Here's one for any of you out there who doubt that the bureaucracy owns us.

On Oct. 6, at Georgetown University Hospital, Leonor Rodriguez and Robert Eisenstein of College Park welcomed their second son into the world. They named him Daniel Marco Eisenstein.

Last week, Leonor sent away to the District government for a copy of Daniel's birth certificate. When it arrived, Leonor noticed that her son's first name was officially listed as "Daneil."

Just a spelling mistake, Leonor was sure. So she called the city and asked that they make the record correct, and send her a copy of the birth certificate showing her son's name spelled properly.

"It'll cost you $5," said the voice on the other end of the phone.

"But I'm not the one who made the mistake," said Leonor.

"Neither are we," said Phone Voice. "We copy the names exactly as the hospital sends them in."

"You mean it couldn't have been your typist who made the mistake?"

"It must have been the hospital. We're very careful about things like this," said Phone Voice, who surely must be new to government.

"Why should it cost me five dollars when I didn't make the mistake?" Leonor asked, in a final attempt at rationality.

"Those are the rules," said Phone Voice, who may be new to government, but who is learning to be as inflexible as possible with the best of them.

Phone Voice did agree to see if he could shepherd Leonor's request for a correct birth certificate through the bureaucratic maze without it costing her $5. But he warned her not to be optimistic.

Says Leonor, after thinking about the episode for a couple of days: "How could I be?"