I deserve a Purple Heart medal. I have been mortally wounded in combat…Please, someone call a Medic.
The woman I was passed along to was the supervisor – the head, the chief, the authority in charge, she said, of ‘the entire Washington government building’ where my telephone call had been switched, pitched, ditched and hitched.
And this woman, who would only identify herself as ‘Theresa’ and no more, kept repeating in that maddening, patronizing manner that she was: “…so sorry. I can’t help you….I can’t answer that. But is there anything more I can (not) do for you?”
And all I could think at this moment of exasperation was that a government that is big enough give all you need — as well as what it orders you to need — is also a government too big to give most anything you need… And in the end: Takes all your needs away…
Hmm… I think I got that right….but read it thrice…
As you readers of my once and twice a week essays know, particularly from my March 13th and May 22nd columns, I have been trying for months to replace my passport my ex-wife stole along with most everything else. She was, at first, aided and abetted by a government official named Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Kate Thurston.
Ms Thurston would later drop, punt, kick and withdraw all the egregious charges. That is, after she – and most everyone else who had been seduced by their fellow femme fatale – could no longer believe my mentally turmoiled ex – Stephanie Blatt.
And afterwards, when I sought Miserable Thurston’s retribution to help reclaim my life – or at least ‘my stuff’ — this woman who likes to dress in manly pant suits, replied: “Get a lawyer…”
All I could say in return to ADA Kate Thurston was: “I thought I was speaking to one.”
Right now, however, my problem was the Washington passport supervisor, Theresa. I call her: ‘Mother Theresa.’ She is obviously indicative of our government sinecures.
You see, due to government delays, incompetence, lost files and incivility the 90-day deadline for my passport application was about to expire.
And, naturally, I would lose all my money, time, parking fees, place in line and lingering sanity. And then I would have to re-enter the process with all new security pat-downs, photographs and redundancy of insane questions — as well as more money, personal time and popping my repaired heart gaskets all over again.
And all I wanted to know was how many days I had left to get her the final government document – an official copy of my birth certificate — before I got trashed. In other words: When is my 90-days up?
“I can’t tell you that,” she said, before again bleating, “Sorry…”
Can you give me a ballpark guesstimate? I asked.
“Sorry…I can’t do that?”
Can you tell me what you can do?
“I can put a note in your file.”
Will that get me a 30-day extension on my passport application?
“I don’t know. Probably not. I’m sure they won’t even see it. I can’t say the note would do any good… sorry…”
Then why would you say you would do something that does absolutely no good…..What do you do, Theresa?
“I answer questions,” she complied, and for the only time, not saying she was sorry.
Now folks, I am not making any of this up. My many, many pointed questions were beaten into blubbering plowshares by the percussion of non-speak and bureaucratese from this anything-but ‘Mother’ Theresa.
Obviously I don’t know Theresa from any other incivil servant who seeks holy sanctuary behind the faceless fog of government bureaucracy. But if I had to reckon a guess from the officious sound of her irritating, over polite and disingenuous voice I would say:
She is a fastidious, ‘youngish,’ Middle-Ages woman who regularly rises to chomp her capped teeth on a couple dozen eggs and pork sausages just to crank up the early breakfast suicide trucks, pouring down the high cholesterol, to cement-up the blood, already barely trickling, to her malnourished medulla oblongata.
At the same time, she no doubt has a meticulously clean, tidy clerk’s desk — spawning the apropos bumper sticker: A neat desk is the sign of a very sick mind.
And right now, about lunchtime, I seemed to be road-blocking between she and her KFC feedbag wafting from upon her colorless doilies.
What I asked again was: Did my 90-day deadline extend from March 10th , the day that I reapplied for my passport. I could easily recall the day because it was the one Saturday of the only weekend a year that the passport office in the Customs House in Philadelphia is open. That also happens to be the date of an ex-wife’s (my first, I think) birthday.
“I can’t tell you that…” replied Theresa. “I don’t know…sorry…”
The problem, as I tried to inform Mother Theresa on duh phone, was that even though the dour passport clerk that March day could pull up, on his huge computer, my old passport, still with three-years of eligibility, and my entire life story on and off the records, he still insisted on proof of citizenship.
That isn’t something I would be required to have if I was just renewing my passport. Which, in effect, is all I was doing – since he could see and review my stolen one.
Isn’t it? I asked Mother Theresa.
“I can’t answer that,” she bleated. “I can’t tell you… I don’t know…sorry…”
Anyway, the Philadelphia passport clerk had wanted some proof other than what I was demonstrating with my Driver’s License, voter card, credit cards, medical cards, membership cards… I was even willing to show him my genital tattoos…How about a pix of me with the Jewish Pope?…
But he wanted a birth certificate.
And since I was undoubtedly the very first person in the history of the passport office who didn’t have his Birth Certificate in possession, they would have to send me – instead of having one to just hand me — an application to fill out. In turn I would mail it into the Pennsylvania state bureau of vital statistics to obtain an official copy of my BC.
“It will only take a couple of days,” he said.
By the way, in Moscow they once replaced my stolen passport in one working day…And without an official copy of my BC.
I finally received my one-page application form with a letter dated April 13th. That’s 34 days later — even on the Mayan calendar.
And I immediately rocket-shipped it off to the Pennsylvania vital statistics place with the one-page form meticulously edited, all the SASE’s required, the pre-paid money order as well as a ‘clear’ photocopy of my driver’s license.
Six weeks go by. And I check on the Vital Statistics joint only to learn that they won’t be getting to little ol’ me for 14 weeks. That’s 98 days. And that’s from the date my pre-paid money order clears. Remember, I started this passport retrieval process for a speaking engagement I was to host in Kiev on May 15 – 66 days from the outset.
Obviously I am toast. Or, as they say in Kiev: Chicken.
But after a number of phone calls and acerbic e-mail exchanges and another poignant column – that no doubt prompted a few high end political calls — I landed in the soon-to-become competent lap of Robin Carran.
Ms Carran, my new-best-friend, finally sticks an enema into her end of government constipation – even though I must resend her all the information I sent the statistics’ bureau over 6 weeks before, but now couldn’t be located.
Ms. Carran even agreed to call the Washington passport people to officially verify – from one smelly official title to another – that my birth certificate is being sent to me.
But civil servants know better than the rest of us that there are no honest people in government.
So even a fellow civil servant gets the same sniffing, uncivil, condescending answers I do:
“We can’t even talk to you… unless you are the applicant….”
And, of course, they can’t talk to me, either, even though I am the applicant.
So that’s why I am ‘conversing’ with Mother Theresa in far away Washington passport land. Even though she ‘can’t’ tell me when my drop dead deadline is on my 90-day limit I explain to her the math: 90 days from March 10th would be June 8th.
“I can’t tell you that,” she re-repeated. “…sorry…”
She then let something slip that made me clearly realize that she had my whole life on-and-off-the-records displayed before her computer screen.
“You received a letter from us on April 13th,” she said.
What was the date, you said? I asked, even though I had the letter filed at home.
“I’m not sure… Don’t you have the letter?”
Didn’t you just reference an April 13th letter?
“I don’t know… Don’t you have a copy?”
Not with me!!!!???
Well, can you tell me if the 90-day deadline is from the date of the letter or my checking in on March 10th.
“I can’t tell you that…I don’t know… I’m not sure…sorry…”
Finally I surrendered. I had withstood more inhumanity in the past 49 minutes and 43 seconds than any sensory-deprived divorced man is deemed capable – even under the rules of war covered in the Geneva Conventions.
She finally said that I should write yet another letter to the passport officials explaining my situation. She didn’t know where I should send it. And I couldn’t e-mail it to her because she said she either didn’t have e-mail, or couldn’t receive letters… “sorry…”
You mean, I said, I should write yet another missive pointing out that the stupidity, arrogance, delays and incompetence of ‘pusillanimous poseurs of parsimonious pulchritude,’ such as yourself….
“What did you call me?!” she demanded.
As they say in South Philly: Fer-ged-da-bout-it!!!!
I asked Theresa, quite frankly, that if her department sets the rules and makes the rules and enforces them…how can I comply with them if I don’t know what they are? Seems a tad bizarre to those of us who aren’t ‘misologist…’
“What did you call me?!”
She said there was no one she could call to help me, even though I had complied with the instructions and adhered to the rules and regulations. She repeated that I should write a letter.
I know, I know…I could have gone to my Representative, or a lawyer, or any of the cottage industries flourishing to expedite and compensate for the insolent, insipid, arrogant, scurrilous, ignominious shit our uncivil servants make us eat.
They, along with our politicians, should be slowly hung by their gonads and burned in the public squares. And don’t tell me it’s better here than in other places …like Italy.
Nevertheless, we are supposed to be far and away the best…the standard, the torch….’We’ are supposed to be a righteous country!!
But I needed to go through it to know, feel and comprehend what most folks endure — especially those without connections to power and money. And not just for a passport. This is indicative of the powerlessness and humiliations many endure day-in and day-out.
We are a people that should be judged by how we treat other people in society who can neither help us or hurt us. And obviously we treat them like the hired help – our incivil servants – treat us. As I learned back on the farm: Never treat your dogs like humans, because they will end up treating you like dogs…
This is abominable. We squander our money, our resources, our public debate on Iraq and Afghanistan while the debauchery and degeneracy slithers in our own back yards and public institutions.
Yes, government is terrible. And, indeed, hell is other people. But we get the government we deserve…for duh people…by duh people…and of duh (in)civil servants….
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony…