The large, beige room reeked of institutional cleaners. Along the back wall were the words ‘Federal Bureau of Noncorporeal Management’ in Helvetica Bold.
Cody Okposo grabbed a ticket from the red number dispenser and sat down. It read A040. Hanging from the ceiling was a digital display announcing who they were now serving.
Cody flipped through his permit application. He hoped this wouldn’t take all morning.
There was a bing as the number changed. Everyone looked at the board in unison.
Cody scowled and looked around the room. A man was sleeping in the corner. A lady rose to her feet and shuffled to the counter. She was met by a frumpy looking lady with overly large glasses.
“Vogons,” Cody whispered to himself.
There was another bing. En masse the gathering crowd looked to the display. Pavlov would be pleased.
Cody checked his ticket. Someone nudged the sleeping man. He yawned and stretched and slowly made his way to the awaiting bureaucrat.
Twenty minutes later and the board was still stuck at B918. A sharply dressed man was the first to crack. He fumed and shifted in his seat until he could take it no longer.
“I don’t have time for this,” he repeated over and over. In exasperation he got up and interrupted the bureaucrat and the sleeping man. Security immediately intervened. The sharply dressed man stormed off, moving everyone in the queue up one place. A subtle smile grew across Cody’s face.
Cody rose to his feet and looked around. He tried not to gloat as he stared at those still seeking a reprieve from the waiting area.
The bureaucrat that greeted him had the look of a man bereft of hope. He was middle aged, balding and dressed appropriately for the wrong decade.
“I’m here to apply…”
“Forms,” said the bureaucrat. He held out his hand impatiently. Snatching them from Cody’s hand, he looked them through his horned rimmed glasses.
An icy silence formed between them. Cody scanned the items on the bureaucrat’s desk. Off to his left lay the rubber stamp, the official seal of approval. It was so close he could touch it.
“This isn’t properly notarized,” said the bureaucrat. Cody jumped.
“I had it signed by a doctor,” said Cody.
“What kind of doctor?” The bureaucrat squinted.
“A doctor of osteopathy?”
The bureaucrat sat back in his chair and sneered. “No, no, no. If it’s a doctor it must be a cardiologist. Perhaps a rheumatologist, though they’re not really recommended. You may use lawyers, but not defense lawyers. Teachers above grade six, or government and municipal employees as long as they’re not elected officials.”
“What’s wrong with elected officials?” asked Cody.
“Elected officials come and go, but bureaucrats remain forever. It maintains the consistency of the system.”
Cody looked confused. “So what do I do now?”
The bureaucrat smiled for the first time. “You must resubmit your forms along with a C647b slash continuance form because you’ve already failed once in your attempt to secure and I94A permit. The C647b slash continuance must be in triplicate, notarized by four distinct but authorized consignees who’ve known you for at least fifteen years consecutively. Return with these forms and obtain a ‘D’ slip instead of the ‘A’ slip you used today, but it must be no less than four and no more than ten days from today. Okay? Good day.”
The bureaucrat started writing on Cody’s form.
Cody nodded, but understood nothing. It was like listening to an entirely different language. He stayed in place, dazed and confused.
The bureaucrat looked up and glared at Cody. “Is there something else?”
Cody blinked. Something clicked inside him. “I just realized. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission,” said Cody.
The bureaucrat’s eyes widened. “That’s dissident thinking.”
Before Cody could respond, two men dressed in black suits carried him away. He was never heard from again.