The Smell of Bureaucracy

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It all started with a phone call, or to be more exact, 4 phone calls.

My daughter had lost her phone on the Metro bus, but had been assured by the finder that it had been turned in to Metro’s Lost & Found. Yet each call to the L&F resulted in the same line, “We don’t have a phone like that.” Finally, in desperation, I asked if we visit the L&F and look through the found phones ourselves. “No problem,” was the reply, “we’ll let you dig away to your hearts content.”

My daughter (I’ll call her T) and I walked into the Lost & Found and were instantly greeted by the smell of stale smoke and a very solid glass window open 6 inches at about waist level. Through the window we could see a man sitting across the room at a desk that was so covered in papers that I knew an avalanche must be imminent.

“May I help you?” the man asked, not even looking up from his computer.
“We are looking for a phone my daughter lost on the bus. The person who found the phone texted that they left it here, at the Lost & Found, with a note. She came by while your office was closed for lunch.”
“Type of phone?”
“What bus was it lost on?”
“Well, I doubt the girl wrote that on the note she left with the phone. She probably…”
“What bus was it lost on?”
“Dark blue.”
“We don’t have it,” came the gruff response after a few more strokes to the keyboard.
“Could you look again. The girl specifically said she brought it by herself.”
“When was it lost?”
“It was lost this weekend, but I think the girl only brought it by Tuesday or Wednesday.”
“Hmmm, we do have a blue phone that was left here over a week ago,” the man stated as he got up from his desk, walked out of sight for a moment, and then reappeared with a phone that looked like it had been run over by a bus. For the first time he looked in our direction as he placed the wrecked phone in my daughter’s outstretched hand.
“That’s not my phone,” T stated firmly, and she handed the phone back to the man.
“Well, we don’t have any other phones. I’ve looked through them all.”
“But,” my daughter said anxiously, “the girl said that she left the phone here with a note on it…”
“Why didn’t you say so,” the man interrupted as he dug his hand deep into the pile of papers on his desk. “That was the information you needed to give me, your phone is right here. I didn’t put it into the system since the note said someone would be coming by to pick it up.”
And with that, T was handed her phone.
We thanked the man and left, happy the whole frustrating ordeal was over so we could leave the stuffy little room and get a breath of fresh air.
Funny that even in these days of non-smoking buildings, bureaucracy still smells like stale smoke.

What do you think?