I love taking my dog Jack for a walk first thing in the morning. His full enthusiasm for all things is cathartic and inspires me to think freely. Some mornings I gain special insights. Jack loves patrolling the feral waterfront in Ladysmith. It is all former coal mine terminals; there is still plenty of coal laying about. Now covered in blackberries it is home to vast numbers of rabbits. Some days Jack has to choose which one to chase. Their population rises and falls in cycles. I’ve noticed that when their numbers become excessive the rabbits tend to be less wary and are dull and careless. They become stupid. I think it may be part of nature’s way of thinning down their numbers. You know what I’m going to say next.
I think the same is true of people. We’re clearly in a state of overpopulation. Here’s an example.
I’ve previously written blogs about a friend’s classic sailboat which I rebuilt. Transported to Gabriola from Oregon it came on a custom-built trailer which was part of the deal. For eight years the trailer languished in the weeds at the back of a farm. Consequently the import documents became stale-dated. Finally a decision was made to sell the trailer and the paper chase was on. Travel permits had previously been obtained to move the trailer about on Gabriola Island. No problem again; we thought.
Now it had to go to the big island for a visual review by Canada Border Services. Suddenly there were grave doubts that permits could be issued to take the trailer off of the island. I pointed out that a road in British Columbia was legally the same no matter where in the province it might be. All that logic did was provoke a copious round of head-shaking and eye-rolling between desks in the insurance office.
Then, after a half-hour of “Can’t be dones” and various other “Yeah buts”, while I simmered outside, the exact same permit as ever was issued once again. Huh? Then off went my friend and I to a local lawyer where in ten minutes we hand-written a ‘Power of Attorney’ document, stamped it, signed it, copied it and got on with the remains of the day.
I hauled the trailer across to Nanaimo on the ferry. Knowing the trip back, when you pay the fare, would be very expensive, I intended to deal with matters at the office of the Canadian Border Services, then take the trailer on to the local Canadian Tire Store for (what I was assured was a mere formality) an approved federal inspection confirming correct tire inflation, working lights and brakes and so forth. That was required before the final conformity decal for the previous provincial inspection could be issued. Confused yet?
Those ladies at CBS were very kind and gracious despite one surly colleague who went to visually inspect the Vehicle Identification Number on the trailer. I had clearly told him where the number was stamped into the frame. He returned declaring nothing was there but rust. I gently offered to take him back to the trailer and show him. His two colleagues rolled their eyes at me, waved him off and filled in their papers with the number I had given them. If I was that confident, so were they. It was a jumble, but there were copious documents saying duties and fines had previously been addressed.
Now, instead of going for the final inspection as planned, I learned that I’d have to wait to hear from a federal agent in Ottawa who would issue me a numbered RIV inspection form. (RIV is the Registrar of Imported Vehicles) It actually arrived online in a few days and before I could address the matter I was advised that the permit application was about to become stale-dated, perhaps I should request an extension. If that lapsed the entire process had to begin again. The problem was that the trailer had been put to work by the purchaser to store a valuable classic sailboat which first needed to be unloaded and there were several reasons that couldn’t happen. But finally the day arrived.
The lane into the boat house is uphill, steep, soft and sloped to one side. ‘Dorothy,’ the boat, had been loaded in a hurry and was sitting too far back on the trailer. That imbalance caused the hitch to want to lift violently and so we chained it down to the tow bar of a 4×4 truck. In turn, the hitch wanted to lift the back of the truck and we almost managed to tip old ‘Dorothy’ off into the woods on the downhill side of the lane. Our second attempt had the trailer hitch flipping up and destroying the tailgate of the truck. But no one was injured, well, perhaps our pride took a beating.
Using jacks and chain blocks strapped to various trees we were able to winch and push the boat, an inch at a time, into its cradle in the boathouse. The hours flew by. Finally the trailer was free and off I roared to Canadian Tire. This time, I had decided to forget the temporary road permits and simply borrowed the license plate from my own trailer. It was a dangerous risk should I be caught but I’d had enough of hearing about what can’t be done.
The end was in sight. Yeah right! No way. The builder’s plate was too badly weather-worn to be legible. I mumbled that it would have been easier to grind of the VIN stamps and declare the trailer as being home-built. NO! I was warned that would precipitate an entire new convoluted process even more frustrating than the present situation. Hey folks, it’s only a trailer we’re trying to legitimize here, not a fleet of Russian submarines. No-one in this story is being cheated, exploited, assaulted, raped or otherwise abused. I have imported boats and aircraft into Canada. As a logging and construction equipment salesman, I bought and sold big yellow machines internationally as far away as the Philippines. Never have I know such amateurish bungling.
I’ll repeat myself: IT IS ONLY A DAMNED BOAT TRAILER!
Defeated for the moment, I hauled the trailer off to Ladysmith and parked beside my own little trailer. The VIN plate on my trailer is new and clearly legible. The wheels and tires are exactly the same as those on the boat trailer. In a moment of inspiration I transcribed all of the data from one trailer to the other. I used an electronic tape printer, then covered everything with clear tape. The empirical data was about gross weights, axle weights, tire pressure and so forth. There are no lies, the category and capacity of the trailer’s running gear are well within limits. I towed the trailer to the Canadian Tire store in Duncan for a fresh attempt. I decided to stick to the truth and explained what I had done. Fail! No tampering could be tolerated. Tampering? The VIN is clearly stamped in the frame in two places. What has been tampered with? I let your imagination cover the range of four-letter expletives now raging in my brain. It was also pointed out that there should be additional side lights installed. I drove off in a fog of defeat. But not for long.
With little left to lose I returned to the first Canadian Tire Store with a careful story. There was a line-up at the service desk and I noted the raised eyebrows when I was recognized at the back of the queue. My yarn was that with the aid of an infrared viewer I was able to barely discern the original lettering on the sticker and decided to re-apply those markings on top of the originals. And by golly, another US-built trailer with the same size wheels had exactly the same values on it’s builder’s plate. Go figure! Without going out to inspect my data, the man with the stamp said “Good enough” and clunk bump went his rubber stamp. Then the document was in the fax machine to the folks at RIV. I paid my token fees and as I turned to leave I heard, “Oh darn! I forgot. The trailer is supposed to have a spare tire.” There was a long pregnant pause as I scowled like a frustrated bull. I was waved on.
Feeling faint from the latest round but not daring to feel smug, I raced off to the Gabriola Ferry Terminal, paid a huge fare for the trailer and made it to the auto shop before it closed for the weekend. “NO! We can’t issue you the approval decal without another inspection. It’s been too long since the trailer was last here. Don’t know what you’ve been using it for.” I’m proud to say that I didn’t lose my temper but instead gently explained that the trailer had not been used on the road until today. That was after being charged a huge sum to put things right. Now I was being asked for more money to inspect their own work. Everything was back in the crapper again.
Fortunately the tiny office was beginning to fill up with other customers and I clearly wasn’t leaving without my little decal. I won. The trailer was delivered to its new owner, I received the balance due, which I needed for my next adventure, (see my following blog) and went off into the sunset, exhausted but content to think I had completed an endeavour which folks repeatedly said could not be done.
The phone ran next morning. The trailer’s buyer was at the Gabriola insurance office. Uh huh!
“Can’t be done!” Despite having an official government transfer/bill of sale document signed in all the right places by the vendor, the agent was now asking for a bill of sale between the vendor and the purchaser on a single separate document. The vendor was working in Peru, I had to leave town in another day. They also required a copy of a bill of sale between the vendor and the fellow in Oregon he had bought it from.
Somewhere, regularly all these folks must get together over a pint or ten and gleefully compare stories about their bureaucratic impositions. VAC: the Vexatious Agents Club. Well, with yet more shenanigans, I believe everything has been put right to everyone’s satisfaction. All’s well that ends. The trailer, by the way, once finally licensed is never going to leave the new owner’s back yard.
Non-epilogue! Wrong yet again! The beat goes on. Now it has been decided that ALL copies of ALL documents must be submitted, even though it is obvious which copies of which documents have already been entered into due process. The serial number of the trailer has been officially inspected and confirmed by official documentation three times, this local agent wants to visually inspect it again. Problem is, there’s another boat sitting on the trailer now. An email arrived from RIV saying that all the process was complete and that they were sending an official decal to be attached to the frame of the trailer. When the new owner presented that information to his local agent he was told that the entire process had to be started again because she insisted on having all of the papers she demanded, instead of simply saying, “Oops, guess I was wrong, so sorry.”
Nope! When my friend challenged her negativity and her “Bullshit” he was thrown out of the office. An ensuing call to her head office confirmed that the documentation as provided was in fact adequate and no more was required. Eventually a contritious call from the now-chastised local agent is bringing the entire lugubrious affair to closure. There was however, no apology for inventing and attempting to enforce her own rules.
The poor frustrated friend who bought this sack of trouble, sent me the following.
Bureaucracy 101, Lesson 1
Instructor to students: “Repeat after me, this cannot be done.”
Student raises hand: “Why can’t it be done.”
Instructor to student: “You are obviously not cut out to be a bureaucrat, please hand in your books and leave now”.
Instructor to rest of students: “Repeat after me, this cannot be done!!! Any questions?”
Somewhere in the background, is a sad voice softly singing “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.” As other countries like China and Mexico, for example, slowly work their way toward a democratic, humanitarian and reasonable system of government and administration, it seems that Canada is determined to retreat in the opposite direction. This sad tale of the trailer is one small example of a system which is top-heavy with minor bureaucrats. There is a federal election coming this fall. For God’s sake, VOTE. It is our apathy that has allowed this infection of stupidity to invade our entire state of being.
This just reappeared out of my archives. It came, years ago, from a friend. The timing is perfect.
“Sometimes things don’t go from bad to worse, some years the Muscadet faces down frost: sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well. A people sometimes will step back from war, elect an honest man: decide they didn’t care enough, that they can’t leave a stranger poor. Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts don’t go amiss. Sometimes we do as we meant to. The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow that seemed hard frozen.
May it happen to you. …anonymous