Bureaucrat of the Month

When the U.S. Post Office became the Postal Service, only the most optimistic citizen could believe that the mail business would become more efficient in the hands of the private sector. The pessimists have not been disappointed.

Recently a friend telephoned the post office to request a bulk mailing permit. A postal employee, in a polite voice, told him that he should come downtown to obtain an application. Our friend was in no hurry. Could the permit application be mailed? The patient voice explained that it would take too long to send it by mail.

Our friend reemphasized the lack of urgency. The telephone voice countered by explaining that the permits were numbered. Our friend failed to understand how that affected sending it through the mail. Getting a little vexed, the voice responded, “We must account for every numbered permit. If I mail you an application, you might not mail it back to me and the numerical sequence would be broken.”

Our friend was getting impatient. Slowly he tried to make the voice understand the error in that logic. “I want a bulk mail permit. If you mail me an application and I fail to return it to you, then I wouldn’t get a permit, would I? I assure you I will mail the application back.”

The postal employee, too, had reached the end of his patience. “Sir, the problem is more difficult than that. There is always the possibility that the application you return to me will get lost in the mail.”

So much for snow, rain, heat, andgloom of night.


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