Saturday, January 24, 2009

Drunken Lemur Alert

This is pretty much my favorite Dilbert cartoon of all time:

dilbert drunken lemurs

(If I had known how to link to this comic before, it would have certainly worked its way into an earlier post.)

It would appear that the drunken lemurs are alive and well in county government; here's the latest example of their idiocy:

A little while ago, I went with a friend to a rather busy Starbucks. The place was packed, and, because the temperature is in the 30s tonight, everyone was inside. There was this huge group in the middle that threw the tables-to-chairs ratio all out of whack, which meant that there were plenty of tables, but no chairs to place around them.

I saw one empty chair up front, behind a still-large-but-somewhat-smaller group, and I asked the guys if that chair was taken. They said it belonged to some (unseen) friend of theirs, but that I should do what they did and get some chairs from outside (since those tables were obviously not being used). I did this, and my friend and I sat down to enjoy our drinks, and we noticed that several other nearby tables had the outside chairs as well.

Within a short while, we noticed one of the Starbucks workers coming up to each of the tables around us. I knew that it was nowhere near closing time (indeed, the store is still open as I write this), so I wondered what was up; eventually, I heard something about us not supposed to be using the outside chairs inside. I asked the employee why this was, and she said she didn't know, but we were welcome to contact the manager. Sure, I'll take a card, I said, and when she came back with his card, she had found out why the rule was in place: The health department didn't allow "outside" chairs inside. Huh??

I feel relatively sure that this wasn't the first time I had experienced the commingling of indoor and outdoor furniture, and it led us to muse about what the health department could possibly be worried about. My friend jokingly suggested that there must be "cancer particles" in the outdoor air that would "get in the coffee as it's being ground," whereas I posited that they must be afraid that a bird would land on an outside chair and bring plague and pestilence into the place if we took the chairs in. It also occurred to me that this type of commingling must happen all the time in people's houses: bringing in lawn chairs to accommodate extra guests, bringing plates from the kitchen outside when barbecuing, and so on. Mostly, I was annoyed that my evening was made less enjoyable by the work of some petty bureaucrat somewhere who has no idea that this regulation sometimes gets in the way of business.

Again, I'm not railing against all government regulation; indeed, keeping the food supply from being tainted is one of the few things government does well on a regular basis. But I fail to see how the inside/outside chair situation rises to the level of tainting the food supply. Instead, this sounds like the work of a do-nothing government worker with too much time on his or her hands, a "solution" in search of a problem. (If this situation were so serious, why had none of us at Starbucks heard of it before?)

So, even though I was prepared at first to fire off an irate (or at least annoyed) email to the Starbucks manager, I was glad to find out that the problem is not likely of his making. I will contact him, though, to get the information for whichever drunken lemur is their regular contact in the health department, and chew on that person for a little while (as I told the folks at the next table, who defiantly remained in their outside chairs for "ten more minutes"--and thought we were being too nice for taking the chairs back outside as we left--it would be fun to rag on a bureaucrat, who undoubtedly deserves it).

As I said earlier, we can't even afford the government we have, much less the kind that some people in Washington would like to bring in, and letting go of a whole lot of bureaucrats would be a good start. Tonight was yet another example of the unproductive class interfering with the productive class, and another reason why this situation must change.

(As always, I acknowledge that your mileage may vary; if you've ever been sickened by the Tainted Outside Chair Flu or something, please feel free to disagree with me in the comments.)


Anonymous said...

I wonder if a more feasible answer like "due to 'occupancy/safety' regulations thrust upon us by the fire dept. we are not allowed to add the outside chairs" would have made you ponder so much about this?

Kev said...

Hmm...I'll admit that I didn't read the "maximum occupancy" sign, nor count the people in the building (which might have gotten me some funny looks, LOL). But that opens up a whole new can of worms; Did the aforementioned large group that took up all of the chairs (but very few of the tables) push the occupancy of the place in excess of that limit? And if so, was it easier for the store to hide behind some arcane health department regulation, rather than to put a sign on the door saying that nobody could sit down until a few people left?

(And if that were the case, would the people in the large group--most of whom appeared to be done with their coffee--realize that they were imposing on future guests and move their gathering elsewhere? I've run into this situation before.)

But my larger point is that someone at the health department seems to have made a mountain out of a molehill here. If it had indeed been an occupany/safety regulation, that would be a whole 'nother ball of wax, because that activity is dangerous whether done in public or at home. But as I said in the main post, people commingle inside/outside things in their own homes all the time without incident, and there's no reason for the government to nanny-state us to death here.

(Please understand that the current economic climate is going to lead me to rail on things that waste public money, and bureaucrats are high on my list. If you happen to be one, my apologies; besides, it's possible that you are one who does an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, thinks through situations instead of just blindly following "the rules," and so on. If that's the case, you're not the source of my ire here.)

Anonymous said...

No apology necessary!!!! I actually thought the answer you were given was ridiculous and thought maybe they actually just made it up?

Kev said...

Oh. Heh. Gotcha.

I guess I give Starbucks employees the benefit of the doubt, because one of my best friends was one until this past weekend. But it was a goofy answer, which is why it seemed like something that could have come out of a government employee's cubicle somewhere.