An excerpt from a brief exchange at work today. For those that don’t know, my job is an avionics/electronics specialist currently working on F-16s at an Air Force base. This morning me and a co-worker had to do some work that required us to use a diesel air-conditioning unit, a big monster with a huge hose (go ahead, snicker) that keeps the electronics in the jet cool. These units are maintained by other civilians. We tried to start ours, no luck; it wouldn’t start. We tried all the tricks we knew and still couldn’t get it running.
After exhausting our few ideas, we called the support equipment department and told them we needed either assistance or a different cart. A grizzled older guy who smelled like cigarettes and BO (Body odor, not the president – I have no idea what he smells like.) showed up and got out of his truck with that bored, superior expression on his face. I thought about how much greater my paycheck is than his, and it gave me the patience to deal with him. Following is the conversation:
ME: Hey, we can’t seem to get this thing started, is there some sort of trick you know to get it going?
HIM: (Grunt) It’s probably out of gas, people are always running it out and never checking the gauge.
ME: We checked the gauge when we did our pre-op, full tank of gas.
HIM: (Getting annoyed) Well, that doesn’t mean anything! Let me see.
OK, we’ll stop there. First off, he wanted to blame me for running the unit out of gas when it had a full tank. He even went so far as to make us seem like a burden to him; we’re always screwing up his equipment. Then, when I pointed out to him that the tank was full, he essentially said they give us crap equipment with inop gauges. Which means if they run out of gas, it’s probably their fault.
Right then, I got an inkling of why people hate civil servants. Trust me, most of us aren’t like that. We’re generally hard-working people, but yes, there are too many of these guys in the ranks. And these guys are what the public usually ends up seeing.
After that, he looked around the cart and checked everything I checked, did everything I did. Eventually, after keeping on trying the unit started and he got to hitch up his smug britches and preach to us a bit more. I took it all in stride; I thought about my bank account.
People, I understand now.