May The Force Be With You – Part Fifteen

Bureaucratic Berserker 

I was sitting in my office one day, minding my own business when the phone rang. 

Voice: Hello, is that your phone? 

Me: I just answered it didn’t I? 

Voice: I am S.I. Leung, Comms, PHQ. (Senior Inspector Leung, Communications Wing, Police Headquarters). 

Me: I’m very happy for you, how can I be of assistance. 

S.I. Leung: On the 17th of September you made an IDD call to Singapore. 

Me: No I didn’t. 

S.I. Leung: You just said that this is your phone. 

Me: It might well be my phone but I didn’t make an IDD call to anywhere. I’m not authorised to make IDD calls. 

S.I. Leung: Well our records show that an IDD call was made from your extension to a number in Singapore on the 17th. Someone has to pay for it. 

Me: How much are we talking about? 

S.I. Leung: $2.70. (US$ 0.35). 

Me: $2.70! You’re wasting my time over $2.70 cents? 

S.I. Leung: It has got to be paid! 

Me: Okay, how about this. To save us both a lot of time and effort I’ll pay the $2.70 but I won’t accept responsibility for the call. 

S.I. Leung: Sorry, if you pay for the call then you have to accept responsibility. 

Me: Not going to happen.

S.I. Leung: I will have to send you a memo!

Me: (Shock, horror). OK. 

A few days later the memo duly arrived and like all government correspondence, it had gone through channels. From SI Comms PHQ to E1 CA (me) thru OC Comms PHQ thru Commissioner of Police thru Director of Special Branch thru E1. I was fairly flattered. 

I don’t recall the contents of the memo but it was probably a repetition of what the S.I. had said. I immediately sent off a reply which to follow good form had to go from E1 CA to SI Comms PHQ thru E1 thru Director of Special Branch thru Commissioner of Police thru OC Comms PHQ in which I repeated my offer to pay the $2.70 but refused to take responsibility for the call. 

The next day I received another memo through the correct channels related above informing me that disciplinary action would be taken against me if I failed to comply with his demands. I sent off a reply in short order, through the correct channels, telling him in very polite terms what he could do with his disciplinary action. 

It was at this point that I sat down and mentally calculated how much S.I. Leung had cost the Royal Hong Kong Police Force and ultimately the taxpayer in terms of man-hours. I estimated something in the region of $1,750.00 (US$ 225.00) in order to retrieve a debt of $2.70. I was just beginning to enjoy myself and was wondering how long I could drag it out but things came to an abrupt halt when the section number two came into my office with a fist full of memos and telephone bills, fixed me with a stern eye and said, “Stop it!” 

And once again I said, “OK”. 

Copyright John Stewart Sloan – 2007 – Not for Publication

Published by stewartgoeswalkies

Happily married man to a wonderful lady. Living in Hong Kong. In my younger days I enjoyed hiking, camping and rock climbing. I've trekked in the Himalayas and climbed Mt. Kinabalu in East Malaysia.

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