Bureaucracy

As many of you dear readers know, I will soon be leaving Canada for a position as a preacher in South Korea. Perhaps it is this coming move that is giving me some courage in letting out my inner conservative (conservatism being slightly less acceptable in Newfoundland than a love for Quebec). But I wonder about the sanity of my beloved homeland in any case.

Today I decided to renew my driver’s license. It will expire on my birthday this year, and I will be in Asia by the time that happens. So, I went to the services office to get the license renewed, foolishly believing this would be a simple and sensical process.

I arrived at a small building (that had once been a local bar) to get the work done, somewhat pleasantly surprised that I would be the next person served (my number was the next one). It was this soon hope that kept me mollified for the next 30 minutes as I waited for the next available agent to serve me.

When I came to the counter, however, I was told that I could not renew my license until 45 days before my license expired. Okay, assuming that there is a reason for this, I asked why. I was given the reply that it was “because the computer won’t accept it”.

Somehow sure that the agent was having fun at my expense, I asked again for the reason that I could not renew my license. Again, I got the somewhat testy reply concerning the computer system.

Now, to explain to some who may not know why I was struck by this, my question was not as to the reason for the agent’s inability to do something, but was rather as to why the system was designed this way. No answer was forthcoming to this query, even when the agent got her supervisor to respond.

So what was I to do with a system that would not let me renew yet? The agent said that I could 1) get my picture taken now, so that it would be on file, 2) fill out the form now so that the information would also be on file, and 3) send someone down to pick up the license near the end of June and then mail me the driver’s license in Asia. I did all this, and now they are all ready to print up my license at the end of June when HAL decides that I am allowed to have it. But what possible advantage is there to the system for making me wait? If anything is to change between now and 5 weeks from now, the people at Newfoundland Services aren’t going to know. I’m not going to be there to get my new license.

I was drawn to think of my job as a lowly call centre agent while I was waiting for a posting. While I fixed internet for people, I was often asked questions as to why, for example, a person had to wait 30 days to get back an e-mail address once it had been deleted. I always needed to have an answer beyond “because the system won’t let me”, even when the underlying reason was stupid. I was trained to give these answers in a complete deadpan because if I didn’t, the client would go to the competition whose agents had a better understanding. All the while, my pay scale hovered slightly minimum wage (a good deal less than agents and supervisors are paid at Newfoundland government services).

And people wonder why I oppose the government having as much of a role in our lives as they do……