Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mr. Pink: Italian Train Strikes are Easier to Navigate than the Federal Bureaucracy

If you've ever been to Italy, you are brutally aware of the train strikes. If you haven't been to Italy, you've likely heard of the train strikes.

There are few experiences which match travelling through Europe via train. The scenery, the conversations, the wine you share -- it's a moving outdoor cafe'. Except, when it's not.

I was stranded in Italy twice in two different locations because of the notorious train strikes. I avoided 3 other strikes because I became a more savvy traveler. But, I was never savvy enough to protect myself from the fear of being stranded in an Italian train station. Some of that fear was the result of not speaking the language; some of that fear was because I was travelling alone; some of that fear was that I had checked out of my pension and knew I couldn't get back in because they were booked solid.

But, sometimes, there was on a loophole with the strikes: Sometimes. you could find a train going to another country. This may have not been the country you chose to visit next on your itinerary, but if it got you out of the country, that's all you needed. Because once you escaped the Italian border, you could find a train which would take you where you wanted to go.

In other words, with some stamina and some research, I was able to press "O" and talk to a representative for assistance.

What has been a great disappointment to me over the past few years is that I've been unable to press "O" with government agencies I've dealt with. They are all underfunded and understaffed.

It's quite a surreal experience to realize you have a better chance to escape Italy during a train strike than to reach a U.S. government agency representative (person-to-person) you pay for with your tax dollars.

Every year, since 2002, dealing with INS has become a bigger and
bigger nightmare. You can't reach them. Tricks I used a year ago or
6 months ago no longer work. I need to make an appointment with them for the kids, but I can't reach them. I wrote a letter hoping that
will work.

While INS were the one who let the hijackers in, they were also the ones who helped me adopt foreign children. I can't begin to express the difference since 1998. It was always a red-tape nightmare, but at least you could reach a PERSON. And, that person really wanted to help.

I'd love to see the stats on foreign adoptions over the past two years. I bet it's down to nothing. I couldn't do all the stuff I needed to do in this current system. I guess everyone has to use an adoption agency who knows how to bypass the horseshit, and I know how expensive that is.

I just want to get my Proof of Citizenship papers from the jerks and be done with them. Luckily, the kids don't need them right now. It's only something which will be required later (in theory -- that could change, too).

Anyway, I couldn't even reach Congressman Taylor's office (they're all on Lithium!) and I started to feel tears fill my eyes, and I thought, "Jesus Christ! Am I in Italy? Am I dealing with a train strike?!"

Then I realized the train strike was EASIER. And, I'm not lying.