This morning I went to the unemployment office to see if I could extend the benefits I get here in the U.S. At the front desk, where I had paid several visits in the past, the woman gave me a sheet on which to write my Social Security number and a short description of what I was after.
After filling out the form, I asked the woman how long I might have to wait. The waiting-area chairs were filled with people. The woman said I was number 18 on the list. "So I should probably come back this afternoon?" I asked. "No," she said, "it'll be sometime this morning. We have two people processing claims."
On previous visits, it had always been just one woman whose pleasant patience in the face of a tsunami of work had impressed me. Now it was two people.
I did the approximate math of 15 minutes per person and left the office. When I returned, I had just missed my turn and the woman said I would be next. I waited 10 minutes and the same pleasantly-patient woman I had dealt with in the past worked her magic on the computer.
I left the office satisfied and somehow sad:
Two people doing the work one had done before.
I'm not sure that the chirpy optimisms emanating from Washington are really warranted.