Monday, January 31, 2005

Stuff and Nonsense

See if you can believe Mike's Monday Story: I went to and transacted in four different government bureaucracies today, and it took all of 80 minutes, including driving time. First to the Texas Real Estate Commission, up north behind Pappadeaux where a lot of UT kids live in inexpensive apartments. There I tried, at first unsuccessfully, to reinstate my license to the point where I can retake the state exam. The nice lady there told me I had to finish my continuing education requirements before, not after, applying for reinstatement.

I charmed, I cajoled, I Jedi mind tricked. She feinted toward the weary I've-heard-it-all-before-and-I-don't-care state employee persona but zagged the other way into "let me ask my supervisor" ultrahelpful mode. The girl behind me cheered me on as she was in the same boat but to her it meant a fine if she didn't get it done today, and we both relaxed visibly when the nice lady came back smiling. At 15 minutes, it was the second-longest wait I had all day.

Next was the Department of Public Safety building behind Highland Mall to get a copy of my driving record, just before 1 p.m. Utterly packed, of course, and it took me a while just to figure out that while I did need a number, I should be looking for a person rather than one of those number-taker thingys you see in delis and, well, the DPS office. The number I end up with is B296, and when I look at the "Now serving" sign, and a lovely and easy to read sign it is, it becomes apparent that I am in one of three groups, and group B is on 280 now. Sixteen doesn't seem like a terrible wait, so I sit and start reading "Flight to Arras" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the guy who wrote "The Little Prince." He was an avid pilot and flew for France during their disastrous collapse before the Nazis, and the book describes in poetic tones what it felt like to be a disposable part in a crumbling machine. I had read only five pages when I looked up just in time to see my number flashing in the DPS on-deck circle, becoming solid as the robot voice called it in English and Spanish. The bored girl took my paperwork and whipped out my driving record in less than a minute. Done and off to the Texas Education Agency.

The TEA is just north of the Texas State Capitol and just south of the University of Texas campus, in a large granite block with cubic holes cut into it. I went there to pick up my Defensive Driving certificate because procrastination made me wait until the date of my court appearance, and I chose that moment to call my phone company to demand the idiots there fix my goddamn phone right for once, and the girl behind that desk waited patiently as I savaged the tech support moron, which cause a number of TEA employees to pretend to have something to do at the front so they could scope me out. I ignored them and interrupted the phone company guy to ask the girl very sweetly for what I needed, and she scurried off to get it while I wrapped up with phone boy. Then home to do some real estate studying while I wait for my court appearance.

That's right, they allocate a whole judge to examine Defensive Driving documents. You'd think they would let you show that stuff to the paper-pushers, but apparently not. I showed up a little early to account for the metal detector line and timed it just well enough to be seated less than a minute before the judge entered. Although my last name is early in the alphabet, my hopes for being the first of the 30 or so miscreants I shared a courtroom with were dashed when the judge started with a guy named David Thomas. I couldn't decide if it would be disrespectful to read a paperback in the front row while his honor laid down the law and decided that in case it was I'd sit patiently and daydream. I ended up being third and exiting the building ten minutes after my appearance time.

So all I can figure is that the next time I have to do stuff like this, I'll get punished for how easy today was. And that's fine with me.

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