Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

When Bureaucracies Function Well

This week AdventureMan and I explored something new in our lives – Early Voting. We had heard about it from our friends. It’s not like absentee voting, where you are mailed a ballot and you mail it back in after you have filled in your votes. With early voting, you can actually go to a voting place and vote.

We went after lunch, and we didn’t know where it was, but once we got near, we started seeing signs. Great signage.

When we entered the door, there was a lady there to tell us where to go – and more signs, too.

When we got to the right floor, there were signs with arrows and “Vote Here” on them.

When we got to the voting office, there were lots of people to help us get our ballot. When I messed up my first ballot (I hadn’t read an amendment carefully), they quickly did all the necessary paperwork and got me voting again. The second time, the machine accepted my ballot. πŸ™‚

All in all, a fabulous experience. And – they gave me a sticker! We were so impressed with the careful attention to detail that had gone into getting us to the right place and getting our vote accomplished.

Later in the week, I had a mammogram. Being new, I am not in the system, so I have to go through admitting procedures every time I go to a new doctor or a new institution. At the West Florida Hospital, as soon as I got to the right room, I could see a sign telling me where to wait my turn. The receptionist was welcoming AND efficient. There were a lot of people waiting, and one by one we were taken in to have our paperwork done. No need for a pen; you sign on a machine, like you do for credit card purchases in many stores. Then you sit in a small hallway until someone calls your name and you become a human train as a guide leads you to your stop. That part was half hilarious and half annoying. If I knew where it was, I might have gotten there faster on my own, but . . . I didn’t know where it was. As far as systems go – it worked. It kept people orderly. It got a lot of people in and out efficiently, and fairly. No one can break into the lines, claiming to be more important. I am guessing if there is a patient whose malady is serious enough to take precedence, they have procedures they can follow separate from the normal intake procedures.

I have to stop and admire when bureaucracies function as intended, to help us more efficiently accomplish our business. It is when they become a stomping ground for nepotism and inefficiency that they earn my ire.

When I arrived in Qatar, my bank had a Women’s branch which was convenient for me and I loved going there. I was often the only customer, and the women taking care of me were always charming, helpful and friendly. When the same bank broke into another section and became an Islamic bank, instead of a normal bank working with Islamic customs, I was no longer able to use the women’s bank, but I’ve always remembered their personal customer service.

On the other hand, banking in Qatar could be totally tortuous, if you had to use the normal bank where Mr. Important would walk right in front of you as if you didn’t exist, or certainly, as if you were far less important than he was. In Kuwait, at my bank branch, you took a number, and it appeared to me that most of the time the number system was honored, unless it was a personal friend, LOL. Personal friends, or friends of the family, or a friend of a friend of the family always get to go first.

I suspect there are similar exceptions in Pensacola, but less transparent. Mr. Important has his own banker he can go to without waiting, probably in a private office, and it is invisible to the rest of us. Ms. Important, on the other hand, probably has to wait in the waiting room with the rest of us for her mammogram.

October 23, 2010 - Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Pensacola, Qatar, Values


  1. no “hanging chads” I hope, since you are back in FL πŸ™‚

    Comment by Grammy | October 23, 2010 | Reply

  2. I like the system here where you fill out your ballot at home and drop it off at designated places before the deadline. This accomodates shift workers etc. Conveniently there is a drop box at my church so our ballots usually go in the Sunday before election day. They also send out a booklet to each household with all the issues outlined and a bio on each of the candidates with the ballots which makes it easy to ignore the BS ads on TV. I like not having to go to a polling place (which I have done in the past in VA)

    Comment by momcat | October 23, 2010 | Reply

  3. LLLOOOLLL, Grammy, no hanging chads, but I learned you can’t just cross out a wrong answer/vote and fill in another one instead. The machine tells you that you voted too many times and you have to do the whole ballot over again, oh aarrgh. Guess I have to follow instructions, oh aaarrgh!

    I like the Washington system, too, Momcat, and I am guessing it helps more voters to vote and to vote more informed. I like any system which encourages people to cast their ballot. πŸ™‚

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 23, 2010 | Reply

  4. Intlxpatr :

    I noted that when you took the mammogram you did not shout “Are You A Christian” to the X Ray technician hehehehe

    Comment by daggero | October 24, 2010 | Reply


    This is the bible belt South, my friend. Most of the time you can almost assume people are Christian, albiet probably not Episcopalian, but mostly Baptist with a good sprinkling of Methodists. πŸ™‚

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 24, 2010 | Reply

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