Monday, January 18, 2010

"There's a Good Reason Why You are In This Line for 4 Hours"

Today I went through another stage of out-processing. The particular task involved calculating the leave due me. This can be tricky for the soldiers who are full-time in the Guard or Reserve, but not so much for people me. I and almost everyone else used exactly 15 days of leave for the trip home and we get a total of 32.5 days for the time we served. So I continue on active duty for 17 days with benefits and they pay me for the half day. The process would have taken ten minutes, but my leave form was blurry, so it took 30.

But I waited 4 hours to get to the station where this ten-minute calculation was performed. I was sitting in the finance office waiting for several sergeants and civilians to discuss my faded leave form. I said to one of the finance clerks that I had not waited for anything in line for four hours during the 23 years I was a civilian. She started to explain why we were waiting--only four finance clerks, 170people in line, etc. I said it was not the reason that mattered, but as a civilian if someone wanted me to wait four hours, the reward would have to be phenomenal. She spent 20 years in the Army then went to work for the federal government. For her, waiting in line makes sense. She lives by the government system.

And for her, the reasons did make sense. But if a civilian company would not be in business very long if it made customers wait in line four hours to do a predictable 10-minute bit of paperwork. And onloy a government organization would even try to do something so simple on paper. A money-making business would automate the calculation.

After that four-hour wait was over, I was in two more lines. One for 90 minutes, one for 2.5 hours. The last one I was only in line 90 minutes of the 2.5 hours. I left and ate dinner and came back. Soldiers hold each other's place in line.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt 1906-1975 Today a friend asked and I were talking about politics and how refugee problems have led to wars in the pas...