Civil: servants, disobedience

All this talk about civil disobedience and stickin’ it to The Man and I’ve probably made myself sound like a rude asshole. I am not. I’m a very polite asshole. Good manners are the hallmark of good breeding; I am never boorish when I break the law.

A good attitude and a pleasant, engaging manner are your surest route out of whatever howling shit-storm you’ve gotten yourself into now.

If a grizzly bear leapt into your path growling, you wouldn’t plant your fists on your hips, roll your eyes and whine, “Oh, GREAT! A grizzly bear. Just what I needed with the week I’m having. I suppose you’re going to maul me. Yep! Here we go! Mauling me! I bet that makes you feel like a tough bear, huh?”

No, you would not. Well, civil servants, in my experience, are like grizzly bears: bad tempered, powerful and covered in thick buff or chocolate brown fur.

Naturalists say the best way to avoid a bear attack is to avoid the bear. Stay out of bear territory. Make a lot of noise. If confronted, drop into the fetal position. Play dead. Cry like a wee bonnie lassie and, quite possibly, piss yourself. Naturalists didn’t make up that last sentence, but I’m pretty sure those things are going to happen.

This advice is similar to my personal rules for surviving a dangerous confrontation with a building inspector, IRS agent or policeman.

Stay out of bear territory. Know which offenses are serious and which are not. Try not to do the serious ones. Like — it’s very, very important that you pay your taxes. It is not, as it turns out, so important to do the paperwork every year, provided you’re pretty sure they owe you.

Don’t treat the civil servant as the enemy. He is the enemy, of course — but act like he’s an ally. It’ll confuse him and turn him into a sort of accomplice. Ask questions like, “what do you recommend?” and “what would you like me to do?” Look very earnest and eager to please.

Learn to smile — and even laugh — when things look darkest. Because the sooner your demonstrate the likelihood that you have, in fact, some sort of clinically recognizable mental illness, the quicker you’ll be home blogging about the funny thing that happened to you on the way home from work today. No civil servant likes to deal with a nut.

If all else fails cry like a wee bonnie lassie and, quite possibly, piss yourself. I don’t know if it works any better for civil servants than it does grizzly bears, but sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut.


  1. Posted February 8, 2007 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    It is not, as it turns out, so important to do the paperwork every year, provided you’re pretty sure they owe you.

    Uh, just how long do you recommend going between checks to see that they still owe me you?

  2. Posted February 8, 2007 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Well, I went about eight years. They contacted me, eventually. As I work for a corporation, the monies had been taken out faithfully every paycheck. After I’d caught up with the paperwork, I ended up a few hundred to the good. They would have owed me more if I’d kept my property tax bills from all the previous years, but I couldn’t find them all; and I obviously didn’t feel in a position to push anybody’s buttons.

    I also learned you can tuck friendly notes in with your paperwork and it seems to help. The gray faceless entities at the IRS don’t answer directly, but you can dawdle along for and months straightening things out without that cosmic ton of bricks landing on your neck.

  3. nbpundit
    Posted February 8, 2007 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    The IRS = Ewwwwwww!

  4. Posted February 9, 2007 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    “Don’t treat the civil servant as the enemy.”

    This is the most important part. If “the man” gets the slightest
    sniff of hostility on your part, its blood in the water for a
    bureaucratic feeding frenzy.

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