Third World Adventure

I once knew a German professional photographer (let’s call him Georg) who, along with a fellow German photographer (“Klaus”), decided to do one of those photo safaris — driving from Cairo to Cape Town, snapping pics along the way — that sounds so good back in Hamburg, but is completely foolish in reality.  Anyway, driving a mil-surp G-Wagen (not a bad choice, BTW), they set off and made it through Egypt without incident.  At the border, they had to get a “passing through” visa to get across the Sudan, which essentially allowed them to be in the country for three days.  When they got to Sudan’s southern border, however, the sole guard at the border post (just a hut) wouldn’t let them leave the country because they had the “wrong visa” — and they’d have to drive back to Khartoum (a two-day drive) to get the right one.  When Georg pointed out that their existing visa would expire en route and they would, in essence, be in the country illegally and imprisoned if caught, the guard just shrugged.  Not his problem.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.  Last week, faced with a looming legal deadline, I had to fly up to Chicago to get a legal document out of the Cook County Court archives.  (Why I was unable to access the document online, or even manage to talk to someone in the County Clerk’s office to send me the document is a story all by itself.)  Anyway, after having had my 5am flight canceled (thank you, American), I made the 7am flight only by dint of paying the full fare (don’t ask) and arrived at the Cook County courthouse (2nd District in Skokie) at about 11am, with all the data needed for the request on my trusty laptop..

Of course, there’s TSA-type security at all these places these days, which is where I had a Sudan-type encounter of my own.  Reason?  No laptops allowed in the courthouse by members of the public.  I know, it’s inexplicable but hey, Cook County.  I looked around for any storage lockers:  none.

“So where can I store my laptop?”
“You’ll just have to take it back to your car.”
“I don’t have a car;  I just flew in from Dallas.  So what can I do?”
Like the Sudanese border guard, the fucking security guard just shrugged.  “Not my problem.”

At this juncture, I should point out that every single glass window and door at the courthouse has one of those idiotic little “No Handgun” stickers displayed.

I’m not saying that I would have shot someone — in fact, I absolutely would not have, even if I’d been able to bring the 1911 with me — but let me tell you, after a day which had begun at 3am, experienced a canceled flight and a massive fare surcharge along with all the other hassles of modern-day travel (full flight, idiots with too-large bags, crowded train from the airport into the city etc.), only to be faced with indifferent bovine officialdom at the end of it, I can quite believe that some other guy  might  have dropped the hammer.

Which, by the way, is what Klaus did at the Sudanese border.  He told the guard that he had the correct visa back in the car, fetched his gun instead and shot the guard dead.  Then he and Georg got in their G-Wagen and raced off into Uganda.  A real African tale, that one.

And now, the rest of my  story.

After a half-mile walk back down the road, I managed to get a Hampton Inn receptionist to check my bag in — even without a reservation, thank you Judy! — and having printed out all the documentation I needed at the business center (thanks again, Hampton Inn!), I trudged back to the courthouse.  (The only thing that stopped this ordeal from being any worse was that it was a glorious summer’s day in Chicago:  66F on landing, and just over 70F by the time I got to the Hampton Inn, with a cool, almost chilly lakeshore breeze coming in from the east.  I didn’t even break a sweat.)

Back at the courthouse, the indifferent guard was now my buddy:  “Hey, I see you solved your computer problem!”  which earned a snarl from me in return:  “No, I solved your  fucking computer problem!”  Fortunately for all concerned, he didn’t say anything or attempt to harass me any further.

Then on to the County Clerk’s office, where a very nice Polish lady (hi, Anna!) looked at my case number dubiously.

“Is very old document.”
“I know.”
“Maybe is in basement.”
“Really?  A paper  document?”
“…or maybe not.  Is very  old document.  I send someone to look.  Will take maybe 45 minutes.”

So I sat and waited.  Then Anna reappeared:

“Document is not there.”
“What?”
“Case number xxxx-354 is there;  number xxx-356 is there;  but your case number xxx-355 is not there.”
“So what can I do?”
She shrugged.  But before I could explode, she added, “Maybe is document on microfiche.”
“MICROFICHE????”  (Not papyrus sheets or wax tablets, even.)
“But,” she added with something like satisfaction, “I need microfiche number.”

Dear Readers, I have no idea what had prompted me to have printed off the court docket’s microfiche number earlier, but I had.  Airily, I tossed the paper over to her. 

“Here’s the microfiche number.”
She looked at me with pained astonishment.  “We have to print each page off microfiche?  All thirty-five pages?”
“Yup.”
“Is difficult.”
I’d waited for two hours to say this.  “NOT MY PROBLEM.”

 It was all downhill from then.  After about an hour and a half, I got my document stamped with all the official Papal seals or whatever — the copy, by the way, looked as though it had been run through a first-generation fax machine a few times — paid the Cook County danegeld  for the privilege and pausing only to snarl at the security guards on my way out, I called an Uber ride and went back to O’Hare.

Needless to say, my 5.30pm flight was delayed first to 7pm, then to 8pm and finally 9pm, and I only got home just after midnight.  But that’s a story for another time.

Total cost for this whole one-day Third World adventure (and I say “Third World” because of the Cook County Clerk’s astonishing, Africa-like inefficiency):  just over $1,000.

At least I didn’t have to shoot anyone.

25 comments

  1. In the infamous words of a former president, “I feel your pain,” but a large part of it was self-inflicted; once you discovered what Chicago is and continued to live there you agreed to the terms.

    Your story, however, and quite unfortunately, is not significantly different from thousands, perhaps millions, repeated daily in government bastions across the United States.

    Chicongo may apply steroidal enhancement at particular places – the courthouse public laptop ban is unexplicable – but they’re just “following the pattern” which is cookie-cuttered by every tax-paid drone in existence; there is no possibility of escape.

    There is a solution, but the kitchen timer just beeped and I have to go…..

  2. The jobsworths are slowly and inevitably taking over the world.

    Nearly everyone has a tale of woe inflicted by the mindless drones who sit behind the glass in a multitude of .gov hives.

  3. I have a name for those base pay people who enjoy enforcing stupid rules and making people snarl. I call them the “Little Gate Keepers”. TSA at airport, most every clerk from city to county to state offices, airline, train and bus ticket people.

    They love to sneak up on people with their petty bullshit and then laugh when faces turn red and speechless because one real outburst, ‘No Soup for You.’

  4. I have not flown since my trip to Orlando for a funeral in the late 90’s. Each passing year, I hear story after story that convinces me that I will never fly again, unless it’s on my own PRIVATE aircraft, where I can choose who will fly with me, and how much in-flight adult beverages will be brought along.

    I am too d*mn old to put up with bullsh*t from know-nothing airline personnel, TSA bullies, or the overarching attitude by the airlines that they just don’t care.

    As my years increase, I have fewer reasons to ever travel farther east than Greer, Arizona. If I ever do have to go east, America has a fine network of highways that will take me just about anywhere and are in reasonably good (with some exceptions,) condition.

    The perverts at TSA will just have to find some other old f*rt to grope.

  5. Eugene, Oregon, fUSA

    We have a nice acreage, the last undeveloped parcel this large:
    A) inside the ‘city limits’ to normal folks,
    aka
    B) inside ‘The Urban Growth Boundaries’ to bumblebrats.

    We would like to construct housing on the acreage. This would help alleviate the housing shortages, aka over-population in our area. We see this as a community service. However, some nameless faceless bumblebrats deep in the bowels of some bureaucracy someplace keeps moving the goal-posts.

    For example:
    They changed the zoning thrice in thirteen years.
    Each set of building plans, and the required taxes fees signatures permissions, is rendered to naught if:
    any bumblebrat involved anyplace or anytime in the process is, for any reason, no longer involved, the entire transaction is voided.
    “Inspector Weinstein ‘lateral-transferred’ to Administration. You need to start over.”
    “Planning Oversight Developer Finkleman ‘lateral-transferred’ to the feds. You need to start over.”
    “Supervisor Kuntzler ‘lateral-tranferred’ to retired status. You need…”

    And we learned to not use the word ‘permission’ to refer to permission. Our taxes and fees purchase a permit, and a permit does not infer permission. Permission is a different department.

  6. This is why the real need for term limits is on civil servants. 10 years and you’re out. All forms of immunity, civil and criminal, granted to civil servants at any level need to be removed. Finally, no job security of any kind other than termination at the whim of the employer on reasonable notice. Let the bastards fear for their income just like the rest of us.

    At the end, no pension, no nothing, save your money, buy your own damn pension from private enterprise and you’ll be a lot less willing to destroy capitalism.

    1. Convert all “civil service”, back to the Spoils System:
      When their Patron is sent out the door by the voters, so are they.

      1. I was hoping for a fanciful response, as though you were searching Moochelle Obama’s bar records, that had mysteriously vanished.

        1. Being not relevant to the story doesn’t rule out your suggested target document, Dr. Rosenrosen. Maybe a future post……

  7. I swear, there are times I think we need to shoot some of those useless drones as an example to the others.

  8. So now you know the reason for the “No Gunz” stickers on the door.

    And I don’t understand how an airline can fuck up and cancel your flight, then charge you extra to perform the job they’ve contracted to do for you. American runs late and United breaks guitars…

    But at least the Uber ride was good, right?

    I’m with MurphyAZ; my flying days are about over too. There’s only one place I’m interested in flying to, and that would be one house in Oakland CA. I’d drive, but then my Second Amendment rights dies at the California state line and I don’t like being away from the house that long. (Burglars you know.)

    I guess I was spoiled; I spent the majority of my flying being able to march up to the cockpit flight station and chastise the Flight Engineer for not providing Proper Adult Supervision to the college graduates driving the bus.

  9. Perhaps it’s time to start promoting the meme that shooting up a Walmart or a fast-food outlet is for sissies, while government buildings offer at least some opportunity for heroic sport. Although, with all the nominally ‘armed’ tagets clustered at the entrance, it’s not really /sport/ sport. Toujours l’audace.

  10. > At least I didn’t have to shoot anyone.

    We could probably solve a lot of problems with the civil service if we had a 5 maximum bag limit per year.

    I kid, of course.

    It should be unlimited.

    1. George Will, back when he was a trusted conservative – and advisor to RR – suggested with just a small amount of tongue-in-cheek after an irritating obstruction of one of RR’s submissions to the Bureaucracy for a change in direction more in tune with his preferences, that we needed a Constitutional Amendment permitting the President to select from the vast Federal Bureaucracy, each year, one minion, to be executed by firing squad on the South Lawn, for mucking up the works.

  11. Reasonable proffer, Fred, similar to mine (no “government employees” but only contract personnel, provided no contract shall exceed 2 years in length nor shall any total contractual arrangement exceed 12 years, with adequate remuneration but no benefit(s) of any type) but both our ideas will suffer from the same failure: elected @*%#$ politicans will control the process and the moment one of Suzie Creamcheese’s bastard children gets sick/needs bail the whole thing blows up in a cataclysm of sympathy.

    The real issue is there are just too many government employees because government is involved in too many things. I can think of a couple ways that could be resolved but my kitchen timer just beeped again…..

    1. “Contract Personnel”?

      I like that, I like it very, very much, it’s a clever person you are, I’m stealing it.

      As for politicians, there is nothing much to be said that Twain and Mencken didn’t say better – and DuToit, but I haven’t seen many of his old juicy “Rope, tar feathers” statements lately. He must be mellowing.

  12. You’re going to really hate this — the reason they don’t let laptops in is because they are recording devices. (If they let you in with a cell phone instead, then the reason is even more nonsensical than this, but federal courts usually ban both.)

    It really comes down to protecting the court reporter cartel, who tends to charge probably $2 a page for transcripts in Cook County, and you can only order a whole transcript (200-400 pages for half or whole day, depending on the reporter) at a time. If you can just record the proceeding yourself, you don’t have to buy a transcript.

    The kicker is that attorneys are allowed to bring in cell phones and laptops. Who is pretty much the only customer for court reporters? Attorneys.

  13. There is another solution to the problem: Deal with small town, rural Texas government. It doesn’t always work, but it usually does. I’ve found the folks at the Kleberg County court house and the Robstown satellite offices of the Nueces County government to be uniformly helpful and polite.

    1. Same here in Kendall County, 37,000 people and so far they are nice folks and like to help solve problems. Moved here in 2013 and big difference from Dallas County where they bend you over and then say, “Whats does ya wants today old bald headed white man ?”

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