Monday, 9 March 2015


I can't recall if I've told this story before ('though I've
meant to for a while now), but it illustrates what having a bit
of authority can do to some folks.  Tell me if you disagree with the
following statement:  Rules are for a reason, and if the reason for
a particular rule doesn't exist in a specific case, then it's redundant.
Case in point:  I used to work in my local central library, and within
a few years of leaving (but still a regular visitor), I decided to join
the library's record department, so I filled out the form and
submitted it to the female assistant behind the desk.

She'd worked there when I did and knew me, but asked
"Do you have any ID?"  I was taken slightly aback and replied,
"No, but you know who I am and have my personal details on file
as a former employee, so isn't that enough?"  "Rules are rules!" she
responded flatly.  I tried approaching the matter from a logical stand-
point (often a difficult thing with a woman).  "Yes, but rules are for a
reason.  In this case, it's so that someone can't give you a false name
and address and walk out with a couple of LPs which you'll never
see again.  As you already know who I am and have my infor-
mation on file because I once worked here, then surely
that particular rule isn't applicable in this case?"

She stuck to her guns, so I asked for one of the chief
librarians, who, when I explained the situation, said, "Nae
bother, Gordie!" and approved my application.  I'd say that was
simply a triumph for common sense, but perhaps some of you are
thinking "The woman was only doing her job, there was no need to
go over her head!"  However, you weren't there!  I could see that
she was enjoying having power over me and was being a complete
jobsworth merely for the sake of it.  I call it the 'traffic warden
mentality' - someone with a wee bit of power who abuses
it simply to feed their ego and to feel important.

Ever been in a similar situation?  The comments
section eagerly awaits your rapid response. 


Colin Jones said...

I agree that in this case it was ridiculous because the woman knew you but in a lot of these "jobsworth" incidents the person might be genuinely fearful that they'd be sacked if they didn't follow every petty rule. But of course there are definitely the little Hitlers who enjoy their bit of power.

Kid said...

Far too many of them, if you ask me, CJ.

Colin Jones said...

One example of petty bureaucracy I remember hearing about a couple of years ago was when a man went into his doctor's surgery and wanted to make an appointment - he was told he could only make appointments over the phone so he had to step outside and use his mobile phone to make the appointment !

Kid said...

Ridiculous, isn't it?

TC said...

And then there are the mail carriers who refuse to hand you the mail, because it has to go into the authorized receptacle (the mail box or the slot in the door). Since the box is unlocked, leaving it in the box is no more secure than handing it to the customer.

And there are the junior officers and NCO's (e.g. lieutenants and corporals) in the military, who are often more likely than sergeants and colonels to abuse their authority. Maybe they are young and immature and drunk with power, or maybe they are trying to make points with their bosses.

But then, when I worked as a security guard, I was required to check ID cards when people entered the building, even if I knew them on sight. (Most employees were reasonable about it, having had the rules explained to them when they first interviewed for their jobs. And most of them seemed to understand that I didn't make the rules.) So I can sort of see both sides.

I agree with Colin. Some of these minor authority figures are just employees who have no authority to make exceptions or use discretion, and they are afraid of getting fired if they don't follow (and enforce) every rule. And some are just bullies and control freaks who have what some psychiatrists call the "John Wayne Syndrome." (Or, if you prefer, "traffic warden mentality.")

From your account of the altercation at the library, I'd say that the receptionist was one of the latter.

Kid said...

It's mostly the control freaks I seem to encounter, TC. A pox on all of them, forsooth.

John Pitt said...

That pox is spreading, Kid!
I think I would have been tempted to give a "w****r" gesture to the female librarian afterwards!

Kid said...

Better I didn't, JP. She may have thought I was making a request.

DeadSpiderEye said...

It's possible she was just covering herself, you know just in case she was concerned about being faced with: "... and Audrey Jobsworth issued a membership card without inspecting any formal ID, in flagrant disregard to standing regulations." Most of the time, people are civil to each other unless they're under stress and you can find yourself placed under a lot of stress in some circumstances I'm afraid. I would give her the benefit of the doubt, although I suspect your suspicion that she was revelling in the power of her position have reasonable foundation. What's the saying? -s**t rolls downhill- if she's getting leaned on at work, that's likely to affect her demeanour with members of the public.

Kid said...

Nah, DSE, the record section was in a corner of the library and she was the only one on, so she could have 'exercised her discretion' with no comeback. Also, there's no shred of doubt in my mind that she wouldn't have asked for ID from any of her friends or family, so she was just being a bitch for the sake of it. I'd say that, to begin with, she was automatically going through the motions of asking for ID, but when I pointed out that she knew me and that my details were on file, she just decided to revel in her small bit of power.

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