A-M u s i n g s: Lying in Wait

Let me say from the outset that this a-musing is going to be tough to write, technically speaking. But let me explain: Once, a friend of mine – let’s call him Rupert – was having a great deal of difficulty getting a document from a public service agency so I asked a friend, who happened to be in a position to help, to see what she could do. I’m using the word ‘she’ but don’t take that literally; ‘she’ could easily be a man; I just want to avoid saying ‘he or she’ all the time. The other thing I want to avoid is revealing which public service agency figures in the tale because ‘she’ did what she could to help and I don’t want to embarrass her. Hence the technical problems of writing about an agency that I do not wish to mention by name. So here goes …

Rupert needed a document from a public service agency and Mr Fontinelle (not the real name) was supposed to sign for it and collect it. When Rupert turned up at the agency, Mr Fontinelle was not around, but the agency employees told him Mr Fontinelle had the document and Rupert should wait for him, which he did. When Mr Fontinelle eventually turned up hours later he denied having received the document. Confronted with this denial, the public service agency employees discovered that someone other than Mr Fontinelle had signed for the document and left with it. Unfortunately, they were unable to decipher the signature and so were unable to say who had wrongly claimed the document. So Rupert, without the necessary document that the public service agency employees had wrongly given to some unknown person, was unable to complete his business. A week later, the public service agency employees were still clueless as to the identity of the person who had signed for the document.

I decided to ask my friend for assistance; ‘she’ was the one to whom the public service agency employees reported. Within minutes, the mysterious person who had sign for the document was identified. Let’s call him Fred. Obviously the public service agency employees had not made the slightest effort to trace him until their superior, my friend, stepped in. I was informed that Fred had been contacted and that he had promised to return the document forthwith. Rupert was later contacted by the public service agency and told to present himself at the agency the following day to pick up his document, as Fred had returned it and it was in their possession.

On his appearance at the agency the next day, Rupert was told that Fred had indeed returned the document and that Mr Fontinelle had again been given the document – but he wasn’t there, and Rupert should wait, which he did, for another five hours. When Mr Fontinelle eventually turned up he once again denied having received the document. The employees of the public service agency could not explain where the document was, but kept to their version that they had given it to Mr Fontinelle who steadfastly denied having received it from them. Rupert was still unable to complete his business without his document.

I again contacted my friend who was extremely vexed with me when I suggested that the public service agency was in a shambles. However, this time, ‘she’ too was unable to trace the document that the employees of the public service agency insisted they had received in return from Fred and given to Mr Fontinelle. My friend, no doubt frustrated at the lack of progress in finding the missing document, did, however, say that the agency would provide a duplicate document at no cost. All Rupert had to do was pay for another passport photo and come back a week later (which in fact was an additional cost).

Then I had an idea. I asked Rupert to go to Fred and ask him to which public service agency employee he had returned the missing document. That way, we would be able to question the person and ask him or her to explain what had happened. So off Rupert toddled for the umpteenth time to try to find his missing document. When he arrived at Fred’s place of business, a rather embarrassed Fred admitted that, yes, he had mistakenly signed out Rupert’s document, but he had been so busy he had never returned it to the public service agency, and still had it in his possession. He handed it over to Rupert.

For weeks, the public service agency employees had spun a web of lies to cover the fact that they had no idea what had happened to the document. They relied on accusations that people they had “given it to” were somehow to blame. The reality was it had never been returned to them. So they could not have given it to anyone. Lies upon lies upon lies! What a way to run a country!

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