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Angie put the phone down and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The situation was complicated. At the BUH (Beautiful University of Heaven or Hell, depending on your day) things have been changing…, or staying stagnant, for the last couple of years.  After working for a few months on a system, some office in some remote building decided to switch to a more complicated, sophisticated system that would require the help of more staff, more contractors and more employees. A system that was basically designed to make things easier, but for Angie, and probably for many other employees, this system seemed to complicate things, to go through unnecessary turns, to inform wrong parties, to create more unnecessary stress for some more people.

For Angie, this new system was a nightmare. There were many things to pay attention to, but this wasn’t the toughest part. Angie could easily go through the necessary steps from creating a requisition to submitting it, but for her, the problems started with the “approval list”. You see, in big institutions, like the BUH, everything needed to be recorded, approved and acknowledged. And she didn’t mind that, she welcomed it but sometimes things were out of proportion, for example, once, a couple of months ago, she had to wait for an entire month, to get one single tiny requisition for 10$ to get approved. Another time when she had to do another requisition for a different purpose, she had to inquire about the process, call many offices, get directed to other offices, call, call again, follow up, return calls, smile, think, take a break, call the next day, stay positive, call again, get some papers, fill a form, faces errors, call another office to fix these errors, fill an “incident report”, call to follow up on the incident report, call again later, call another office, listen to the same sentence of “thank you for calling X office, your position in the queue is 1, our assistants are currently assisting other callers…”,  face another hurdle, wait, wait and wait some more… report the problem to her director, wait for feedback, complain, burst into tears, wait again, learn to be patient, think, call another office, get directed to another office, explain, write emails, listen, attend a training, attend another follow up training, ask questions, search for answers, wait, wait again, write emails, wait for replies on those emails, send reminders, call, call again, leave messages, stress, stress some more, burst into tears, smile, let go, adopt a different attitude, let go…

Once she inquired about the whole process to do a certain requisition, she took notes, repeated the notes to herself and to the person giving her the instructions, assured the one giving her the information that she will have the documents ready in a few hours, and even submitted the documents, only to realize a few weeks later, that the process was wrong and that she needed to start the whole thing all over again but following another system and providing more documents.

One of her requisitions got returned several times a few weeks after she had submitted it. One office kept insisting on getting an original invoice with an invoice number on a formal letterhead. Angie had originally provided a formal letter but that office, insisted on getting an invoice with a number. She tried to explain that she would have to spend a few hours on the roads to get that original invoice since the company can’t someone over to bring her the original invoice. She even called the company and apologized for the delay in processing the payment and asked for an official invoice with a number. The company was nice enough to send her a new invoice by fax, and when Angie scanned it, attached it to her requisition, sent an email to that office to inform them of what she did and to seek their feedback, she didn’t expect a rejection after a whole long week. Angie had explained to that office, and assured them, that she will get them the original copy once the check is issued, in  God knows how many “working” days and once she will go to the company to give them the check and get a formal receipt, but the other office, who replied after one whole long week, insisted on getting the original invoice before processing the payment. This whole thing made Angie think of everything around her in this institution… Was it worth it for her to loose almost half a day to get this invoice? What would they do with that piece of paper? file it? show it to the auditor in a few months, or never, or in a few years? She simply couldn’t get it. The whole system was empty, useless, weird, strange, meaningless… She kept telling herself that rules were meant to be followed (or at least observed) but sometimes, especially when rules were stupid, she couldn’t follow them anymore.

What do you think?

Thank you.

(By Zeina Gabriel)