Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote a poem to her dead husband in which she said something like, “My gift to you was letting you die first.”
Hoo, boy! Do I agree with that. All this stuff about doing things on line or over the telephone? Foggedaboutit. I have learned that once the recorded messages start, the trick is to hit zero and keep hitting it. Sooner or later somebody will answer. Or, sit in the social security office for five hours or so to speak to a representive for two minutes. Been there, done that. Or in a military office for four hours to get a new ID.
As obnoxious as all of this is, the people who actually staff these offices have been unfailingly pleasant and helpful. I asked the young security guard at social security when he was being canonized. He shrugged and said (with a smile), “I have to die first.”
I could not do their jobs. They answer the same dumb questions for frequently distraught people again and again and again. With a smile for them all, including the grumpy children, and a kind answer that solves the problem where possible. Having dealt with minor civil servants in a number of European countries, I can tell you that it’s mostly not like that in their offices.
Many of us have had bad experiences with US customs agents at American airports—unfortunately they have a reputation that is often accurate. They tend to treat everybody like a major smuggler.
But these folks I have dealt with have made me proud to be an American. And I have asked the same dumb questions and been totally freaked out like everyone else waiting for hours on end. At once point I considered sitting down on the floor and having a hissy fit, except that I’d probably have been arrested and dragged off to The Home in handcuffs.
Again, I apologize that this blog is so late. I left home this morning at eight and only got home a couple of hours ago. And everywhere I go, every office I talk to tells me of more logistical nightmares I have to negotiate.
Thank heaven that there truly are some saintly civil servants out there propping us up.