Surprised – shocked -by the Dept. Of Health

A pleasant surprise

Ugh. The Department of Health

I had a pleasant experience today and wonder if there’s a lesson here. For me, at least. 

M is going to a new high school. One that caters to her swim practice/meet schedule and isn’t bound to the same attendance rules of her current school where she is mostly an annoyance. We submitted the necessary paperwork a month ago, and – just yesterday – were notified that her vaccination records weren’t correct. The school needs a state-certified copy instead of the simple list that our doctor gave us. Neither me, a Seattlite living in the Deepish South, nor her doctor who should know better, knew what this was. Without it, the school said, she’s in danger of losing her schedule. 

So Dad gets tasked with heading to the Department of Health in the AM. 

This is not unfamiliar ground to me. I was a Dept. of Health officer at the nuclear plant I last worked for, and know them as a no-nonsense group, much like the NRC. When they say in triplicate at noon, they don’t mean an unreadable copy by 12:05. You’re right or you’re wrong. A or B. 

At the office

So I gathered my paperwork and anything else I imagined they would need. I’ve been around this block enough to know that anything I can do to help them do their job will work in my favor. I showed up at the turnstile when they opened at 8:30 and was met by a youngish guy – they’re all youngish to me now – who seemed happy enough, and he hands me three sheets of paper to fill out while he copied my driver’s license(1). He explained that the certificate I need should be ready by tomorrow assuming no hiccups arise along the way. 

I settled my two-hundred pound frame into a blue plastic kid-sized chair at a blue plastic kid-sized table to complete said paperwork, and he walked over to return my license. 

“Do you have a little time?” 

“Um…sure,” I said. “What’s up?” I scanned the room for exits and cops.

“Oh. You’re the first one here, and the lady who does these certs said that if you want to wait, she can get it done right away.“

I stumbled over my words. “Oh, man. That would be great.”

In mere minutes a lady emerged from the back with my certificate. 

“I wasn’t sure if you would need these, too,” she said, handing me the stack. “I printed them out just in case. If not, just keep them for your records.” 

And I was done. I thanked everyone profusely and then, like the guy in those TV commercials about becoming your parent, I grabbed the guy who helped me and shook his hand.

“Ya know,” I said. “I’ve worked for the department, and I spend lots of time just running things down. Let me tell ya – most places I go are filled with people just trying to make it to lunch, and I’m in the way of last night’s taco leftovers. But, I have to say,” and I looked straight into his eyes, “you’ve given me a great morning. And I really appreciate it.”

He laughed and said the same thing back. “I appreciate you saying so. You probably know it’s not the common response I get.”

We shared a knowing chuckle.

It makes me wonder. Do we find what we’re looking for? I try, though my selfish nature often overrules it, to expect people to be helpful and happy, and I find it to be mostly true. Most people like that I recognize that they work hard for not a lot of money. Their human nature responds to that, I think. There’s another side to that coin. I occasionally have lunch with a group from work, and it’s a one-after-another complaint-fest: lousy businesses, women with blue hair, the inhumane requests of their bosses. It’s crazy. But if it’s a rule or a law that we tend to find what we look for, then I intend to up my game.

Note: If you’re one of the thousands wondering, I punctuate Driver’s License this way because it is how the State of South Carolina punctuates it on my actual driver’s license. 

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