That’s So Dumb: Tales from the School Bureaucracy

Here’s a true story that’s hard to believe. Unless, of course, you work in a bureaucracy. I gather that teachers could tell this kind of story all day long (and I’m all ears, folks!). The crazy, confounding things that happen at school because of goofy rules and red tape. 

Here’s one I can share. I’m in a library in Tennessee, a visiting author setting up for a morning presentation. The students are due to arrive any minute. I look at the wall to check the time. “Um? What’s up with the clocks?”

The librarian explains the situation with a mixture of bemusement and resigned frustration. The work order came in over the summer to install the new clock. However, the work order made no mention of removing the old clock. So the technicians drilled new holes in the walls, rewired things, and put in the new clock. At some point, some figure in the building asked, “What about the old clock?” The men (I assume, from how the story was told to me) examined the work orders — every word, period, and comma —  and concluded, “Sorry, there’s no mention of removing anything. That will require a separate work order.”

End of story.

I stood there, blinking. “Seriously?”

“Yes,” the librarian told me. “It’s going to be another year before they come back and remove all the old clocks.”

“Wait. You mean it’s not just . . . ?”

“Yes, there are two clocks in every single room in the elementary school.” 

I studied the clocks once more. “Do we know which one’s right?”


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