Friday, June 12, 2009

Civil servants

There are two types of civil functionaries. The first is the person who is not allowed to think. You will usually find them at counter windows or at a reception desk. Now, since many situations are at least slightly ambiguous, there are times when thinking is needed.
The other day, I dropped in at my local university's record office to get a transcript for my daughter. She had filled out the form correctly, and written in a comments box, "Please allow my father to take one copy with him."
When I requested my copy, the clerk told me, in that prim voice they have, "I can't give you one. You have to have written, signed permission to take one." I pointed to the comment. "It's written, it's signed, and it's permission," said I, with some hope that this would make sense.
Taken aback, the clerk strode toward the back of the room, into an office, and I could detect agitated motion back there. She returned and said, "We have to have a specific document. It's a federal regulation." She said it in a way that put federal regulations several rungs above the ten commandments.
Here's the kicker. She told me that she couldn't give it to me, but she could mail it to me. Here the adult in me took over and I realized that was as much as I was going to get. So, I shut up and gave her my address.
The second kind of civil functionary is the one who is allowed to think but refuses to do so. These two categories are all inclusive.

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