Thursday, January 28, 2016


Few things are more frustrating or more futile than trying to deal with bureaucracies whose sole purpose is on expanding their own authority through absolute inflexibility and a total disregard for the individual human beings they were created to serve. Bureaucracy is the perfect example of what happens when the servant becomes the master.

Bureaucracies beget bureaucracies and have within themselves subsidiary bureaucracies, and thus was this particular blog born.

I moved into an apartment building owned by the Chicago Housing Authority (a bureaucracy) and managed by Legume & Norman, an independent management company (also a bureaucracy) in November of 2006 and was assigned an apartment on the east side of the building, facing the elevated tracks, 500 feet away, of the Chicago Transportation Authority (yet another bureaucracy). The decibel levels in the apartment from trains roaring by every 3-5 minutes, day and night, may never have been measured by any of the above-named bureaucracies, but since it is not their concern and only mere individual humans are involved, there has never been any interest in doing so. (Whatever the decibel levels may be, I’m sure they approach the limits of human tolerability. In summer, with the windows open, it is impossible to hear a TV while trains pass.)

When the CHA reopened a facility about a mile away and managed by yet another bureaucratic management company, I put in an application for a one-bedroom apartment there and was approved. I was all packed and ready to go when a “quarantine” was placed on my current building due to an infestation of bedbugs. This dragged on for at least six months, during which I sat in an apartment stacked with packed boxes, waiting to move.

I checked frequently with the management of the building I was approved to move into and was assured no fewer than four times that a one-bedroom apartment was definitely being held for me. When the “quarantine” was partially lifted, I received a call from them saying that my studio apartment was ready. When I pointed out that I had been assured several times that they were holding a one-bedroom for me, I was told the one-bedrooms were filled and that they had no idea I had wanted a one-bedroom. There was no apology for having kept me in limbo all those months of course. I was given the choice of a studio or nothing. I chose nothing.

I then approached the management at my current building, asking to move from the east side of the building to the west side, to escape the noise. The apartment directly across the hall from mine had been empty for more than six months. It had not been cleaned/repainted/repaired since, but the management agreed I could have it as soon as it was ready for new occupancy. Two more months of “next week/soon/maybe by the first of the month” promises from the building’s management.

Finally I was able to move in, and was very happy with it. Then, a month or so ago, the building manager came to tell me that the CHA had deemed “construction” had to be done on my just-refurbished apartment, and that I would have to move out—back across the hall to my original apartment and the problems which had forced me to leave in the first place—while the changes were being made. But I was assured that I could move back in when the “construction” was completed.

The building was recently was taken over by another management firm: Habitat Company, which obviously is out to set new records for intransigence and contempt for anyone who dares question their edicts. I was subsequently informed that I would NOT be able to move back into my current apartment when the unspecified “construction” was finished. I said that if I were not going to be able to return to my current apartment, I at least did not want to move back to my original apartment and be right back where I started regarding the problem with the noise, and asked for another apartment on the west side of the building, away from the noise. Despite the fact that there are a number of empty units on the west side, I was told that moving into one of them was not possible...that there are procedures and processes and rules and regulations and waiting lists and forms and paperwork and....

When I mentioned to the new building manager that the previous manager had assured me that I could move back into my current apartment, her response should be engraved on the plinth of the Temple of Bureaucracy. (Get a pencil; you may want to write this down.) She said: “Did you get it in writing?”

No, you insufferably pompous bureaucratic hack. I was foolish enough to think that when I was told something by someone in authority, I could believe them. Silly, silly me.

So I am preparing a letter similar to this blog, to be sent to the management of this building, the Habitat Company, my alderman, my city councilman, the head of the Chicago Housing Authority (noting that when I asked the manager of the building to whom I should address my complaint, she had absolutely no idea), and the office of the Mayor.

I am not quite so deluded as to think that any of this will do one iota of good or result in a single positive action. But I will be damned if I won’t let them know how I feel. Not that they give a dung-beetle’s ass, of course.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/

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