Random Thoughts

Government Offices Part 2: The Office of Utter Chaos (continued)

So my mission seemed accomplished, as I waited patiently by my mailbox for further instructions from the Office of Utter Chaos. Two weeks passed with no update via mail. As instructed, I called the office. I talked to a gentleman who I assumed was a gym teacher in his spare time. Given the fact that I spoke with someone almost immediately, I had an expectation about the level of phone service I would receive that I soon learned would never be met again.

Mission #3: Figure out how to derive money from utter chaos

Location:  Headquarters of Evil
Time:  Morning

The gentleman on the phone notified me that my “call day” (in other words the day I call the automated system to tell it to give me money) was the day before.  There was a tone in his voice that suggested I should have known this, but given the lack of info I was supposed to receive in the mail, I had no idea, and inadvertently called one day late.  If I wanted to get that all squared away, he informed me I would need to travel once again into the very heart of evil.

Unfortunately, the only time I had to go into the office was on the same day I needed to travel out of town, so I decided to arrive early, certain that my early bird arrival would be awarded somehow.  The office, I had learned, opened at 8:30am.  I arrived at 8:34am.  Knowing the drill now, I walked straight to the table manned by a now disgruntled female security guard, who sat perched atop her pomp like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.  I confidently grabbed my piece of paper with a number on top.  I looked in horror as the number read “68”.  I gasped.  At this rate, they would be on number 8,670 by the end of the day.

I regained my composure, assuming that they must have started at a number other than 1.  I walked up to the nice gentleman behind the desk right in front of me who was clearly in charge of helping people.

….

I’m sorry, I misspoke.  I walked up to the fire breathing gargoyle who was in charge of separating those who would be killed by hanging, and those that would be drowned along with bags of puppies.  I inquired as to what number he was on.  He responded with “nobody gets to see the wizard!”  After which, he informed me that they were on number 2.

Poop jokes aside, I was clearly going to be here for a while.  I blended in with the masses once again, prepared this time with a book to read.

Now I want to take an opportunity to point out the lack of complete logic in this kingdom.  While the domain of the Secretary of State had as many sensors and displays with which number was being called as could be powered by the city grid, the Office of Utter Chaos did not fail to live up to its name.  Here’s how the process works:

1)  Enter, confident in receiving help from the Federal Government
2)  Take paper off of table where security guard sits.  In the upper corner of said paper is a number.
3)  Fill out piece of paper with Social Security #, various trivial bits of info, and a description of your problem (which the Unemployment Office employees view just as trivial as your life).
4)  Place piece of paper on a stack of unattended papers with everyone else’s social security number like a delicious identity theft buffet.  Quickly memorize your number so you can figure out when the hell your moment in the sun will occur.
5)  Wait for employee behind the desk to call your name (note, not your number!  They will call your name).
6)  As you approach the desk, enjoy what little pride you have by looking around the room smugly.
7)  Watch the remnants of your soul float away.

So a few observations I noticed while sitting for hours upon hours:

a)  Considering the fact that they mispronounced my name twice, why are they calling peoples’ names?  At least 80% of the people in the room weren’t exactly from around these parts, and had names that are difficult for scholars to pronounce.  And over and over I witnessed the man butcher a name two or three times, shrug, and move on to the next name.  Some of these people had been waiting for 2 and a half weeks, only to have their moment come and go in a matter of seconds.
b)  It’s not like the employee behind the desk is using your little piece of paper for anything other than calling your name, so why am I leaving my social security number out in the open?
c)  While waiting, I figured it would be fun to also call, to see if I could get phone service faster than face service.  The phone number for the unemployment office is either busy or directs you to a voicemail box that is full on 99.5% of calls.  However, if you replace all instances of “please call your local office” with “go fuck yourself” the whole process gains an amazing amount of clarity.
d)  To find out what number they were currently serving required timidly approaching the desk to ask the soul eating demon what number he was currently on, or even just lean over the desk to steal a glance at the number of the sheet he was looking at.  And it would take far less than a photographic memory to also memorize a social security number at the same time.
e)  I estimate it costing TOPS $200 to install an entire number calling system where a number is grabbed from a turnstile number dispenser from the front, and a display monitor above the desk clerk indicating the number currently being served.  Fucking Ice Cream parlors use this technology, how has it not made it to a state level yet?!
f)  The employees evidently never feel empowered in their day to day lives, so they take it all out on the people needing help.  And what way to feel more empowered then to treat everyone like they’re an idiot for not knowing how to fill out the most convoluted forms in existence.  I don’t understand how the most confusing forms are used for the situations in which the majority of people needing to fill them out are underprivileged and therefore uneducated.  I was minutes from turning into an Unemployment Office Che Guevara.

Even my powerful resolve was being slowly chipped away by this seemingly insurmountable mission.  However, I was determined to emerge victorious.

I sat until about 9:15, and they were on number 12.  I decided that I would leave for a little while and pack up for my trip out of town, as clearly this was going to cut it closer to my leaving time than I initially intended.  I returned at 10:30, where they were on number 38.  At this pace, they would get through the number of people there just in time for the Sun to engulf the Earth.

But I stayed strong, and friends, my moment came.  My glorious glorious moment arrived at 12:45pm, 45 minutes after I needed to leave, but I was determined to resolve my issues that day.  I informed the man that I did not receive anything in the mail, therefore missed my call day, therefore was out a couple weeks money that I desperately needed at this point in my life.

However, the office that already proved to be an unbelievably formidable opponent would not be defeated so easily.  The brain kerploding lack of logic attacked again as the man behind the counter informed me that all would be resolved if I simply (and I quote) “call back next Friday……wait……. Thursday…….. no Friday…… call Friday.  That’s your make up day.”  Apart from being flattered that a “make up day” had been set aside just for me, I wanted to insure that I was hearing him correctly.

“So the machine told me to call you, and you’re now telling me that my problem will be solved by calling back the machine?”

“Yeah, you have to call on Friday.  That’s your make up day.”

“So that’s just for the two weeks I’ve missed because I missed my initial call day?”

“…….. yeah sure.”

Who wouldn’t leave an office brimming with confidence at this point?  My cup overfloweth.

Mission Result:  Accomplished?

Mission #4:  Call Machine Back

Location:  Robots can love too
Time:  p.s. Always

So as instructed, I picked up my phone and called a machine.  Following the instructions given by the machine, I answered the questions as asked, and was eventually told that my next call day was 2 Mondays from then, and if that was a problem, to call the office back.  Clearly the machine had not been informed of my special “make up day” and didn’t even bother to wish  me a happy make up day.

Seems I had not successfully exited this loop just yet, so for those of you keeping track, here’s what it looked like so far:

Machine –> Human –> A different Human –> Machine –> Human

Mission Result:  Giant fucking failure

Mission #5:  Drag rotting bag of flesh back to the den of screaming and eternal pain and wish for the sweet sweet sting of death

Location:  The remaining threads of my soul
Time:  have we been left behind?

The only remaining pride I really had was that I had done this before, so the pain would be dulled.  I arrived at 8:32am, and strode in with bloodshot eyes like a junkie following a two week bender, and gruffly grabbed my piece of paper.  My number would be 58.  I filled it out, dropped it in the pile, and walked immediately out the door to head back home.  I was nobody’s fool.

Now since the last time my number 68 was called at 12:30pm, I got a little cocky.  This time instead of just packing for a trip and heading right back, I took my time.  I played some video games, did some laundry, went for a run, pondered what it would take to open a brewery, toasted a biscotti or two, laughed with all the joy of the vacationers on the Poseidon, showered, and eventually headed back.  I strode confidently up to the desk to check on what number they were on currently.

70………………………..shit.

“Oh shoot, I think you may have already called my number.”

“What number were you?”

“58”

“What time did you get here?”

“8:30”

“Why’d you leave?”

“…. does it matter?”

“You’ll have to get a new number.”

I returned, utterly defeated, to grab a new number.  165 was my new number.

Well at least now I knew I had some time.

So I ran back home to grab my laptop, headed to a coffeeshop (checking what number they were on on the way.  94), and worked for approximately 2 hours.  I decided that was more than enough time.

Evidently during the time that I was gone one of three things happened:

1)  The employees at the office all took some industry grade speed
2) 40 to 50 people in line ahead of me died, spontaneously burst into flames, or started up a country of their own that did not have such a thing as “the unemployment office.”
3)  A second clerk decided to help out some people.

As I checked the number currently being served, my heart dropped as I saw both a 1 and a 6.  The number was 162.  Words cannot describe the relief I felt at this point.

I approached the man and the dialogue went something like this:

“I called the machine, it told me to call you.”

“Hmm, it looks like you started your claim over.”

“Okay, I don’t know how that happened or what that even means.  I just answered the machine’s questions.”

“You entered a confirmation number didn’t you?”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“Okay, well you’ll need to call back on Wednesday, that’s your last make up day.”

“Is there even such thing as a ‘make up day’?  Or are you making that up?”

“You’ll need to call on Wednesday.”

Those of you keeping score, that’s now:

Machine –> Human –> A different Human –> Machine –> Human –> Machine

Mission Result:  Does it matter anymore?

Mission #6:  Destroy all of existence

In a far too fitting ending to this tale, I called the machine back as requested, and the machine told me that my next call day was two Mondays from then, and if I needed to claim previous weeks, call the local office.  I wish I was making that up.

I decided that two Mondays from now worked with my schedule just fine, and I would forget that the last month ever occurred.

Mission Result:  Unemployment filed on 11/25/2008.  First weeks of unemployment received – 1/5/2009.

Much like the ending of Seven, though I may have earned some sort of victory, the damage was already done.  I would have liked to salute my most formidable opponent with a malatov cocktail, but instead, I dragged my ragged and almost destroyed soul from the battle, hoping to never fight again.

5 thoughts on “Government Offices Part 2: The Office of Utter Chaos (continued)”

  1. Holy crap. Holy holy holy holy crap. This is so frustrating to read I can’t imagine what it would be like in person. I’m so sorry for you and everyone else who has to endure this shit. However, I did find it amusing to think of responses to their question “Why did you leave?”after they passed your number while you were out.

    “I had a phone interview for a job at the unemployment office, but I scored too highly on my aptitude test so I wasn’t eligible. So you see, I’m trying too.”

    “I had to step out to call about my swine flu test, guess what, I failed and I have spit all over your forms.”

  2. holy shit. this is unbelievable and i HATE that you have had to experience this…HOWEVER…you wrote about your experience so well! you should try to submit it to some magazines or newspapers…

  3. Totally epic battle… do you have any scars to share from your experience? I agree with Mandi that your retelling is awesome, and would make quite a good essay in someplace like the New Yorker or such. 🙂 I assume it’s been running smoothly since then, though? No need to traipse back into the jaws of death?

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