Adventures In Bureaucracy

bureaucracy.jpgI’d like to offer some tips for dealing with bureaucracy, but I think things vary enough from place to place that it would be misleading to pretend there’s a method that always works. There’s not! So here are some of my experiences.

I once had to fill out a new form because I’d used the wrong kind of ink on the first one. The color was acceptable, fortunately, but the ink was erasable or “smudgable”, so another pen and another whole form was required. In the same office, they were angry at me, well, at my boss, because I wrote the more politically correct “USA” in the nationality box. They wanted to see “American.” It certainly crossed my mind to engage in a sociological and philosophical discussion (“What is nationality? What is race? Are these social constructs or something more?”) but decided against it and just wrote American so I could get my permit and get the hell out of there.

In contrast…in another office, in another country, I signed the wrong line – one were someone else was supposed to sign. I didn’t have another form – oh no! – what to do? They had some White Out and used it. Problem solved.

Sometimes, you have to go to another office to pick up a form. Or you have to wait in line for a substantial amount of time to pick up a form. Or you wait in line and then when the office hours are over, they close, even if they haven’t helped you.

For one health test in the us – TB? – I scheduled my visit for an appropriate day – one which I knew I would be free one week from to come back for the results – and turned up, waited well over an hour to go in the office, and then found that they would be closed in one week for employees day or something.

My experience with bureaucracy in the US is that it is organized but just takes a long time, a lot of energy and often a lot of money to navigate. It’s all official; you’re not paying anyone off, high prices are just worked into the system. I’m thinking of notaries, for example.

The topic of bureaucracy, in my mind, is also at least somewhat connected to the topic of bribes and/or corruption. This is a wide topic, and one that I have to lots to say about, but I’ll limit myself to this piece of trivia I gleaned during the last bureaucracy fiasco: the practice of buying a stamp with a monetary value to use for some government form came about as a way of making it harder to bribe the government officials taking the forms.

The one redeeming quality of bureaucracy is that the worse it is, the better the stories you can tell.