6.59 am – In my excitement, I have woken up one minute early. I’m starting at the famous Department for Duplicated Departments (DfDD), which manages the proliferating branches, layers and sub-layers of bureaucracy in America. My Washington branch is especially prestigious. I am not entirely sure what I will do in Internal Communications, but I hope I’m up to it.
8.59 am – I arrive at the Local Office for Sub-Department Duplication (LOfSDD). Walking in, I am immediately baffled by 400 identical office desks spread out in a large maze-like pattern. I show another employee my card. It turns out I, by mistake, went to the Duplicated Local Office for Sub-Department Duplication, which was created after an administration error 50 years ago, and was then forgotten about.
9.16 am – Now late, I arrive at LOfSDD. There is a receptionist at the front desk. I politely ask her where to go for Internal Communications. She looks up and gives me a slightly pitying look,
“Sweetie, everyone here works in Internal Communications.”
9.42 am – After 26 minutes of searching for my desk, I give up and just pick one. The glass door opens automatically, then seals shut behind me. The office is very large, with 3 coffee machines and two office chairs. This will do nicely. I help myself to coffee, which takes some time as 2 of the machines are duds.
9.43 am – In the office is an array of 6 telephones and a complicated control panel. I give it a look—none of the buttons have any writing to indicate what they are. I giggle nervously, as lights on the dashboard flicker on and off in front of me.
9.44 am – One of the six phones begins to ring. I look around in panic, but there’s nobody nearby to help. I pick up. A frail, elderly voice comes through the line.
“Oh, I am so glad you have picked up,” she says, “I have been waiting for over 3 hours to get onto somebody.”
I pause for a few seconds.
“Hello, Madam, what can I do to help you?”
“Well,” she began, sounding tearful, “my local post office has been duplicated and now I can’t find the original. I must send a letter before the end of the week to your Department, or I will miss the deadline to prevent the duplication of the local branch of the Federal Employees Retirement System. If that happened, I don’t know how I would manage to get my pension.”
I am not sure to do. One of the buttons slowly changes colour to a welcoming green, so I press it. Soft Classical music begins to sound through the telephone, as I hear an exasperated, yet defeated, “not again” muffled by the burgeoning brass fanfare coming through the line.
“Oops,” I say, “wrong button.”
I press it again, and she only has time to say “wrong what?” before being drowned out by soft guitar chords of Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m gonna leave you.”
There is muffled shouting until I press a button which makes the music stop.
“—and let me tell you that young man,” she finishes, just in time for an automated voice to say in a soothing robotic tone “transferring you to Sector 1.B for the Duplication of Agricultural Departments and Subsidy programmes.”
The phone goes silent.
9.47 am – The phone remains blissfully silent. Then I hear from the office next door a muffled voice,
“I’m sorry Madam, but there must have been a mistake: this is Sector 1.B for the Duplication of Agricultural Departments and Subsidy programmes. Let me transfer you to my Colleague.”
I look forlornly at the door to the office. Someone has installed a set of 10 identical revolving doors, all of which seem to lead into each other. A sickening feeling of panic and claustrophobia seeps through my body.
9.48 am – The phone begins to ring. I slowly pick it up. The same elderly voice confronts me in accusing tones. By this point, I just wanted it to end. I burst out, “Madam, I have planned a meeting later with the relevant authorities, rest assured that I will prevent this outrage!”
“Oh, you are a superb young man!” She gushes, before the call ends.
9.53 am – I have been swiveling on the office chair for the last 5 minutes, and fall off.
9.55 am – I find and begin reading through a booklet entitled “A Short Guide to the Management Systems of the Local Office for Sub-Department Duplication (LOfSDD).” On the front is a picture of a smiling woman pointing at a diagram, showing the names of sub-departments and a line drawn to each connected Sub-Departments. The Diagram has a tiny font and at least 300 connections.
10.10 am – I find some contact numbers of people who deal with the Postal Sector. Confusingly, in the book there are two directories, with the same people, but their contact details and department differs depending on the directory. One person has the job title “Administrator for the Management of the Duplicated Departments of the Department for Duplicated Department.”
10.15 am – Somone tries to get into the office but gets lost in the revolving doors.
10.55 am – I decide to call someone in the Sub-Department for Postal Sector Duplication. I pick up one of my phones and dial the number.
11.14 am – I get through to someone, but lean on a button by mistake.
“Transferring you to work for the Sub-Department of Sub-Departmental Transfers.”
I hear a slight kerfuffle as a man cries out “No, please, not me!”
I would later find out that this Sub-Department manages the phone operations for when we want to send someone through to a different Sub-Department, a job which involved:
a) Determining how many duplicates of a sub-department existed, and avoiding the duplicates and most importantly: b) preventing the Sub Department of Sub-Departmental Transfers from being duplicated. If this happens, then I am told the whole Department soon descends into Bureaucratic anarchy. This led to some problems in ’08 after duplication of internal communications accidentally resulted in every loan and mortgage application being accepted from 2000-2008.
11.53 am – I get through to the other employee of the Sub-Department for Postal Sector Duplication after a tinny rendition of the “Rite of Spring.” I explain the situation.
“Hey man,” he says, “no problem.”
I was filled with hope for a brief moment before his voice is cut off abruptly and I am left with a reading of “50 Shades of Grey.” Another voice says, “Damien’s Pizza Delivery?” before slamming the phone down quickly at hearing “50 Shades”:
“He has a hotline to my groin,” read out in a lusty tone.
Being a novice, I’d only later know that I just been “sharked,” which is when someone unexpectedly transfers you to another Sub-Department. In fact, I’d been “Double Sharked,” when someone directs you to a random member of the public.
12.45 am – I finally get hold of the man in the Sub-Department for Postal Sector Duplication. A robotic voice intones “transferring.” This time I am treated to Heavy Death Metal. Ah well, it’s better than Stravinsky.
12.47 am – The phone tells me “transfer complete,” just as my other phone starts ringing. I pick it up and say “I’m sorry I will have to-” and stop dead when I hear my own voice coming back through the line. I would later find out that I had been “triple sharked.”
1.23 pm – I find my way through the interlocking set of revolving doors, and on the way meet the other person who had been trapped there. She apologises for bothering me but that this used to be her office. Oops.
2.01 pm – Lunch takes forever.
2.36 pm – I can’t find “my” office. There are two elevators. The first is a full-sized replica, which I only realise when the other person in it turns out to be a life-sized wax model. The other only goes up. I go up.
2.50 pm – I am deposited (without choice) on the top floor by the elevator. The view overlooks the shimmering bay. There is a single office, someone sits in it with their back to me. I look in horror as they slowly turn around.
2.55 pm – The man finally finishes turning around. He looks at me with hard eyes.
“I’m Derek, your boss,” he starts. “So, you’re the new recruit?” He half asks, half demands.
“Y-Yes, sorry, um, yes Sir.”
He pauses, then relaxes his body and smiles. He utters “Thank God!” before handing me the keys to his office door and leaving.
2.57 pm – He returns, looking abashed. “Those bastards in Maintenance removed the Down elevator this morning!”
2.59 pm – I have an idea. I explain the old lady’s predicament. He listens but looks at me in a pitying way.
“I think you might have missed the point of this Department, but who am I to stand away in the optimism of youth? I am nominally head of this Department. I give you full reign. See what you can do.” He walks outside again.
3.15 pm – Armed with a new phone book, I call the President. Unfortunately, his office was Duplicated last night. This is getting out of hand, so I get both Presidents on the line at once to prevent a constitutional crisis. I get broad agreement from senior members of the Government that the Department for Duplicated Departments needs to be kept in check.
3.17 pm – On my dashboard, I have three phones ringing. The buttons remain as mysterious as ever. I pick up all three phones and press a selection of buttons. Both Presidents of the United States of America, are instantly treated to an excerpt from “50 Shades of Grey.”
“Desire pools dark and deadly in my groin.”
Both hang up.
The third is the Pentagon. Someone in “my” department is trying to duplicate the Defence Apparatus of the United States of America. I authorise missile strikes on all Department for Duplicated Department sites across the country. I close my eyes, and wait for the end.
3.31 pm – The Pentagon rings again. Apparently, all the targets hit were decoys.
3.45 pm – The duplicate President of the United States of America is on the line. He sounds hesitant at first, but then says
“Suck me, baby.’ She sucks my thumb…hard. F—.”
I am not sure how to respond, and after a few seconds he says, sounding giggly and flirty
“Listen, Derek, I never knew you were into me that way, but now… How did you know I also love ’50 Shades of Grey?’ We could meet up later? 5.30pm, my place, the White House?”
It is now my turn to hang up.
4.00 pm – All six phones are ringing. I press a mish-mash of buttons, and somehow connect all them to each other.
“She wears a coquettish smile, which addresses my dick directly…” continues the Duplicate President of the United States in his most lusty voice.
Derek gives me a sad knowing smile from outside.
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