I do not usually mention people’s real names, but I am going to tell you the story of Shurmeka and Aquonette using their real names. I am even going to tell you that they are in Texarkana. I hope that one of you will, one day, run into Shurmeka and Aquonette of Texarkana and give them a hug or buy them a drink or something, in recognition of the horrible, frustrating job they have to do.

My involvement in the story began a couple of months ago when a man came in to choose some teaching materials for a disabled child. I scanned it all for him and printed out a list.

We do this all the time. Usually we then hold the stuff for the person who chose it, and they come back at some point with a purchase order and buy their stuff. This man said not to hold it, as it could be a long process, and left with his quote. I deleted it. The man does not enter into the story again.

This quote, you understand, was just what you might get if you filled up your cart at elann.com without pushing the real order buttons, just to see what your total might be if you actually bought the stuff. You could print that out, and it would be a quote.

A month later I get a call from Shurmeka in Texarkana, who has received a fax of that quote. She needs “an original.”

I explain that there wasn’t actually a transaction, that it was just a printout of what was on the screen, etc. Shurmeka understands this. But her supervisor says that they have to have an original.

Having the original can be important. It can prove that you haven’t used the purchase order twice. It can prove that the principal signed the purchase order. It can matter. In this case, it cannot matter. The original paper is not different in any way from the faxed copy. Also, I don’t have the original. I can only make them a fake original with a new date. Even so, I reconstruct the quote and mail it to Shurmeka.

Two weeks later, Aquonette calls. She needs a signed original copy of the quote. The entirely meaningless quote.

I mentioned to her that we would have been happy to have signed it, had we known we were supposed to. This is the first we have heard of any signatures. Aquonette realizes that. It would apparently not have helped had we signed these things before. We have to sign them now.

There is another form that must be signed in triplicate, and she is going to mail it. A week later, she calls again. The papers have not appeared. She faxes them to us. The office is going to accept the faxed form, as long as it has original signatures, and then they need signatures on the original quote. Another, different, fake original quote.

So That Man signs the form in triplicate. It required a SSN or EIN, and it was not clear to me what the person who signed it was agreeing to, so I shoved it off on him. Then I reconstructed the quote. Again. And signed it where they told me to — on the line marked “Received by.”

I can see this in court.

“Ms. Fibermom, did you actually receive these goods?”
“No, Your Honor. There were no goods to receive. It was a quote.”
“Then why did you sign that you had received them?”
“Because, Your Honor, by that time I had grasped that the papers had nothing to do with reality, so I blindly followed orders.”

What would this do to you over time? If your job involved not only doing pointless things because someone told you to, but also persuading other people to do pointless things, when they don’t have your motivation to do them?

I called Aquonette to let her know that the fell deed had been accomplished. She allowed as how now the child might get the books before she was too old for them.

But maybe not. I am assuming that it will be another month, filled with bizarre and meaningless actions on the parts of Aquonette and Shurmeka, before the papers are approved by the next level. By then they might want more fake original quotes with insincere signatures. And then, since we did not hold the materials, we won’t have them in the store. They will have to be ordered from eight different publishers.

Then I guess we will send them to Texarkana. I don’t know where the child is, but I expect there will be a lengthy process involved in transporting the books to her.

Now, it is remotely possible that all the other actions that have taken place at that government office in Texarkana in the months since we first made that quote have been simple and reasonable, and that for some reason only our part in this has been surreal. But I don’t think so, do you? I think that Shurmeka and Aquonette spend their days going through ritualistic actions required by Byzantine regulations made up by committees of beaureaucrats.

Here is Brooklyn, fronts, back, and sleeves. With any luck I will be able to get it sewn together tonight. Then there is the collar, and the zipper. The pieces are too long, which is how it is supposed to be with denim. It shrinks up and not in, so you are supposed to knit it long and then wash it. Patterns written for denim yarns take this into account and turn out long garments. However, #1 son doesn’t want the pieces washed. He is concerned that the color will change in some way, and he likes it as it is. Except that of course it is too long. I could frog the sleeves and make them shorter. I could wash it, over his protests, or perhaps while he is out. I could never make anything for him ever again.