more tax dollars at work

In which the dark goddess finds that making a close reading of a casually-written text leads to some unsettling conclusions

I had occasion to be stranded two days ago in a broken car just off the I-90 bridge. While I was waiting for AAA, God bless them, to tow me to my mechanic again, I had a visit from the Road Fairy, also known as the WSDOT Incident Response Team. The IRT, whose motto is, in this order, "Clearing Roads. Helping Drivers," consists of "specially trained WSDOT maintenance workers who respond to blocking incidents" by, in my case, setting out orange safety cones to keep people from running into me.

This is where it gets a little surreal. After Richard--I'll call him that because I think this was his real name--put out the cones and shoved my car a little closer to the Jersey barrier, he handed me a pamphlet describing the services of the IRT and, so help me, a postpaid customer response survey.

The survey is actually addressed to the State Secretary of Transportation himself, one Douglas B. Macdonald. Since AAA has an hour from when I call them until they're bound to show up, I had plenty of time to contemplate the answers to this survey.

Here are the actual questions on the survey, and how I would have liked to have answered them.

1. How would you rate the contact? Mildly intriguing, but ultimately unsatisfying. I would have preferred to have met your worker on a sunny beach somewhere, with no cars in sight. I do approve of the apparent hiring policy in which resemblance to Brad Pitt is a BFOQ.

2. Did the service meet your needs? If not, what other service would have been helpful? Meet my needs? Oh, honey, don't get me started. First of all, I need a new car. Second, it has been way too long since my last massage. Finally, the IRT truck really should have a latte machine on it.

3. One of WSDOT's goals is motorist safety. Was your safety met? Why, Doug! Thank you for asking. That is so kind. By the way, I realize this was a yes or no question, but I feel I ought to point out that you are only getting around to enquiring about my safety on the third question. And you say it's only one of WSDOT's goals. Shouldn't it be the primary goal? Hm? Just something to think about.

4. What other comments will help us evaluate this service? If you really want the public to believe that "Safety Is Priority One," as the pamphlet your worker handed to me proclaims, here's a suggestion. That information and discussion should be at the very beginning of your text. When you include this information at the end of the pamphlet with a leadin that says, "In addition to congestion management, safety is another important aspect of the IRT," the careful reader might well conclude that safety is, in fact, something of an afterthought. Keep in mind that when someone sits in a car with nothing to do but read a trifold pamphlet for an hour, the text will receive a very close reading. Please see comments in response to question three supra.

5. Your name, address, and phone (optional): the dark goddess of replevin. Don't call us, Doug. We'll call you.

I'm afraid my real answers to the survery, which I have dutifully mailed in, were much less interesting.

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