Longtime readers of the Bird know that I tend not to take a lot of garbage from government entities. For the newcomers, I once got the D.C. Police Department to tow our truck back to our house after parking enforcement erroneously towed it. So it was with great zeal this morning that I added “make someone at the Marriage Bureau cry” to my wedding to-do list in flowery script. Why is that? Grab some popcorn. Settle in. This one is worth the length. Trust me. And spoiler alert: by the end you will likely want to become a Libertarian, swear off marriage in our fair city, or strangle someone. You will come to know that those are the three stages of D.C. government-imposed wedding grief.
I call the Marriage Bureau and ascertain that in order to get the license that will usher us into wedded bliss, we will need to get blood tests for syphilis. You remember that, because I wrote about it. We bring our paperwork saying we’re syphilis-free and $10 per person to get the paperwork converted to the “official” blue index card, to the D.C. government Serology Lab. Then we go next door to the Bureau to get the license. I specifically ask the person on the phone how long those tests are valid, explaining that we will likely get them done but then not be able to come get them authorized and get the license for a while because I will be in North Carolina campaigning. “When’s your wedding?” the person at the Marriage Bureau asks me. I tell her Oct. 25. “You’ll be fine,” she said.
No, actually we won’t be. Read on.
I go get my blood test. I detest giving blood. It is awful as always. Test results are mailed to me on a plain piece of paper.
Fiancé goes and gets his blood test. Test results are handed to him by his doctor on one of the official blue index cards issued by D.C.’s Serology Lab. His doctor tells him that he’s one of the few authorized to directly give the card to patients.
No, it will not be. It will be the start of a total *&$% pain in the @*#&.
We walk into the Serology Lab to convert my test result paper to the official blue index card. With glee, the bureaucrat behind the reception desk informs me, “No, ma’am, I cannot do that. This test is expired.” She makes sure to accompany this pronouncement with the pursed lips and circular neck motion that has become the universal symbol for “Ha ha, your fancy college degree can’t help you now because you’re in my house.” I tell her that I was informed these tests do not expire by the person I spoke with at the Marriage Bureau before I left. “No, that is not correct,” she says, sending the neck hula hooping again. I begin to hit a voice octave known as Bridal Bird is Displeased and a Tad Emotional, causing a kindly gent to come from the adjacent office to see what the problem is. He informs us that yes, in fact my test is expired and I got bum info, but my fiancé’s is fine because it’s on the official blue index card and that doesn’t expire.
Yes, it does. We will learn this later.
My fiancé gallantly points out again that I specifically tried to head this problem off by calling well in advance and explaining that I’d be gone and asking if the tests would expire. Getting nowhere though, we thank him, write down his name, and leave with me still sniffling.
I haul tail over to my doctor to get blood drawn yet again for this flipping syphilis test. Yet again, I am miserable because I hate having blood drawn. Yet again, I shell out $25 for this service.
My fiancé and I meet at lunch time for attempt two at getting the marriage license. OK, won’t it be romantic this time?
No, it will not. Because after two hours, we will still not have our marriage license.
We walk into the Serology Lab to convert my second, unexpired test to the official blue index card. I pay my $10 and we’re on our way. As we head to the Marriage Bureau my fiancé notices that in small script at the bottom of the card it says that the blue card expires on Sept. 4. “It’s OK, I say. [Kindly gent from last month’s freakout] told us it doesn’t really expire. We walk into the Marriage Bureau and wait for for our names to be called.
Our names our called. “Do you have an application filled out?” the woman says eyeballing our hands that contain only the magic blue index cards. “No, nobody told us to,” I reply. NOW we are handed an application while someone leapfrogs us in line.
We finally get to the desk where she begins tapping away, entering our application info into the computer. This takes forever because of some sort of problem she’s having with her computer. Finally she says that she’s all set, writes our reference number down on the application. Then she looks at our blue index cards. “Ohhh,” she says. “I can’t take his. It’s expired.” My fiancé begins the explanation that no, in fact we were informed by the official at the Serology Lab that the official cards don’t expire. Now, it is important to realize one immutable law in the District: when you tell someone at one D.C. government office that someone at another D.C. government office told you a particular piece of information, you might as well phrase it, “Poobedy boo boo in the heeban habben blabbidy blah blah.” Because no piece of information issued within one set of walls in a D.C. government office in any way corresponds to the reality within a different set of D.C. government office walls. She informs us that yes, my fiancé will have to go get a new blood test. It bears mentioning at this point: his blood test cost $100 at his doctor’s office. Between the two of us we are up to $160 in testing and certification fees. Let me repeat that: $160. This is when my fiancé, a normally cool and collected guy, begins strenuously objecting to the Marriage bureaucrat that “The entire system is completely illogical! So we get these tests done today and our wedding’s not for three weeks! What’s to keep us from going out and getting syphilis in those three weeks?!” It is at this point that I hustle him toward the door and a waiting taxi.
2:45 p.m. (my office phone rings. It is my fiancé)
After the afternoon’s fracas, my fiancé walked back into his newsroom and began unloading about the idiocy we’d been dealing with. His colleague, city reporter Michael Neibauer finds all this odd because…wait for it…THE EFFING LAW REQUIRING THE EFFING SYPHILIS TEST EFFING EXPIRED ON SEPT. 11! He begins making calls and learns that, whoops! nobody decided to tell either the Marriage Bureau or the Serology Lab, so for a month, they’ve been putting nice folks like us through the ringer. (He writes a story in the Washington Examiner that runs this morning, which is later picked up by the Associated Press because folks across the nation are always happy to have their stereotypes of D.C. confirmed.)
Less than 24 hours after a reporter from D.C.’s finest newspaper calls to ask why it is that D.C.’s Marriage Bureau is still requiring proof of a costly test when the law requiring that test expired a month earlier, I get a phone call. “Hello this is [Bureaucrat]. I was calling about the status of your application. As it turns out, effective today, a blood test is no longer required.” Oh really, Bureaucrat? Effective today, you say? Well how about that.
Nice try, dear. Try effective Sept. 11.
I call the Marriage Bureau and ask how I am to be refunded my $10 I was charged to convert my test results to an official blue index card when that card is no longer required. I am told by the supervisor that I need to talk to the Serology Lab because they’re the ones who charged me. He is the first of many people who will tell me that they were “just informed Thursday about all this so it’s not our fault.” He says he will transfer me to the lab. Instead of the Serology Lab, he transfers me to the DNA Lab, which promptly hangs up on my after telling me they’ll transfer me. I call the Marriage Bureau back and ask for the number to the Serology Lab. The woman who answers says, “I can give it to you but you don’t need a blood test anymore.” “I know that,” I say through clenched teeth. “I’m calling about how I get my money back.” We have, I kid you not, the following exchange:
Her: “You want your money back?”
Me: “Yes. I was charged for a test that is no longer required.”
Her: “Hold on.” (Leaves phone for a moment, talking to someone. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the guy who already snipped at me minutes earlier that it wasn’t his office’s fault. She comes back to the phone.) “You think $10 is too much to pay?”
Me: “For a test that is at this point no longer required? Yes, I do.”
Her: “So you think you should get that $10 back?” (I swear to God in Heaven I can HEAR her neck circling.)
Me (in an octave called Bridal Bird Has Had It With This Incompetent, Illegal Bullsh**): “Yes, I do think that $10 is too much to pay when your department tells me incorrectly that I need a test that hasn’t been required by law for more than a month!”
Her: “Well we just found out about that so it’s not our fault they charged you that money.”
Me: “Transfer me to the Serology Lab. Now.”
The Serology Lab, as of 10 a.m. Monday, still knows nothing about this. “Who told you you don’t need a blood test?” the bureaucrat on the other end demands to know, incredulous. I point out that as of that very morning on the Marriage Bureau website it says that. She asks me for the URL so she can check it out. I also offer to send her the article from D.C.’s finest newspaper which points out that at least 200 other people were improperly charged by the D.C. government for the expired test conversion, to say nothing of what we all shelled out to our doctors and the time we wasted during the weekday. Oh, and this fellow bride probably won’t be too happy to learn that she passed out during her syphilis blood test and required emergency medical attention for nothing. She calls me back a few minutes later and informs me that yes, in fact the law has expired. “How do I get my refund then?” I ask. She pauses and says, “Well that money goes to the D.C. Treasury. You need to call them.”
Bridal Bird’s not calling anybody at the D.C. Treasury, sugarbuns.
I said, “You want me to call the main number of the D.C. Treasury and ask them for my money back? You realize that that will get me nowhere. Certainly your office can provide a refund, as at least 200 other people were charged incorrectly by your office.” Bureaucrat says, I kid you not, “Oh I know. I totally get why you’re upset. But we don’t have your dough.” I thank her for her candor and support and tell her to have her supervisor call me.
I’m getting my $10 back.
To be continued…