This may seem like a dream, but I'm going to say something nice about bureaucracy.
[Editor's note: Roll the crash cart. Byko's off his meds.]
Americans once were action-oriented and bureaucracy-averse. Today I'm not so sure. I mean, college students are offered cry closets and Facebook has a buffet of 58 gender selections. The Facebook list reads like a Saturday Night Live sketch. Is this gender fluidity or gender mockery?
As a cisgender white male, I get first dibs on everything, but ignore anything to do with my health, such as Medicare.
I read in the paper that I should have received my new Medicare ID card because they have been mailed out to all Pennsylvanians. I live in Pennsylvania, but did not get my card. My colleague Erin Arvedlund reported what to do: Call Medicare.
Call a bureaucracy? That's going to help?
You know what to expect. You dial the toll-free number and a robotic voice tells you they're receiving an unusually high volume of calls right now, so you can call back later or wait 45 minutes.
But that's not my experience.
The robotic voice tells me there will be a five-minute wait. Before the five minutes expires, Velma sweetly introduces herself and asks how she can help me.
I haven't received my new card, I tell her. She asks me the usual — name, date of birth, body-fat percentage — and says, yes, I should have received it. Just an oversight. No, she says, she doesn't know why I was missed. She says thousands were, but she will process me and I will have it in a mere four weeks.
So easy and courteous — from a bureaucrat.
That reminds me of signing up for Social Security and bringing my passport to use for ID:
"That's not good enough," says Steve, the smiling clerk.
"It was good enough to get me into Tajikistan."
Social Security accepts only a birth certificate with a raised seal, Steve tells me. (Times have changed. Now you can register online.)
Steve says I don't have to come back to the office. Mail it to me, he says, and I'll process your forms and mail the birth certificate back to you.
That's nice, but, I say, "my birth certificate is the only thing the government will accept, and you expect me to put it in the mail? Do I look like I fell off the turnip truck?"
He tells me to bring it whenever I want and he will wave me to the front of the line so I won't have to wait. And he does, smiling the whole time.
I'm treated with dignity — in a bureaucracy.
That brings me to the dreaded DVS, PennDot Driver & Vehicle Services — what used to be called the DMV. I need a new license photo and use the office on Eighth Street near Arch. Over the doorway, I think, are the words "Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here."
I enter, take a number (no, not 666), and a seat. I am called in less than 10 minutes. Surprise No. 1.
The clerk smiles and welcomes me. Surprise No. 2.
He takes my picture and says, "If you don't like it, I'll take another one." Surprise No. 3.
Let's recap: Medicare, Social Security, DVS. All pleasant, professional, courteous.
If I'm dreaming, don't wake me.