San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Déjà Vu All Over Again

OF all the bizarre professions a man might adopt, Podsnap had chosen to work as a designer of application forms: for jobs, for credit, for club membership, you name it. He died on the operating table in the middle of an otherwise routine appendectomy, and afterwards it was rumored that his surgeon had tried and failed to complete one of Podsnap’s forms; in a fit of ungovernable rage, his knife had slipped and severed the aorta instead of the offending organ. But we don’t have to believe such slanderous nonsense; suffice it to say that Podsnap expired and, considering his profession, his immortal soul flew straight to Hell, Department of Bureaucracy, Forms Division.Logic prevails even in Hell, so Podsnap awoke on the operating table just as the anesthesiologist discovered he had turned the wrong valve. Though in considerable pain, he looked around him and was pleased to note that the shapely young devils on the operating team were undraped and had cute little forked tails. Podsnap was quite familiar with earthly delights, and wrongly concluded that he was about to experience some unearthly ones. But his approach to amorous dalliance had always been crude, and he had no sooner tweaked the tail of the prettiest scrub nurse than he learned to his cost what the fork was for.SHOCKED at his behavior, they promptly deposited him in the recovery ward. While awaiting further developments, Podsnap looked at the TV screen on the opposite wall, but at five frames a second, just like with earthly TV ads, it was impossible to make out what was going on.Suddenly feeling ravenous, he reached for the bedside phone and tried dialing all the help numbers he knew: 911, 999, 1212, etc., but whatever he dialed he got the same response: a nine-part menu leading to a second and a third, all inapplicable to his case and all without benefit of an operator. In a rage, he ripped the phone from the wall and threw it at the TV.Finally, an unsmiling matron came in and deposited an armful of forms on his bed, explaining that all services, including food, were available only upon proper completion and submission of the corresponding form. Unfortunately, she was fresh out of the English variety, and swept out of the ward after leaving him with several hundred pages in colloquial Amharic, which, being similar to the legalistic gibberish he himself employed, were totally unreadable.At the end of his tether, Podsnap had no recourse but to die once more, this time of stress-induced stroke, and his immortal soul immediately flew to Earth, where he awoke on the same operating table just as his surgeon was making the primary incision. I truly believe that it was not until then that he realized the full extent of his repetitive predicament.But we form-fillers need not waste our sympathy on Podsnap; he got exactly what he deserved, no more, no less. We should, however, heed the moral of this little tale: Stay cool whatever the provocation!

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