It Was Only an Idea! And it was an idea that would challenge us to remember through the frustrations that we love one another and that a morning smooch makes all challenges bearable. It was an idea that would take a year to germinate into action.
About a year ago, Arnie and I got the bright idea that we might like to bid on a federal contract that would allow us to spend the summer of 2016 in Massachusetts working on an Army Corp of Engineers project site. It’s a really interesting opportunity that we stumbled across quite by accident while searching for volunteer opportunities in national parks. It took the better part of a full year to complete all of the convoluted steps involved in even applying for the position. When we began, we never could have imagined where we would finish! It was only an idea!
Throughout, we kept in mind that the upside of this bright idea is that we are expecting a new grandchild in May. Son and daughter in law, Kevin and Val are in Arlington and it would be really joyful to be nearby to welcome this new soul into the world and be of some help to the kids. It is also nearby a number of New England friends and family that we would enjoy spending some more time with after many years of living away.
The downside of this bright idea is that we have had to learn to navigate an array of federal requirements, websites, timelines and instructions that are less than intuitive. In fact, the federal government speaks it’s own language when it comes to forms and regulations; it’s a language that we did not speak prior to starting this process. We speak it now!
Who comes up with this stuff? Are they sitting around a conference table like a group of writers for Saturday Night Live, saying, “You know what would be funny?” What if we targeted a demographic of older retired Americans who wanted to make a difference in our federally administered natural resources. Let’s offer them some enticing opportunities and then place a series of obstacles in front of them! Let’s require high level computer skills, learning to speak “government”, long waits and short timelines, etc. That would be so funny. Yeah! Let’s do it! Let’s prank the old people!
First, let’s make them sign up for something that we will call a DUNS number. We will make that a requirement to even do any business with the federal government. We will ask them all kinds of irrelevant questions that will not only puzzle, but frustrate them with the pointlessness of the inquiries. Example: Let’s ask them if they have ever shipped anything overseas by cargo boat. That would be a really funny illogical question to ask someone who wants to serve in a campground for four months! Let’s ask them if they have ever done business in Dubai or Kuwait. That pertains directly to working at a dam in Massachusetts. And we were easily able to say a definitive, “No.” to the question of whether or not we have ever violated any trade embargos with Iran.
Next the deviant group of federal contract writers decided that they would be amused by taking it to another level. If the hapless seniors muddle through the first stage and procur a DUNS number, then, let’s break the news to them that the DUNS number now needs to be registered with a whole separate entity. Now they need to visit the SAM website and go through another convoluted process.That DUNS number should be registered with SAM. Those comedy writers are now chuckling amongst themselves as they conspire to require exactly the information that would be necessary to screen Arnie and I well enough so that we can clean toilets and take money at the gate for four months.
Next, let’s make them get FBI level criminal background checks to keep those toilets safe from any kind of fraud. And let’s be sure they need to drive three hours to the district office so that the finger prints can be electronically sent to the Army Corp office. It should be no problem that the finger printing office is not at the address listed on the Army Corp website and no problem that the software is down when they arrive.
We are, by now, that any federal crime that the two of us might concoct, would most likely be hatched on a toilet seat. I don’t see any other explanation. Uncle Sam has devised these well thought out procedures to keep the world safe from plots being hatched by seniors like us from the confines of a bathroom stall. We probably would be writing it out on the TP (technically federal property) so their concern may be quite valid.
Next, let’s send these old folks a 57 page bid packet to wade through until they are cross-eyed from reading it. And let’s be sure that only one (1) page of that 57 pages is really relevant and the rest is indecipherable filler. Oh, and let’s give them seven business days to figure it all out and submit the bid. But we will help them out by assigning a special consultant in case they have any questions or concerns. Let’s just not tell them that she will be on vacation the week the bid is due.
Following that, let’s require that they get bonded in case they intend to steal any of that TP. I picture this group chuckling at the array of new usernames and passwords that this whole process had required. Just for icing on the cake, let’s make sure that the wife (who is doing all of this work) cannot have the business in her name because their home phone is in the husband’s name.
And finally, let’s make them stay home for weeks checking their email multiple times daily to see if the bid packet has arrived so that they are questioning their sanity by the time they actually leave to go to the job.
Yeah! that would be funny. If it was not so true!