Saturday, January 21, 2006

Orpheus does about-face -or- How I learned to stop worrying and got a license plate

Before he was a blockbuster children's story writer, for a while C. S. Lewis was a nobody Oxford don. He was made famous by his newspaper stories of a fictional correspondence between two demons in a rather banal and bureaucratic hell. But that's not what I want to talk about. My reason for bringing up Lewis' Screwtape Letters is to point out that bureaucratic descriptions of hell (in addition to geometric descriptions) are not unheard of. Therefore, perhaps I wasn't too far off when, in the spring of 2000, I alluded to Hades apropos of Pennsylvania in a song [1]:
I lost my memory
On the shores of the Allegheny
I dig the symmetry
I'm going home

Alas, home is now Pennsylvania, and it is no wonder that Pennsylvania styles itself as a Commonwealth and not a State: surely it has a leaning toward totalitarian communism ("The Commie-wealth of Pennsylvania" is how someone put it). It is true, PA has its conservatisms, but they often seem to be of the most embarrassing sort. By some ridiculous logic car registration is considered ripe
for privatization, but alcohol distribution must be seriously regulated and controlled.

If the United States indeed has secret torture prisons (and that looks likely) I wouldn't be terribly surprised if at least one of them is located in the basement of the PA State Office Building, where I spent a pleasant morning a few weeks ago trying to get a drivers license. Their solution to the problem of not accepting cash or credit was to plaster the room with signs to that affect. The amount of money they spent of fancy signs [2] could have put as a down payment for a nice credit card machine or a cache register.

Getting my car registered (the work of the rest of that day off frittered away by bureaucracy) is still too close and painful to talk about. I will share the following anecdote: a gentleman sitting next to me at the AAA trying to get his truck registered was reduced to stammering incredulously, "This is... This is..." "Ludicrous?" replied the clerk helpfully, "This is Pennsylvania so, yes, it is ludicrous."


[1] The song is aptly entitled "Pennsylvania"

[2] Putting up 10 signs didn't do the trick, though: nearly everyone who was in the waiting room asked the clerk if they could pay with cash.


Post a Comment

<< Home