There’s no lack of theories about why our country is in the economic mess it’s in, but a very small situation I tried to deal with today tells me that one of the major factors that is holding us back from our potential is petty bureaucracy, with its ubiquitous stifling control of so many aspects of our lives.
I live in a beachside city on the lower end of the East Coast. I don’t want to identify it directly because it’s heavily dependent on tourism and jealously guards it image. Let’s just say that Connie Francis once made a movie here and millions of people of my age cohort crashed in crowded, boozy hotel rooms here during Spring Break.
One of the nice perqs of being a resident is that for only $6 per year you can get a parking pass to park for free along some of the best beach parking. Besides saving a lot of money, it makes you feel like a VIP when you walk up to the parking meters and see some poor tourist fumbling with change and wrinkled dollar bills, and you just insert the card, punch in a few hours, and walk away.
The only problem is when you lose one, as I did when I went surfing a few weeks ago. I finally got around to calling them to see if I could get a replacement card, and they told me it was no problem. All I had to do was fill out a lost property report with the Police Department. I thought that was a little overkill, but I went to the PD web site, downloaded the appropriate form, filled it out, and drove about five miles to get them to stamp it with their official stamp. (I actually thought this was a bit onerous, because last month my wife had a $6,000 ring stolen and they just took the report over the phone.)
When I got to the police HQ, they told me I needed to have the form notarized. I said, “Really? For a $6 item?”, and looked closely at her face behind the bulletproof glass to see if maybe she was joking. It wasn’t a joke.
The parking office was nearby, so I went there to see if actually talking to someone and using my formidable powers of persuasion might work.
No such luck. The woman behind the (I assume also bulletproof) glass told me she did not realize it had to be notarized, but I did need the official PD stamp. I asked why, and she told me it’s because the cards contains thousands of dollars of value on them. Being a concerned taxpayer, I then asked if I reported it lost, could they cancel it and potentially save thousands of dollars? She told me no, there is no way to cancel the card. Being perhaps overly logical, I then asked if you can’t cancel the card anyway, what’s the purpose of requiring a lost property form?
Rather than answer the question directly, she expertly shifted the frame of the discussion and suggested I return to the police HQ and ask them to give me a form to fill out right there and she said I probably wouldn’t have to have it notarized if I got the form directly from them. I showed her the form I had filled out already and naively asked why their form would be different from the one I had downloaded; she told me that they only have the forms online so you could see what they look like, not actually to use.
That’s when I decided to cut my losses and return to work.
It’s such a small thing, but it took two hours out of my potentially productive workday and still was not resolved. And when you multiply that by the millions of hours wasted trying to comply with such pettifogging rules foisted on us by these petty tyrants with no accountability, is it any wonder that the US has slipped a spot this year in the global business climate rankings? is it any wonder people are so frustrated with our leadership? I almost think it doesn’t matter who is in the White House–it’s the public “servants” we deal with every day that really run our lives.
My problem now is this: I’m not a Tea Partier and I don’t want to occupy anything. Where do I turn?