Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You Really Have to Wonder

I've long held that "bureaucratic commonsense" is an oxymoron, yet I am still amazed when I come across examples that support my position.

I had to run out and pick up something today from an area of the Island I have not driven through before. Now just because I had not been there before, I did not automatically assume that the rules and regulations governing that area would be different from the rules and regulations governing the rest of the Island; common sense told me that I needed to behave in this new area just as I would behave in all the other areas of the Island. So I am driving down a street and I spy a big sign saying "Stop ahead." That sign kind of puzzled me. Why announce a stop sign is coming? Why would I treat a stop sign in this area any differently then I would in all the other parts of the Island?

As I got close to the intersection I looked and looked and couldn't see the stop sign. When the front of my car was even with the curb at the intersection a sudden burst of wind moved the branches of a tree sitting right on the corner. And there, flush against the tree with the top hidden by the tree's branches, was the stop sign. Had the wind not moved the branches it would have been impossible to see the sign.

Someone in one of our city bureaucracies had to have fielded a complaint that the stop sign on this particular corner was not visible. So what would have been the logical thing to do? At the least, trim the branches so that the sign was visible. Or perhaps move the sign so it would be in front of the branches rather than under them. But no, someone went to the trouble and expense of ordering a second sign saying "stop ahead" and sending a crew out to put that sign into position.

This reminded me of the last time I had seen one of those "stop ahead" signs. We were driving through the desert from Nevada to California. Absolutely flat territory with 100% visibility for miles in every direction. And no one on the road but us either. And then we spotted the "stop ahead" sign. A few hundred yards from the sign there was a small, country road that accessed the highway, but only on one side, not cutting completely across the highway. There was no chance that anyone driving on that highway could have missed a car on that little road--none, zero, zip. Yet, there was that sign announcing that a stop sign was coming up. Furthermore, the announcement sign was so close to the actual stop sign that any car going at posted highway speed could not have slowed down their car sufficiently to stop at the stop sign.

Yes indeed, our tax dollars at work.

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