I just spent a week in Killarney sharing it with my best friend Mel of 50 + years and his wife Evi who has a colon cancer which has metastasized to her liver and bones. She is unsuccessfully part way through the first of the trio of medical protocols on offer; poison, burn and cut. So a salutary moment to reflect on our shared times and experiences together on this earth and the very real possibility that it was the last time Evi and I will see each other. And keeping banality in mind, since I am drastically allergic to their cat, an experience heavily clouded by Zyrtec.
On Saturday I flew from Kerry to Dublin and after a quiet night at an airport hotel on the 15th presented myself at the Aer Lingus check in counter with my boarding pass, Irish passport and US ESTA visa obtained as on all previous occasions at on the US Department of Homeland Security web site. From Dublin there are so many Irish people traveling to and from the US that you clear US immigration and customs at the Dublin airport. Ahh said the young lady this visa is not valid and we cannot let you board the flight. Why so I inquired, well she replied your passport number contains a 0 and you have entered an O on the visa application, or maybe it was vice Versace. The 0 in the Proton Mail system has a bar through it, the Apple Mail does not.
Well I asked can I speak to one of the US immigration officers and see if we can resolve this minor mistake. Sorry that is not possible we cannot process you and she reversed the luggage belt and presented me with my suitcase. So what do you suggest I do I inquired. Well she said you could reapply for the ESTA visa now on your mobile phone. Indeed I could I told her but if I confused a 0 and an O on a computer at 77 years of age do you think I will do better now stressed and using a smart phone, and anyway we both know it takes 3 days to process the visa application.
OK I said this cannot be the first time something like this has happened can you inquire with your manager how we resolve it and off marched Emma with her tight bureaucratic smile in her green Aer Lingus uniform. Five minutes later she was back with her frigid and now winning smile in place and said no we cannot let you board. Fine I asked and where do I find the manager and she pointed to Gate 56 where trundling my suitcase I presented myself to the lady in charge.
Yes she said Emma told me about your problem but you see if we let you board and you are refused entry on arrival in the US then we become responsible for your return trip. Indeed I replied but you do notice I have purchased a return ticket. This is true she said but we have made an exception in the past and it resulted in problems for us. Well I said far be it for me a paying customer to cause a problem for Aer Lingus so lets pretend we never met and I will return in a minute. I walked away, fished my Canadian passport from my backpack, returned said good day and presented it to Mrs manager who then printed and gave me my boarding pass and checked in my suitcase.
I arrived at Dulles airport some 7 hours later but my suitcase did not. The young lady representing Aer Lingus at the baggage carousel checked my baggage tag and pointed out that it was made out to a Ms Suzann Quinn and had no doubt as indicated arrived safely with her in JFK in New York. Looking for a bargaining chip I inquired do you know if Ms Quinn’s suitcase is here on the carousel. No she said and and presented me with a copy of my lost luggage complaint form. Touché Mrs manager.
Yesterday morning I called the Aer Lingus lost luggage number in Dublin and consulted with a confused young man in Mumbai who told me his name was Juan. He assured me he had copied down all my information but when I asked him to read back the luggage tag number, it must have been time for tiffin, he hung up.
My second attempt speaking with Curtis, still sounding like Mumbai, was more successful and I am assured my suitcase might possibly arrive soon.
This morning Tuesday I spoke with Natasha again evidently in Mumbai and she assures me my suitcase is still somewhere on the east coast of N. America. I explained to Natasha that as there are limitations to the amount of liquids you can carry on to the plane the bulk of the essential medications to treat my eyes are in the suitcase and that soon I may be obliged to present Aer Lingus with a substantial financial claim for urgent medical services.
Years ago I read an interesting case study where these back office workers in India are obliged to adopt a name which serves the area from where a call originates and also attempt a suitable accent. They also because of their work tend to socialize together and become “fractured” on returning to their parents home in the evening. But that is another story.
Reflecting briefly on your description of Melody’s unfortunate experience with the California bureaucracy, an initial conclusion.
In any critical encounter with a bureaucracy I presume the person facing me is expected as part of their successful annual performance appraisal to have failed or found fault with a number or percentage of the cases encountered in any measured period so I prepare accordingly. Ready to cede a few considered points while attempting to win my objective. The World Bank audit team sent to my office by Mr. Vu to review the totality of the VSAT project comes to mind. It is also a Tierney truism that the lower the bureaucrat is in the power structure the more likely they are to want to wield the small power at their disposal and therefore they require delicate handling.
Unfortunately I think Melody met such an unsympathetic and evidently also ill informed bureaucrat.
So a jet lagged poorly thought out and unhelpful conclusion. Fate sent Melody to a small minded and incompetent bureaucrat whose salary and pension very much depend on people paying taxes and the “system” designed by bureaucrats is failing her.
But keep in mind, I think it is called the Kansas Syndrome, whereby if I remember correctly a group working on a project will collectively agree decisions that individually they find unacceptable. So good luck trying to design a perfect bureaucratic system.
Abstract This paper explores white working- and middle-class Americans’ paradoxical support for policies that have contributed to their thirty-year economic decline while benefitting the wealthiest people in the country. Their habit of identifying with the aggressor has caused them actively to be engaged in their own economic descent. In the words of Jesse Jackson, “They’re turkeys at their own Thanksgiving.”
Back to the battle with Aer Lingus.