the young lady who took all the details (minus my explanation as to how my daughter came into existence) did not put all the details she had procured into her computer, once the system came back on line! I did not ask what happened to the details Samantha had left but presume that lying somewhere in the depths of what is commonly known as bureaucracy, lies a photocopy of my daughter's identification cards. Samantha came armed with a wealth of additional evidence she thought might be necessary to produce. All went through without a hitch (not that there should have been a doubt) and she was told that her card should arrive within three to ten days. Unfortunately, that was three to ten days too late, as the license expired at midnight.
Despite my maternal anguish, I conceded that there was nothing I could do, and we returned to the office. Unlike the singer, R. Kelly, Samantha did not believe she could fly and started to put a plan into action that would allow her to continue coming into the office. Edward would have to bring her to work, and she would sweet talk our new guy into giving her a ride home. Despite my maternal anguish, this worked rather well, as she was sitting on the doorstep awaiting our arrival on Tuesday morning. Jason, her office counterpart was quite willing to make the detour on his way home, and my concerns were laid to rest.
The very definition of bureaucracy, to wit people who are involved in government, but not elected, was the centre of my attention for most of the week. Although the lady on our latter visit to the (not so) Social Office was far less bureaucratic than the first, the next two officials I encountered were up for the awards of most obnoxious and most inadequate. My two experiences at the post office this week were very definitely the most challenging I have ever experienced. As Samantha and Jason left early on Wednesday (due to his having an appointment, and her not having wings) I drew the short straw at the end of the day. Our regular postman is amazing! He is probably one in a million, and I am sure he sees his 'job description' more as a recommendation than the 'letter of the law'. If ever there was a description for 'above and beyond', I am quite sure his picture would be beside it. Not only does he deliver and collect, he lets me know when he will be in the area at the end of the day, and if he is delayed, or his schedule changes, he takes the time to telephone, and let us know! However, those I encountered working behind the counter this week, were not as obliging.
Due to the late afternoon hour, rather than drive down to my usual haunt, and enjoy the banter between the two ladies that are usually at the counter, I chose to drive to a smaller division, on the south side, which has less staff, but a small parking area. I waited patiently for my turn, and hoped I would not get the taller gentleman who appeared to be upsetting a young couple who were attempting to get a package sent overseas. In what appeared an attempt to be amusing, his attitude was more condescending than helpful, and becoming counter productive, as they (and everyone else around) failed to see the humour. Eventually, they left the area, and the person in front of me stepped forward, just as another counter opened, which left me with the comedian. I handed him a stack of envelopes to which I had already applied the correct postage, and an envelope which I required to be weighed. He did not seem to be convinced that the amount of stamps on each envelope was correct, and asked me how I had come to the final decision. I explained that I had weighed each and every envelope, and was quite sure that my math was correct. 'And how did you weigh these?' After looking at him in my best English accent, I dropped my voice to a whisper and answered. 'I put them on the scale'. Still not totally convinced that I knew what I was doing, he continued. 'You have a scale at home?' More bemused than irritated, although it was quickly becoming the other way around, I told him that I did not weight them at home, and waited for the punch line. 'So, you did this at an office? How do you know that your scale is correct?' I paused. 'How do you know you have been punched on the nose', was not my first thought, but that of the young man in the queue behind. It was rather apt, and I turned to call 'bravo', but simply smiled with appreciation. 'Do you know what will happen if the postage is not right?' the bureaucrat asked, seriously! Now was the time for my revenge. If I could not do as my fellow queuee had implied, perhaps the good old English wit could stop him in his tracks. I am not generally a vicious person, and I am renowned generally for my tact, but when it comes to sarcasm, I abound! 'If there is too little, they will be returned to me, BUT...', I raised my voice slightly to stop my accuser from interrupting, '...IF per chance, there should be too much postage, then they will be delivered to the recipient, with a loss on my part, that will remain unknown, and a mystery forever. Am I right?' The verbal punches come across with so much more force, and are far cleaner! Nursing a broken spirit, the official forced a smile, and then had to confirm that my large package did, indeed, not need additional funds. I left with a skip and a jump and returned to the office flying only metaphorically.
Despite the harrowing experience, I chose to go to the Post Office again on Thursday. It was the lesser of two evils. It had been a particularly busy day, and I just wanted to have a break from the telephones and computers. Not wishing to experience round two, but realising the necessity as it was, once again, going to be difficult to find somewhere to park downtown, I went on my way to spa! However, as I arrived, I was directed to a small mobile hut to the side of the main building. The post mistress for both my favourite office, and this one, was giving instructions to a member of her staff. I knocked on the small counter and she looked across, somewhat frustrated, but not at me. I introduced myself as she came towards me, as we have spoken many times on the phone, and have met a couple of times. She nodded in recognition. The accent never fails to give it away. She went on to tell me that their facility was being given a 'face lift', and they had been transferred into this temporary shack for a few months. Unfortunately, the necessary wiring had not been installed, and they were unable to conduct regular business. Whilst they were told this would be their home for the next three months, she had been given the impression, from a very reliable source, that it would be nearer six before they could reopen the new and improved venue. I sympathised, and told her to 'have fun!' She thanked me, tongue in cheek, and suggested I go 'fight the traffic', and to tell them at the other office, that she would be back soon!
After driving around the block three times, I found a parking space downtown, and walked towards the other post office. The two ladies who make the experience so worthwhile were not on duty. Instead there were two gentlemen. I stood in line, hoping that I would not get the one with 'trainee' upon his badge. Much as I am not against apprentices, I would rather someone in charge be overseeing. As the voice boomed 'next please', the person in front of me saw his opportunity, and with a palm up to the forehead gesture, feigned forgetfulness, and claimed he was 'not ready'. Amazingly enough, however, as the other cashier became available almost immediately, Mr tardy ran to the counter as fast as he could! I was left with the also ran! I apologise if I am offending anyone, but this criticism is not aimed at the person, but at the establishment. It is not his fault that he is unequipped to handle the simple task of listening to the customer. I placed three items on the counter and asked for him to weigh them, as I was unsure as to whether I had the correct postage. His counterpart at the other office, if not relegated to the shack, would have probably relished at the chance to tell me that I had failed. Instead the trainee took my three packages, threw them into the box behind him, and shouted, 'Next!' When I did not move, he reluctantly asked, 'was there anything else?' Once again, and I would add with tremendous self-restraint and patience, I suggested he weigh the packages, as I was unsure as to my calculations. One was correct, one was seriously under-stamped. I confirmed that I did wanted to pay for the extra postage, as I did want my package delivered. I left wondering what was next on the agenda. I attempted to drive back to the office, watching the birds fly overhead as I sat in traffic.
Fortunately, the phone call from Samantha on Thursday afternoon was to confirm that her card had arrived, and she stated that she would come into work after visiting the licensing centre. This, it appeared, was not up for discussion, and Dana did not seem to have a problem with the fait accomplis that had been given. She seemed amused that all her names were in full on the new card, all five names! My daughter has two middle names, and has chosen to keep her maiden name, as a prefix, hyphenated with her married name, all (five) of which contain no fewer than eight letters! (I don't know why either!)
Almost nobody flew anywhere on Friday, as the rain fell all day. Our regular postman was incredibly amused with my stories of his colleagues. He returned later in the day sporting this year's latest outfit for north sea fishermen! Samantha insisted that before she drive home, with her new temporary paper license, with only three names printed, that we go outside and take some pictures of our new umbrellas in the rain. Reluctantly, I braved the weather and stepped out on to the porch and then into the puddles on the pavement. Dana took snaps with my camera until Samantha was completely satisfied. Once inside the office, we flew briefly as our wet feet could not grip the floor, and we slipped, leaving the ground for a very short period.
The stress of the week melted away over the weekend as the rain stopped and the sky returned to a brilliant blue. The water in the pool was refreshing but at least I could still swim. I sat listening to the birds and watching a pair of doves being irritated by a third, wondering if they had their own bureacracy. Perhaps next week will bring forth less red tape, and some more rain, which is badly needed. Fall beckons and so does ............. another story.