Aida 202 Wicker ………

BEATING THE GRAVY TRAIN

SOUTH Africa's grossly overburdened taxpayers will, I am certain, be bewitched by an American writer's suggestions on how to cut the cost of gravy-train bureaucrats. Meet Jim Wicker, a political columnist working for Times-Media in North Carolina:

Folks, I think I've come up with a new, revolutionary idea that could save taxpayers and private businesses millions and millions of dollars each year - it's so simple, I wonder why somebody hasn't already suggested it. Basically, this is it: Let's replace all the do-nothing bureaucrats in local, state and federal positions with mannequins. The offices they now occupy could be maintained: but instead of having high-paid men and women, let's have well-dressed mannequins with names and titles sitting in the overstuffed chairs.

I realise the change might take a little getting used to at first, but with all the advances in electronics and communications gear, we could have each mannequin rigged to answer telephone calls and messages on interoffice speakers.

"I'll have to get back to you on that," will be one of the standard runaround responses from the mannequins - regardless of callers' inquiries. And, of course, we could have the dummies equipped to say things such as "that's still under consideration," "I'm expecting to hear something on that any day" or "I'm afraid that's not my area. Call back and ask for Jones in Pokey Resources."

And, to keep things kind of like they are now, we could have each mannequin's chair wired to a little pulley device that would tow it a few feet across the office from time to time. That way the secretaries and receptionists could honestly tell callers and visitors that the title-holders are away from their desks, or not available.

Look, before some of you pooh-pooh the idea and say it's ridiculous, try to remember some of the encounters you've had with bureaucrats. Surely, nearly everybody older than age 21 has had a frustrating experience at one time or another with some sort of official who was an expert at giving everybody the runaround. It's happened to me dozens and dozens of times as a newsman, both on the phone and in person.

I remember getting the runaround from six bureaucrats in the federal government one morning a dozen or so years ago. I first called the office of a certain agency in Washington and was told I needed to call another official in Atlanta. But that did little good - I was told to call a regional office in Raleigh.

"No, you should have called the office in Memphis," the bureaucrat in Raleigh said. I don't know why, but I kept burning up money on long-distance calls and tried the Memphis fat cat.

"Oh, yes, we know about that but we're not authorised to make any statements. You need to call the assistant director in Washington," the woman official told me. Not expecting anything, I called the agency's main office in Washington. "Mr. Soinso is out of the office until next week," his secretary said.

At that point, just out of curiosity, I asked the secretary if Mr. Soinso's office was anywhere close to that of the official I phoned first in my series of calls that morning. "Why yes, his office is just across the hall," she said.

Folks, I'm sure there must be warehouses all over the country packed full of retired department store mannequins we could buy for 10 cents on the dollar. Come on, let's go ahead and switch 'em - dummy for dummy.

Cycad Web Works Tue Apr 24 22:46:43 EDT 2018 : # 1 : last modified 8/4/97
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