I am a pretty tough person. I can handle conflict, I am a good negotiator and with the proper mental preparation, I can endure most things. However, if there is one thing that totally breaks me, it is reliance on inefficient bureaucracy. And, although it is only March 1, I have experienced a few of my worst-ever nightmares this year.
In January, my first episode was due to efforts to replace a lost car title needed to trade in our old car for a new one. Without getting in to all the ugly details, I will just say that the ordeal involved four trips to the Secretary of State, repeated misinformation and hundreds of dollars. Finally, it ended in a complete, sniveling breakdown at the counter in front of my comrade Joan. She is a gray-haired, gum chomping veteran of the Secretary of State office who offered me her box of tissues, ripped up my previous forms and hoarsely whispered, “We are going to do this the Joan way,” which proved successful in a matter of minutes.
Today, I found myself at the Department of State trying to secure a new, emergency passport since my application seems to be lost in the U.S. mail and I am leaving for Mexico in two days. The past day has been filled with hours on the phone listening to bad hold music, begging, pleading, crying, panic and finally a four hour trek in the pouring, cold rain to the Chicago Department of State where I paid hundreds more dollars and did finally receive a replacement passport.
After leaving the office, as I descended down into the dank, stinky train station, I spotted the familiar glow of an express Dunkin Donuts station. Without hesitation, I approached and bought myself two donuts. Donuts are not a food that is usually described as “restorative.” But, for me, gobbling them down without an ounce of guilt and with complete entitlement puts me right back in the saddle of life.
As I write this, I feel a pang of guilt as I consider the millions of people in the world suffering hunger, war and poverty. And here I am writing on the internet that my biggest frustrations stem from the bureaucracy of one of the more developed nations. But, I suppose problems in our lives are relative. And, telling the story of my relatively insignificant problems is cathartic…along with the consumption of those two donuts.