The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

Someone Very close to me just realized that she didn’t have the necessary documents to file an income tax report for someone who passed away earlier last year. Someone called the small-town local post office–not Boatville–and asked if mail with that name had been forwarded.

“Well of course not.” She–the person at this small post office–was about as far from helpful as someone in her position could be. “Just because the address is the same doesn’t matter,” said she. “His name is different than yours, so, there.”

Hmmmm, thought She. That didn’t go well. Bottom line: There’s still a Form 10-99 that didn’t come. Since it was from Social Security, she decided to call the local office in Fergus Falls.

“Hello,” said someone there, “can we help you?” Hmmmm again. Sounded promising. But when asked whether they could resend that darn 10-99, no. “You’re down there in Florida, and we can’t send something down there. You’ll have to call the office down there.

“Hello, can we help you?” That’s the voice of someone at the social security office down in Florida. The same question: The office up home said you could send that 10-99 to me down here.

“No, we cannot do that. You have to call the office up north. Who told you we could do that?”

My local office up north.

“No, that’s not possible, but we can send it to your address up north.

Will it still have a name on it that’s not mine?

“Well, certainly.”

But that leaves the problem the same. They won’t forward because of an address change. They only forward because of an ADDRESS change and a name change, you see.

This drags on. And on. And on. There’s no use adding to this story. You all know it by now. You’ve all had to deal with what my brother has labelled “Petty Functionaries.”

They exist everywhere. They are so universally present that when you run into someone who is helpful, it’s a surprise. Gasp! Like that.

The Lima Grill company made all the grills that you see in houses and businesses for years and years. They were sold around the world. They had cornered the grill business. If you looked at a grill and heat was coming out of it, or cold, or fresh air, Lima made it.

Over the years, I had become accustomed to scabbing a piece of 2 by 4 onto an open stud wall in a new house, so that the finished grill’s screw holes, the Lima’s, would line up. These holes, you see, were on 14-inch centers. All studs are of course 16 inch.

Then I started teaching HVAC. After watching young males trying to search for a scrap of 2 x 4, then search for nails, then a hammer, then watching them try to use it, I decided to call Lima.

“Hello,” someone said. Yes, may I talk to engineering, please, I said.

“Engineering,” someone else said. Say, I said, were stud walls ever on 14-inch centers, back a hundred years or so? Because all your products seem to assume that stud walls are on 14-inch spacing.

“No,” said the engineer.

Then why, said I, are all your grills on those measurements? Why don’t you change that?

“You say you’re a teacher? Worked in the trade for 30 years? That doesn’t matter. We don’t take input from anyone but our salesmen.” 

From that date in time, it was less than three years and the Lima Grill Company filed for bankruptcy. Not hard to see why, is it.

Petty functionaries. Pretty nice label.