first off, it is clear to me that fear of bureaucracy, though not perhaps unreasonable, can be a very disadvantageous thing. much of my bureaucratic excercise today was the direct result of my car dealer's paperwork guy being too intimidated by the threat of the bureaucratic unknown to have been effective on my behalf last friday. see, my insurance agent, bless her heart, was very clear about the forms and how to fill them, (rmv-1 to swap plates to the new car, and rmv-3 to swap registrations on the old one so as to get new plates for it), and the paperwork guy was all "i got it boss", but, of course, he didn't have it at all, and all i ended up with at 5pm on a friday with all bureaucracies closed was one set of plates for a convertible car, and nothing for the de facto slush sled. good news was that saturday's and sunday's weather made convertible driving something you dream about, but the bad news was that first thing this morning, as the snow flew, i was one set of plates short from where i needed to be. so, off to see the wizard's desk clerks...
second off, there's a certain amount of pragmatism necessary to get what you want without an unreasonable amount of effort when dealing with bureaucracies. who knows if the seven-day-rule actually allowed me the lattitude, but knowing i was properly insured to be driving both cars, and adhering to the spirit of the law, if not it's bureaucratic letter, i actually jumped the bureaucratic gun this morning (shh, don't tell anyone) by swapping the old plates *back* to the designated dirtmobile for my drive to the insurance company and the registry so as to get the proper plates for it. nobody asked, and i didn't tell. the insurance agency was getting a slow start because of the snow, and though my usual agent was out for a couple of days, they soon found a suitable fill-in who could print me the right form, fill it out correctly and apply the right stamp, and then give me the needed signature. one down.
so further reason to reflect on pragmatism was encountered at the rmv, where i met in line a guy i know well whose reputation precedes him with almost every bureaucracy there is. his disobedience isn't always as civil as might be, but i guess that's part of the fun for him. (i like him, as you might imagine). every rule is a battleground to him, and every salvo from the bureaucracy a clarion call to war. today it was something to do with a license reinstatement owing to some fines not paid over some point of conscientious objection, and we had a right enjoyable conversation over things while i waited for my number to come up at the registration window. no idea how he fared after i left, but i'm sure it would have been interesting to see. his suggestion to me about that dep matter to which i alluded earlier was fight, fight, fight, but i knew that, though it might have been right for him, it's no longer right for me to put confrontation at the top of my bureaucratic agenda, least of all with an entrenched and well-bureaucratically-armed bureaucracy like the dep. the phrase "path of least resistance" can sometimes be used by some people as a pejorative, but to me it's the highest compliment, and my highest bureaucratic calling. if i can get out of something more easily by kowtowing to it, then that's my prerogative. the dep will get no fight from me today.
i also, as a complete aside, ran into another old friend who i had not seen for a couple of years until zipping by him in my convertible on my way to my next errand on saturday afternoon. i dearly wanted to stop that day, but knew i had a daughter counting on me to be otherwise prompt, so i left chance to fate, or fate to chance, as the case may be, and passed along. so it was with great joy that i found him standing right next to me in line at the rmv long enough to catch up on his comings and goings (brasil, martha's vineyard and all places in between) and share enough info on upcoming soccer opportunities so that it's sure we'll get a chance to catch up more fully some sunny afternoon very soon. a very nice serendipitous treat.
so, back to the bureaucracy...
my new plates in hand, and all paperwork properly filed, i affixed the right tags to the right vehicles and even got back home in time to pass along the next set of company bureaucratic electronic paperwork waiting for me in my inbox. (ahh, the temporal conveniences of virtual toil). my next stop was to feed the meter again, (not supposed to park in the building lot here during a snow event), and head up the street to share a cuppa and a little lunch with more friends new and old at a newly-reopened coffee shop around the corner. (i know what i said about not concerning myself about "smart" when arranging my time and acqaintences these days, but i have to say, when the stars align by otherwise coincidence, i'm still able to appreciate thoughtful people saying thoughtful things). so appreciative was i that i stepped myself right into the last chapter of todays stories about bureaucracies, by running a few minutes over on my parking meter and picking myself up a $15 present from the city's parking enforcement bureau.
it occurred to me, observing the street full of empty spaces, that the lion's share of the rationale for metered parking was completely absent today in the snow, but a bureaucracy exists to do the task for which it was created and nothing else, so the enforcer on the street tagged my car and passed the record up the electronic chain to the collector's office in city hall, and i was thus ensared in their web. forget that i'm being punished for patronizing the local businesses for which the city runs its parking enforcement--it's someone's job to tag cars, and someone else's job to collect the fines, and fighting it is only going to cost me oodles more in time and aggravation than it's worth. i laughed off the ludicrosity of it all, and trudged over to city hall so as to stand in line for 20 minutes so that the one overworked clerk could get to my case and issue me the all-important receipt. all too funny, except i was out yet another ounce of flesh for no useful purpose, and i'm gonna have to stock up again so as to be able to afford beer after soccer tomorrow night.
because, all said and done, that's what it's all about. the bureaucracy doesn't care about me, but *I* care about me, and i'm legal to drive without encumbrances to my favorite soccer venue tomorrow night, and have a run and a round (or two) with the boys. (thanks to the neighbor who referred me to that blood alcohol estimation web site so that i know that a couple beers in a couple hours isn't going to run me afoul with the police bureaucracy on my way home).
just counting the days til it's convertible weather again, and relishing my state of bureaucratic grace.