Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Inefficient Bureaucracy

I'm back in school, and let me tell you, learning is a truly wonderful thing. Graduate school has the potential to be an even more wonderful experience than undergrad, as you and your fellow students are struggling together towards some Good which forces you to form new bonds, synthesize separate disciplines, and enter a sleep-deprived euphoric state. I love learning.

You know what I don't love?
Bureaucracy. (and spelling bureaucracy)

There have been numerous encounters with the monster lately (oh gosh) but my favorite example is my keys.

This past week, I have had to acquire keys to my office, my two labs, and the building key. It took 4 days. 4. And there are no "off" days in there. No weekends. Just 4 days of running from office to office, hoping that the people you need happen to be in today.

You see, in order to get your keys, you need to fill out an old, copy distorted form, which you get from the stock room.
-Since you need 4 keys, you will need to fill this form out 4 times.
-You can only get the form if the appropriate stock room employee is working when you show up.
-The form tells you that it is to be submitted in room X. Room X is labelled on exactly zero maps. 
-So you blindly search for room X, stumble upon it by sheer accident, and the man at the desk sends you to the bookstore to pay for your keys--you should have known to go there first. 
-You wait in line for 10 minutes until the bookstore cashier sends you to customer service. 
-You wait in line for 20 minutes and pay $25 per key and tromp back to room X. 
-You fill out the exact same form on a better sheet of paper. 4 times.
-The man at the desk staples receipts on to your first form and send you back to the stockroom
-The stockroom says that if you've paid, you can go to the "Access Control Office" and acquire your keys
-You go to Access Control and discover they are only open 9-12, T-Th. It is Monday afternoon.
-The following morning you tromp off to Access Control, only to be told that you need to fill out cards. All 4 of them.
-The stockroom employee must sign these cards, which are identical in content to both the pieces of paper you have already filled out, except for the required signature.
-The stockroom employee is in a safety meeting until forever.
-You catch him running by in a panic and tell him you'll leave them on his desk
-The next day you try to find him.
-Eventually this works, but he tells you that the cards are in your box
-Access control is now closed by the time you discover this.
-The following morning, you sit outside Access Control at 8:50 and twiddle your thumbs until the one employee arrives ten minutes late to his three hour shift.
-He spends 45 minutes making your 4 keys, even with the long line of people who have accumulated behind you because they weren't smart enough to show up early.

And now you have keys. Why so complicated? Well, they need to make sure they get them back at the end of the school year, or so they say. Except no one cares if you return your keys. There are 3 separate offices with paperwork and a return date, and not one of them checks to see if you've returned your keys. I met a graduate who still had lab keys from a year ago. It's like some sick way of bonding you to the darned things because you worked so hard to get them--you can't lose them, they're basically a part of your life story now.

Anyway, I have my keys. And I learned to arc weld thermocouples. Like I said, the learning part is awesome.

It's just the bureaucracy that makes you want to tear your hair out by the roots.

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