Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Another Day at the Government Office

He arrived at the wicket, clutching the small paper showing that he was, indeed, C73.

The man in front of him had a face that somehow reminded him of a styrofoam plate. The face was round, pale and had such forgettable features that they seemd to have faded into his marshmellow skin. Two cold eyes, unremarkable in their greyness, probed him with apathetic nonchalance. The small mouth, bordered by two thin lips, parted and a dry voice intoned, "Can I help you?"

"Yes," he said, presenting the small scrap of C73, "I'm here to register."

The two beady eyes blinked twice in the moment of silence that followed, "May I see your documentation, please?"

"Yes, certainly," he answered, rummaging through his pockets.

The monotone listed the necessary items with uninspired precision, "Your license, your health card, your birth certificate, a copy of a bill, your social insurance number, and your grade four science notebook."

He laughed, "I have all of those things except the notebook, of course."

The man sighed in bored exasperation, "All the applicants need their grade four science notebook or at least, in lieu of said notebook, a photocopy of the cover."

"Are you serious?" he smiled.

"Do I appear to be joking?" the man's inflexible mouth asked.

"Well, no, but you can't expect me to have my grade four science textbook," his smile was rapidly vanishing.

"Notebook," the man corrected.

"You can't expect me to have my grade four science notebook."

"Government regulation S-33, paragraph four, line two clearly states that, and I quote: 'all applicants are to present a copy of their grade four science notebook or a photocopy of the cover of said notebook."

"You're serious," he gaped.

"Indeed," the man said.

"My grade four notebook?" he asked incredulously.

"That is correct," the man's eyes had a remarkable ability to do absolutely nothing but stare with blank impersonality.

"I don't have my grade four science notebook. I don't even remember taking science in grade four," he stated.

"I am sorry sir, this is not my problem," the man droned in what seemed a routine statement.

"I don't have my grade four notebook," he said with a pained expression, "it's probably underneath four hundred tonnes of waste and has likely decayed beyond all recognition."

The man waved his hand in mild annoyance, "I suppose you could show us your library card."

"Excuse me?" he asked.

"You could show us your library card," the man repeated robotically.

"Why didn't you say that earlier?" he scratched his head as he was wont to do when he was irritated.

"You didn't ask," the man said as he methodically gathered all of the cards and papers from the counter in front of him.

"How was I supposed to know that I had to ask?" he queried as he handed the man his library card.

"I am sorry sir, this is not my problem," the man answered.


The man typed furiously for several minutes, checking the various cards in front of him from time to time. "I am sorry sir, it appears you have a two-dollar late charge on your library card," the man uttered with impassive flatness.


"Would you like to pay that now, so I can continue your application process?" the man prompted.

"This is not a library."

"I do realize that, sir, this is not my problem," the man said with mild detachment.

He muttered under his breath as he searched his wallet, "Here's five dollars."

"We do not carry change," the man said as he lazily pointed to a sign bearing the message "WE DO NOT CARRY CHANGE."

"Then keep the change," he said in vexation.

"I am sorry sir, that is against public policy. We do not accept bribes," the man said in a voice that betrayed something that approached conviction.

"I was not offering a bribe," he growled.

"It certainly appeared that you were," the man replied.

"I was trying to keep things moving," he said.

"In other words, sir, you were greasing the wheels or, to put it bluntly, bribing a public official," the man shook his head in unemotional condemnation.

He dug in his pockets and counted out two dollars in change in assorted quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies, "here."

The man counted the money, "this is $1.98."

He fished out two more pennies from his back pocket, "here."

The man placed the coins with metallic clank in a drawer in front of him.

"It sure sounds like you don't have change," he said sarcastically.

"You're right, sir," the man's grey eyes stared ahead blankly.

"Of course."

The man's fingers slid nimbly across the keyboard. He frowned, his expression approaching something resembling concern. There was a long pause, the two beady eyes blinked in consternation and the man appeared genuinely agitated.

"I am sorry, sir, it seems you have been reclassified as a potato," the man finally uttered.


"You have been reclassified as a potato."

"Right. A potato. Can you please just register me?"

"Sir, it is against the policy to register any kind of tubers as voters in this country."

"Well, of course," he said, "but as you can see, I am not a potato, and you can, therefore, register me."

"Sir, you according to my computer, you are a potato," the agitation had disappeared.

"Your computer is wrong," he said, as he scratched his head in consternation.

"Don't be absurd," the man's lips formed something which resembled amusement.

"Absurd? Absurd is reclassifying a human being as a potato!" he snarled.

"I am sorry, sir, potatoes do not have the franchise in this country," the man declared.

"Yes, and with good reason," he replied, "but I am obviously not a potato."

"As long as you are classified as a potato I cannot allow you to register."

"Potatoes are a vegetable and vegetables are incapable of thought or action. In fact, when people lack the ability to move or speak they are called vegetables," he stated in rising anger, "I am obviously capable of movement and speech and therefore I cannot be classified as any kind of edible plant."

"Sir, this is not my concern."

"Why do you suppose that potatoes have not been granted the franchise?"

"I am not required to answer that question."

"Humour me."

"Sir, I am a public servant. I am not required to serve as your personal entertainment," the man stated coldly.

"Why can't potatoes vote?" he asked.

"Potatoes cannot vote because, among other things, they are incapable of higher thought processes," the man replied.

"What else are they incapable of?"

"Sir, there are a plethora of things that potatoes are incapable of doing," the man answered, "if I were to list all the things that potatoes cannot do we would be here all day."

"Can potatoes, for instance, wait in line for an hour and then hold a ludicrous conversation, such as this one, with a seemingly mechanized bureaucrat, such as yourself?" he asked.

"Sir, there is no need to call me names," the man said tepidly.

"I apologize, I do, but I really need to know if you think that potatoes are capable of conversation," he said as calmly as he could.

"Potatoes are incapable of higher thought processes and, thus, a conversation is impossible for a potato."


"Well, sir, I am glad we could help you, now would you please allow the next applicant through?" the man waved his hand lethargically in the direction he should go.

"How do you feel about holding a conversation with an individual who, as a potato, is incapable of conversation?"

"Sir, you're being facetious."

"There! That's another thing potatoes are incapable of," he said triumphantly, "Have you ever given up on your potato salad because it was being too facetious?"

"I do not particularly like potato salad, sir."

"Neither do I, although I suppose for me to consume potato salad would amount to cannibalism."
"Sir, please do not make this difficult or I will be forced to call security."

"Do you suppose I should fight for potato suffrage, or do you think that I would have better luck re-classifying myself as a human being?"

"Sir, please."

"I mean, how many potatoes get library fines?"

"Sir, I am not a librarian."

"You would make a good one, I'm sure."

"Thank you."

"Could you please recognize my humanity and re-classify me as a human being?"

"I am sorry sir, it is not my place to categorize you."

"And I suppose I should just telephone Carl Linnaeus up and have myself classified correctly, shouldn't I?"

"He's dead," the man intoned, "that would be impossible."

"Maybe I should appeal to government to stop taxing potatoes without giving us representation."

"That might be a good place to start."

He sighed, looked into the empty souless eyes in front of him, and lost all hope of ever being anything but a starchy vegetable.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I got this from Jake Belder: You type in your name + needs and give the top twenty results. I eliminated the repeats, of course.

1) John needs to get his patootie back here.
2) John needs help.
3) John needs your bone marrow.
4) John needs a way to assign an item's UUID to an attribute.
5) John needs to see.
6) See number 10.
7) John needs, John wants, John gets.
8) John needs . . .
9) John needs to borrow a car on February 25.
10) John needs to embrace family values.
11) John needs a Yoko.
12) John needs a coffee.
13) John needs rest after throat surgery.
14) John needs a better camphone.
15) John needs to make his DW site more noticeable.
16) John needs a smoke.
17) John needs a shave.
18) John needs to be allowed to change the focus of his hope.
19) John needs you.
20) John needs an umbrella.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tagged by Graham Ware.

1. One book that changed your life: A lot of books have changed my life. Of course, the Bible has effected the most change, but almost every book I read changes my perspective and widens my horizon just a little bit.
2. One book that you’ve read more than once: The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay
3. One book you’d want on a desert island: The Faith of George W. Bush, Stephen Mansfield (I need some paper to clean myself and I would like some kindling).
4. One book that made you laugh: The Far Side Gallery 1, Gary Larson.
5. One book that made you cry: Shake Hands with the Devil, Romeo Dallaire.
6. One book that you wish had been written: 1,001 Answers to All of those Pesky Philosophical, Ethical, and Scientific Questions that bother John den Boer, El Shaddai.
7. One book that you wish had never been written: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Author Unknown.
8. One book you’re currently reading: The Polished Hoe, Austin Clarke.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: The One About the Electric Neon Typewriter or something like that, I think, Whathisname.
10. Now tag five people: Marcellin Mutoni, my sisters, the Barnhoorns/Snoeks, Aaron Gysbers, Daryl de Boer.

First, an explanation. Laurianne and I recently moved from our apartment above the paint store to a luxurious pad further north-east. This, at least partially, explains why I have not updated for such a long time. Our new apartment is quite nice and all our friends are invited to come (almost) anytime. For those interested our new address is: 9 Rue Galipeau Apt. 1, Gatineau QC, J8Y 4C2.
Without television or access to the internet I have been doing quite a bit of reading. I read Nurrudin Farrah's Links, Andrea Levy's Fruit of the Lemon and Never Far from Nowhere, Edward P. Jones' The Known World, M.G. Vassanji's The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, and I have begun The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke.
Nurrudin Farrah's Links is an excellent book and I admire his poetic and deft skill with words. He has an incredible gift with language and story-telling. Links tells the story of Jeebleh, a Somali-American, who returns to his roots after twenty years to make peace with his mother's memory and his old friends. Mogadishu comes alive with startling clarity and complexity. I would recommend this books based on Farrah's gift with words alone.
Andrea Levy is a British author of Jamaican descent who writes about the Jamaican experience in England. Both books were quite good, but I would recommend Small Island before either of these two books. This is not to say they aren't good because they're quite good; they just don't seem as carefully crafted as Small Island.
Edward P. Jones' The Known World is an intricate tapestry of intersecting plotlines and rich characterization. The book is set in antebellum United States. The reader is thrust into a disconcerting situation where a slave plantation is owned by a rich black man. This sort of situation was very rare in the United States but it did happen and Jones' consistently unsettled my moral assumptions by creating sympathy for characters whom we are, archetypically, supposed to despise. The book is rich with connections between places, times, and characters.
M.G. Vassanji's The In-between World of Vikram Lall is also an excellent book. As the title suggests, the main character is one Vikram Lall, one of the most corrupt men in Kenya. Vassanji tells the story of Lall from his youth, the brutal Mau Mau attack that had such an impact on his life, to the present. Vassanji ably shows us the tightrope in between coloniser and colonised that the descendents of the Indians who worked on Kenya's railways balanced upon. Historical characters like Jomo Kenyatta come alive and the confusing and blinding ideology of ethnic nationalism is deftly portrayed.
I have also watched some good movies. The best one was probably Everything is Illuminated. Many people would hesitate before watching this movie because of the presence of Elijah Wood. I, too, hesitated, but this story of a Jew who visits Ukraine to trace his roots is a powerful, humourous and dramatic masterpiece. Well, maybe not a masterpiece but a really really good movie.
You may have read this and wondered why I have the pictures of Heineken when I didn't even mention Heineken anywhere in this entry. Well, I have now, so the pictures do belong. Gotta go, see ya later.

Who deh?