Thursday, September 28, 2006

Just another day at the permit office

Man, they really pulled out all the stops at the permit office on Tuesday.

I arrived late in the afternoon, with a tired and grouchy Monkey in tow. I took a (high) number, and tried to entertain the Monkey. He wasn't having it. Not wanting to increase the (high) stress level in the waiting room with my crying baby, I took him for a stroll outside.

I called the cell phone of a contact I made in the office, and explained my situation. He did not understand it. He said I should come back in. About the crying baby? "Let him cry." Ouch.

Reentering though security, I make it back in just before our number is called. I approach the desk. "Have a seat and we'll call you." But they lie; it's not until I go back up and rustle some feathers than anyone pays attention to me at all. Ouch #2.

Someone pulled a fire alarm. It was a false alarm, but it took a while to settle everyone back in. Ouch #3.

They call me back to the desk. "Take this downstairs to the cashier, and then come back up." What? I'm paying now? I'm done? Holy smokes! I pack the stroller and toddler downstairs, and fork out $147. (Ouch #4.) I take it back upstairs...and wait.

"Give me 10 minutes, and I'll have this out to you." Thirty minutes sometimes seems like 10 minutes...when you're not holding a crying baby. Ouch #5. I wait.

Meanwhile, it's not all bad for the Monkey. He gets to romp around on the carpeted floor; I give him some snacks and formula; there is an atrium with a glass railing looking down to the busy lobby below; and he gets to push his stroller around and practice walking. Except inevitably he bumps into something, falls on the carpet, and cries in fatigue and frustration. Ouch #6a, #6b, #6c, etc.

An announcement: "It is 10 minutes of 4 o'clock. If you are parked on North Capitol or K Streets, your car will be towed." Damn! I am parked on K at North Capitol. It is probably only minutes until my permit is issued -- finally! after 2 months and 8 visits! -- but I simply can't risk being stranded with a hefty ticket and a crying Monkey (hefty in his own right). Ouch #7.

I move the car to 1st and H St NW, and walk back. It's after 4pm, but they let me back through security. I get the attention of the hostile clerical worker I usually have to deal with, and eventually she recognizes me (and the Monkey). "Oh, you need to be in the other room."

-- What other room? I've been coming here for 2 months, and I have seen no other room.

"Across the hall."

-- Aha! The permit issuance office! I didn't know such a place existed!

I wait in a short line, and pick up a small piece of paper. It's timestamped 4:02pm, already about a half hour old. It probably came through around the time I was moving my car, or perhaps while I was waiting in the wrong (formerly right) room. There is a figure on it: $270. Ouch #8. (That adds up to $417 for those keeping score at home.)

"Take this down to the cashier, and bring it back up."

But the cashier closed at 4:30pm. No exceptions. Get lost. Ouch #9.

I was minutes away from being done.

By this time, the Monkey has given into exhaustion and fallen asleep in his stroller. That' great, although I don't have a book or anything to read except my bill for $270. Oh well, I recline the stroller and wheel him out to grassy area by the plaza out front. It's a nice space, and the Monkey will see only green grass and green trees when he wakes up.

I use my cell phone to call the Monkey Mama at work to let her know where things stand (and catalog the various injustices that have come my way). As I gesture about with the bill, I somehow manage to give myself a paper cut on my lower lip.

Ouch #10.

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