Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bureaucracy in its Finest Hour!

Yesterday, while scrolling through a tiny black notebook that I always keep in my purse, I came across some notes I'd made back in January after a particularly funny moment.  Just seeing my little reminder made me laugh out loud again.

It was about mid- January, and Geoff and I had just realized that we had lost our birth certificates over the Christmas holidays.  In order to submit copies of them to Ethiopia, to update our file there, we had to (very quickly) order and obtain new birth certificates.  So, one Thursday morning, I headed downtown to pick up my newly minted copy from the Vital Statistics office.  I was there right in time for the office opening, trying to beat the rush.  When I walked in, I was relieved to see that the waiting room was completely empty and there were two employees sitting ready and waiting at neighbouring customer service desks.  As I approached the first desk, that customer service rep's phone rang and she picked it I moved a step or two over and approached the second desk.  I smiled as I neared her desk, and said that I was there to pick up my birth certificate.  She looked at me blankly for a moment, then asked me if I had a number.

"What?" I asked, confused. "Pardon me?"

She pointed to the square pillar diving her desk from the first desk I had passed by; sure enough, there was one of those red ticket-dispensing machines skewered to the pillar.

"You're kidding, right?" I asked with a broad smile, gesturing behind me with both hands to point out the obvious lack of customers, and ready to engage in a light-hearted moment.


"Do.  You.  Have.  A.  Number?"  she repeated, hands now folded primly on the desk in front of her.

Without moving either of my feet even an inch, and with the smile nailed to my face (certain still that this was a big joke), I reached my hand over and plucked a number from the dispenser.

"Number eighty-seven," she said, still looking directly into my eyes from across the desk.

"Ooo, ooo, I have it," I said, with unveiled sarcasm.  Still planted in the same spot I'd first stopped in, I put my number on her desk in front of her.  "See," I continued, "Number. Eighty. Seven."

"What can I do for you?" She asked, without moving her eyes from mine.

Nary a smile crossed her face, but mine lingered long past my departure from that building.  Even now, thinking back on it, I shake my head and smile.  It was one of the unintentionally funniest mornings I've had in a very long time, and a great way to get over the anxiety of having to submit additional documentation for our adoption file in Ethiopia.  Isn't it good to know that our tax dollars are put to such good use?


  1. Oh my goodness! That is so sad... lol!

  2. too funny Ruth- thanks for the laugh (and the head shake!!)

  3. I might have been inclined to keep my sweet smile on, and ask very nicely for the name of her manager, to be sure that the letter I would be sending in later would reach the correct person. Funny...and really pathetic.

  4. That is hilarious! I would bust a gut laughing and then go back and ask her if I could replay the whole episode on tape and send it in to America's Funniest Home Videos!

  5. Ruth that is a funny, funny story!

    Like seriously lady! But good for you for making it a funny least for yourself and your readers!

  6. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! Thanks! I needed that! Ha ha ha ha ha! Do you have a number? Ha ha ha ha!

  7. Oh that is too funny!!!! I don't think I would have been able to contain my sarcasm either!!!


  8. Ha! Sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit (do you have SNL in Canada?)

    Ruth, I wanted to thank you for your interest in FOVC (via the "big board" and your note to our newest team member, Tamara.) Please check out our website and let us know what you think!

    Thanks and God bless,
    Lory Howlett

  9. Yeah, here's the thing: the numbers track how many clients are served. The numbers are used for stats. I can't serve people if they haven't taken a number either.

  10. Hilarious!!!
    I am still laughing!!


  11. Thanks for the well needed laugh!
    It reminded me too of a SNL sketch!


  12. That's unbelievable! If I didn't know better I'd say that was the script for a sitcom!

  13. Ha ha..I had a similar experience when getting my drivers license here in Nova Scotia. After one lady dealt with my paperwork, I had to see another lady sitting right next to her. The woman handed me my paperwork back and I said 'Just give it to her now, my luck I will lose it'. She said that I would have to give the forms to her myself, but I wouldn't be waiting long because she was not dealing with anyone else. So I scooted two feet to the right and there I was, ready to hand over my papers. Lady Two gave them back to me and told me to take a number across the room first. So I walked over there, pulled the ticket and 2 seconds after that, before I could even sit down, she called my number and I gave her my paperwork. It was just a complete comedy.

  14. haahaahaa!! that is HILARIOUS, in a crazy-rude-ignorant-woman sort of way. You should have said "you do realize you're on candid camera, right?" lol! Somebody obviously loves the power their job gives them, haahaa