Category Archives: Officialdom

Musings on my strongest point: dealing calmly with those in positions of authority.

What Do You Mean by That?

Razor sharp after a midnight departure from Vancouver and 15 hours in the air, I squint again at Question 9. The series of 11 questions had started with a seemingly innocuous lead-in: “Are you bringing into Australia . . . .” Now what’s in that dot-dot-dot is giving me fits on this day/night in early November, 2014.

And it had all started so well . . .

With a winning smile, the flight attendant hands me the Incoming Passenger Card issued by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Little knowing what is to come, I take it with an answering smile.   Continue reading

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Stick. String. Nerve. Not.

Why don’t you put down “stick and string”?

Standing on the public side of the counter, pen in hand, I glance up at the speaker. She is standing on the working side of the counter—what some would call the pointy end of the stick in this business, I guess, but I’ve pretty much had it with sticks at this point. As it were.

Her sally is greeted with broad smiles from her colleagues, of whom there seem to be an unreasonable number, milling about amid stacks of flat cardboard boxes, bags of Styrofoam™ peanuts slung from ceiling hooks, toffee-coloured towers of packing tape, and waist-high metal tables with stray bits of toffee-coloured packing tape adhered. Do all these people really work here? And if so, why aren’t they, you know, working?

Although my answering smile might be a bit forced, my annoyance is not really with the smart-aleckette but, rather, with myself. How did I let it come to this? My mind drifts back to the previous day.   Continue reading

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Sloppy Is As Sloppy Does

A badly designed medical-information form provokes a rant about being sloppy and some consideration about when being careful really matters.


Are you planning to get pregnant in the next three months?

I look around.  No, it’s just me and the Big Guy in the room, and he’s busy with his own clipboard.  This medical information form must be talking to me.

Maybe it’s my own fault for having humoured it thus far.  After all, I didn’t balk at the previous question—Are you pregnant?—so I may have lost my right to object to this line of questioning.

I look over at the Big Guy.  Maybe I should get his opinion.  I mean, I know I’m not pregnant now, but we often have different views on what the future will bring.   Continue reading

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E is for Eye Doctor

The little kid within still carries a grudge against a suspicious school nurse from 40 years ago.


The eye doctor will look into your eyes with special equipment.

There’s a pause, while she looks at me narrowly to see if I’m getting the subtext.  Deciding not, she makes her point a little less sub-tly.

He’ll know how well you can see, so you should be careful what you tell him.

It’s the fall of 1963 and I am standing in the school nurse’s office, silent as I often am in the face of an accusatory authority.  It’s clear she thinks I’m lying.     Continue reading

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False Positives

In honour/honor of 04 July.  Happy Independence Day!

What is the purpose of your visit? The uniformed speaker must be kidding: it’s July and the car is packed to the gunnels.  Parents and maps fill the front seat; four kids cram the back seat; a boxy tent-trailer brings up the rear.  What does he think our purpose is?

Unperturbed, my father dispassionately describes our itinerary.  Satisfied that we pose no danger to the United States, the border guard admits us.  As we pull away, I pipe up, What if we had said that we were spies for the Canadian Government?

Parental patience had its limits, in the 1960s.  I receive emphatic instruction in my father’s expectations of me at this and every border, today and always: Say nothing! pretty much captures it.

Some childhood training translates well into adult life: play nicely, share, clean up your room.  Some does not: these days, I must say something at border crossings.  Usually, this means trouble.     Continue reading

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