If you and I had dictatorial powers, I'm sure we could straighten out this crazy world in which we live. But as matters stand, everybody seems to be riding off in a different direction and leaving the world to fend for itself.
For example, Judy Colbert brings up a point that has irked many Americans: Frequent TV commercials have hammered home the fact that "the official car of the United States Olympic ski team" is manufactured in Japan.
Can you just picture the Japanese permitting an American-made car to call itself the official car of the Japanese Olympic ski team?
United States Olympic Committee financial reports indicate that the USOC took in more than $3 million last year from "endorsements" of this kind -- fees paid by commercial firms for the right to call their products the "official" Olympic shoe, hockey puck, helmet, tuxedo, garter belt, camera, lawnmower, automatic cordless noseblower, or something equally essential to the quality of life.
It is apparent that some Americans are impressed with a vehicle that has bought the right to call itself the official car of the Olympic ski team. In fact, some people are impressed enough to buy the product.
What is not apparent is why they are impressed. My own reaction is the opposite. I am wary of phony endorsements that serve no purpose except to add to the cost of the product.
John T. Forbes is as unhappy with the United States Postal Service as I am with the United States Olympic Committee. John has a home in Falls Church and another in Sarasota. He has been having a devil of a time getting his mail when he moves from one home to the other.
Early in November, John and his wife came up from Florida to spend the holidays in Falls Church. They left proper instructions for having their mail forwarded.
"More than a month passed during which we received not one piece of mail," John tells me. Income checks, utility bills, personal letters -- all were in limbo.
The mail supervisor in Falls Church, the supervisor in Sarasota and John kept the long distance lines humming for several weeks, but to no avail. Sarasota insisted John's mail was being forwarded; Falls Church insisted it wasn't arriving here; "and postal inspectors disclaimed responsibility because there was no apparent criminal involvement."
If you'd like to know what the last page of this mystery story says, I can tell you. It was discovered that Sarasota had for some reason been forwarding John's mail to an address in Columbia, S.C., which has no resemblance to John's address in Falls Church. The explanation was that "the computer did it," presumably while it was on automatic pilot.
Georgianne Geche McNeirney of Laurel also has gotten involved in a bureaucratic snafu that has become tiresome. Some years ago when Mrs. McNeirney's driver's license was renewed, Maryland's Department of Motor Vehicles made a mistake and changed her middle name to Geele instead of Geche. Mrs. McNeirney called the error to the attention of the DMV but got no response.
At renewal time, she called attention to the error again and asked that it be rectified. "You'll have to get a copy of your birth certificate and bring it in," she was told.
Mrs. McNeirney balked at that. Why should she have to go to the trouble of obtaining and bringing in a copy of her birth certificate? Why couldn't the DMV correct its error without making such an arbitrary demand?
Sorry, lady, that's our policy. So each time the license comes up for renewal, Mrs. Neirney goes through the same drill with the DMV, and the result is always the same. On the occasion of the most recent license renewal, a clerk insisted that Mrs. McNeirney sign her name "Georgianne Geele McNeirney." She refused and pointed out that such a signature would be highly improper, probably illegal, because it wasn't her name.
"Couldn't you just change it to the middle initial G?" she suggested.
"Sure," the clerk said. "Get a copy of your birth certificate and bring it in. We'll be glad to change it for you."
We are all aware of the need for standard procedures. But does this mean employees are not permitted to think or use their own judgment? That they may never deviate? That they must follow a procedure wherever it leads, even if it leads right out the window? Sometimes I think we're all losing our marbles.