Thursday, October 13, 2005

True scene

A reception room in a government office. Gray carpet, gray chairs. The sound of rain. It is a few minutes before two o'clock.

A Man walks up to the counter and speaks to a young woman behind the plastic window.

Man. How much is this going to cost?

Young Clerk. A hundred fifty dollars —

Man. Oh boy. I thought you said it was one twenty five.

Young Clerk. It's a hundred twenty five for the request and twenty five for processing. Now, do you want it expedited?

Man. What does that mean? I mean, I know what expedited means, but —

Young Clerk. If you get it expedited, you can get it tomorrow. If not, we send it out in three weeks.

Man. I can’t get it today?

Young Clerk. If you had come before twelve pm, we could have done same day. It's too late now.

Pause.

Young Clerk. That will be a hundred seventy-five dollars, fill out this—

Man. A hundred seventy five dollars, I thought before you said a hundred fifty.

Young Clerk. There’s a twenty five dollar fee for expedited.

Pause.

Young Clerk. Take one of these forms.

Man takes the form, sits down next to me and starts to work on the form.

Man (To himself? To me?) I wish I had gotten here before two.

A few minutes later, the man walks up to the counter and addresses a somewhat older woman. The Young Clerk has left the area.

Man. I just want to say, I got here before two. I'm only going to say it, I got here before two. It's only two ten now and I’ve had time to read this form, fill it out, and that's got to take more than ten minutes. So I had to be here before two.

The Older Clerk is silent.

Man. I just had to say it, I was here before two.

A Voice, from the back room. What was at two?

Man. The other woman said that I could get this done today if I came in before two. I just had to say, I was here before two.

Older Clerk. You want this done same day?

Man. Yes.

Older Clerk. We can do it same day until three.

Pause.

Man.I can see you are in a position of — authority. Why did she — the other lady — say two?

Older Clerk. Who said that? I'll talk to her. We can do same day up until three. (She takes the man's papers.)That’ll be two hundred dollars.

Man. Two hundred? Oh man. Every time I come up here, it’s another twenty five. She told me a hundred seventy five.

Older Clerk. That's not for the same day service. Same day is twenty five extra.

Pause.

Older Clerk. I'll break it down for you, it’s a hundred twenty five for the request, …

3 Comments:

Blogger Warren said...

Brilliant! Are you sure this wasn't in Germany? Apart from the (authentic American) language, it seems like it should have happened here in Berlin.

10/20/2005 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Only there would have been a much more frequent occurrence of the word "Stempel" (or stamp, if you want to stick with the American language).

10/21/2005 4:14 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

I guess surcharges and crummy clerks are worldwide. It warms my little heart to know this.

11/02/2005 12:37 AM  

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