Friday, December 31, 1999

how bureaucrats think

[Originally posted on 1/19/17, 3:29PM.]

I'm a heavy guy, and Korea makes shitty office chairs. Result: I can destroy a Korean office chair within a few months to a year just by sitting in it for 8-11 hours a day. My boss—who is similarly large, and who enjoys a huge, luxurious, reinforced office chair—is actually nervous that I might gain an intra-office reputation as The Resident Destroyer of Chairs. Can't say I blame him, but the fault lies just as much in shoddy office-chair workmanship as it does in the number of molecules that constitute me. Because of the difference in workmanship, I've never had this problem in America.

A week or so ago, a single wheel popped off a double-wheeled castor on my current chair. No longer sanguine about sitting in that chair, I brought in a sturdy folding chair from my apartment (few moving parts + simple design = tougher). The boss said he'd get someone to look into fixing or replacing my chair; I said that all I needed was a new castor: replacing that part would be the simplest, cheapest, fastest solution. Several days later (remember: we're moving in bureaucrat time), a Korean guy came into our office along with my boss; a second Korean guy soon joined him, and the two guys looked over my chair, clucking and tutting. One of them said the entire chair would need to be replaced; I repeated what I'd told my boss, saying that all I needed was a new castor: I could easily pop the damaged one out and pop the new one in. The boss also spoke with the Korean guys, who eventually left our office, still clucking and tutting. The boss told me that he had asked the guys to get me a much better chair, but they had kept muttering about merely replacing it with something similar.

Another couple days went by... then the boss got a plastic bag in which were two castors, similar but not identical. One castor looked as though it went with my chair; the other castor—which also appeared scruffy and used—had a different coloration. Both seemed as though they'd work with my chair, so I popped out the damaged castor and popped in the newer-looking, matching-colored one. It worked fine, and I was back in business... at least until the next castor popped.

As Dr. McCoy grumbled at the very end of "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," "The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe." First: why did the chair problem require two guys to solve? Second: why did the guys mutter about needing to replace the chair if they were only going to end up following my suggestion to replace a single castor? My theory is that bureaucrats are trained to love inefficiency—trained to the point where a simple "A to B" straight-line solution is inconceivable to them. The upshot, then, is that I won't be getting the new, luxurious chair my boss had asked for. The only things I get are the castor and a used spare, which is fine by me. What's funny is that the Korean guys chose an inefficient way to arrive at what was ultimately the most efficient solution—my solution, which was merely common sense. Then again... common sense is rare among bureaucrats.


John Mac said...

Looks like you "common sensed" your way right out of a brand spanking new chair.

It's nice to know that government does not have a monopoly on ignorance. Although the horror stories of the Korean and American government collaboration in building up the new Army base in Pyeongtaek are scary funny.

Here's to hoping you keep rolling along...

Kevin Kim said...

All I have to do is blow out another wheel or two, and I'll end up with that spanking-new chair!

Ignorance, alas, is everywhere.

Surprises Aplenty said...

I think you wrote this in 2017, not 2016.

Kevin Kim said...

Corrected! Thanks.