Wednesday, May 6, 2009

THIS is my federal government?

My in-laws are coming in two weeks. I've been planning activities, booking tours, etc. in anticipation of their visit. While doing so I have become one thing with our federal government: seriously unimpressed.

To book tours, you go through a your congressperson. I'm going through Congresswoman Donna Edwards. I'm working with one of her staffers. We'll call this staffer Monica.

I told Monica our available dates and listed six tours we were interested in. She seemed pretty clueless from the start and was confused by my dates. It's as though the woman didn't have access to a calendar. Or had ever looked at one. In her life. I repeated the dates and told her several times Friday, May 22nd (graduation) is the one day we are not available.

She told me right away a tour of the Pentagon was not an option. 15 minutes after our call, she left me the following voicemail:

"Hi Wendy, this is Monica from Congresswoman Edwards' office. I've emailed you the Pentagon tour security information. (She hadn't.) Please let me know if you did not receive it. It's really important that we get that back within 10 days of your tour minimum, but I'd prefer to have some sort of clearance before then. Return my call please. Thanks Bye."

I called her back, told her I did not receive the email and reminded her she said the Pentagon was not available. I got an "Oh yeah. It's not. Sorry."

A few minutes later, I received the following email:

"Your tour is at 1:45 PM Friday, May 21st. Please check in with your last name: KING. Please respond to this email."

Problem #1: The 21 is a Thursday. So are we talking Thursday the 21st or Friday the 22nd? Turns out she meant Friday, the 22nd. You know, the one day I told her we are not available.

Problem #2: Um, which tour? I put in six requests. Maybe she put the tour in the subject line? Nope, subject line is blank.

I called her back again. We cleared it up. I received similar email two times later that week. Each representing new tours. Neither stating which tour.

I received security clearance forms for the White House and Capitol. These forms were a rudimentary series of words and blank lines that look like something you'd create on Notepad. They were not sent as attachments. They were pasted into the email. The word available was spelled: "AVAIBALE." That's no typo people. That is not knowing how to spell the word. Also, email address was one word. Like this: emailaddress. I was so embarrassed for her and for my government, I gently brought the mistakes to her attention. She thanked me. Then she had me spell the word "available" to her, so she could get it right. Wow.

About a week later, I got this voicemail:

"Hi this is Monica from Congresswoman Edward's Office and I was calling to tell you we cannot book your tour because it is not 30 days in advance. You want a tour on May 20th and today is April 6th. It has to be 30 days in advance so unfortunately... oh, wait... nevermind. Forget I called. Bye."

I guess she figured out mid-message that I was booking 30+ days out. Oh and again, I have no idea which tour she was referring to.

Last I heard, Monica told me we have four of six requested tours booked, with a White House tour pending. Two of the tours she originally booked on Friday, May 22nd. The one day we are not available.

Who knows if we're actually booked for any tours. Maybe it doesn't matter. When Harley asked his dad what he wanted to do while in town his answer was simple, and involves no booking:

"Son, I want to protest the White House."

I'm with you, Ed. I'm with you.

P.S. The fact that I watched this over the weekend doesn't help my current disdain for our federal government.

P.P.S. I've booked DC tours in the past and it has never been this difficult or this botched. So maybe it's just Monica?


Rachel said...

Her voicemail is HYSTERICAL! Oh girl. Don't blame the government--blame Monica!

Logical Libby said...

I can almost guarantee it's Monica. You should call Matheson's office. Ryan has never had any problems with them.

Harley King said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Monica has a hand in fiscal policy as well.

Claudia said...

I love that you named her Monica! Joshua (who works for the fed) had a great secretary once - she mailed one letter without a zip code, and another one to a guy down the hall - actually put a stamp on and sent it through the mail. Funnier (or sadder) because she was also HIS secretary.
Hope you get to see something other than bureaucracy.

Brittany said...

Clearly Monica has severe issues! I can't believe that... how frustrating! Hope you get to go on at least one tour that she hasn't botched! Have fun with your in-laws! :)

Jill said...

So funny! Can't wait to hear if you actually have some booked tours.

Ali Snow said...

I bet her name was really Monica.

anna banana said...

She is scary, I think you should call her superiors, and hopefully it is just her.

Kelly D. said...

Oh, thank you! I needed a good laugh this morning! I'm with everybody else. Calling her Monica was genius!

Um, have fun on your tours? Fingers crossed they actually happen.

becky said...

Don't hate me 'cause I'm laughing, but I TOTALLY AM! That girl is a MORON! Wow. Just wow.

Fingers crossed that you get a super fab tour. But maybe the protesting thing would be more fun?

Jessica Taggart said...

Maybe she "botched" your tours because you pointed out to her that she didn't know how to spell? Hey, Wendy. We never talk anymore. Call me when you are avabale.

Jess said...

I seriously hope Monica is an UNPAID intern. I did a stint at the Dept. of the Interior for a few months in 02, and my boss was always impressed when a simple filing job took half an hour instead of all day. I think government standards are pretty low.

Tyler & Cassidy said...

My 6 year old kindergartener is pretty good with a calendar (and knows the days of the week in proper sequential order), can correctly read an analog clock, and is shaping up into quite the good writer, and an even better reader - all from public schools and her own curiousity and drive. I'd be ok with her doing a short stint with a congressman - I hope she's not overqualified, though.