The day afterwards Hurricane Irma, I knew I bare a wet/dry exhaustion to apple-pie up the blend — not aloof the baptize all over the attic but additionally the leaves and clay that came with the water.
Home Depot was roofless and Sea Chest was awash out of exhaustion cleaners. So aback my sister in the states alleged and asked if there was annihilation she could do, I asked her to accelerate me a big wet/dry exhaustion cleaner.
But how could she get it here?
The column appointment architecture was roofless and not administration mail. The FedEx appointment at the airport was bankrupt because the airport was not open. Likewise, UPS was not working. But I remembered that the burden companies move big actuality on ships. Burden ships would be advancing and can get about annihilation delivered here.
So I alleged “CargoTrans” (names are afflicted to assure the carriers) and got instructions to abode the amalgamation to my name in affliction of CargoTrans at an abode in Florida. The aggregation will assurance for it in Florida and put it on a ship. Cool! I’ll accept my exhaustion cleaner in a week. How about tracking numbers? Well, that is adamantine because there will be no added tracking already the appurtenances are accustomed in Florida. Already they assurance for it, again it is “delivered” and the tracking ends. So I took the adventitious and asked my sister to abode my new exhaustion cleaner like cargo.
A ages later, my box is in St. Thomas. A month? That’s a continued time for a box to move from Florida to St. Thomas. But I still charge the exhaustion cleaner, so I activate the paperwork to get my cargo.
Oh, my! What a action that paperwork is. “Stand in line” is the capital idea.
I accept to drive to the burden aggregation and angle in band to get my Bill of Lading. They accept to accept an balance for the goods, so I accept to get aback to my sister and ask her to email me a photo of the accouterments abundance receipt.
Back to burden company. Now I can accept my papers.
Next, I accept to go to the Bureau of Internal Acquirement and angle in band to get their elastic stamp. Oops, the name is amiss on the document.
Back to the burden handler. Delay addition day for the affidavit to get corrected.
Back to Community Tax and angle in line. They accomplish copies of everything, basic it in bundles and elastic brand the top copy.
Drive to the U.S. Community Office, in a altered building. Park. Delay in line. Hey, I apperceive these bodies in line. It is all the aforementioned association I met in the Community Tax line.
Customs makes copies, again staples them in bundles and elastic stamps the top copy.
Back to the burden company. Delay in band to appearance them the affidavit with the elastic stamps. Pay the aircraft fee and get addition elastic stamp.
Drive to the burden company’s warehouse. Park. Accord them the papers. They attending at all the elastic stamps and accord me my box.
Seven lines. Seven times parking and walking and continuing in line. Each band has dozens of people. Each band takes an hour or more.
The net aftereffect of all the cat-and-mouse in curve is that we are actuality advised as if our time is worthless. This is a amazing corruption of people’s potential.
Economists alarm this an “opportunity cost.” Aback we are accomplishing any one thing, we are not accomplishing article else. From amid all our opportunities, we accept to accept which to do. Cat-and-mouse in band agency abandonment all the added opportunities.
It is as if we accept annihilation bigger to do, yet every one of us in band has storm-related assignment we could be accomplishing if we were not ashore in a line.
None of us in band are professionals in administration cargo. The bodies at Community and Community are acutely acclimated to ambidextrous with ample companies like Kmart and Plaza Extra who bright accomplished containers of goods, but the association in band with me are accustomed association aggravating to get some actuality that is difficult or absurd to acquisition now in our bounded stores:
• A man from Tutu accepting debris accoutrements that his sister sent.
• A woman accepting aliment beatific to her family.
• A pastor accepting a box abounding of Bibles.
• And me, aggravating to get my exhaustion cleaner.
We are accustomed folks. We apperceive annihilation about this process. We accept all fabricated procedural and paperwork mistakes that amount us hours and canicule to get right.
Most of what we are bringing in does not alike accept an community tax. Little of it has a community fee.
The tax acquirement from this is negligible. My exhaustion cleaner has no tax or community duty. Net acquirement to the government is zero.
Here’s a thought: Why not abandon this action for a accustomed disaster? What if the governor’s acknowledgment of a adversity included a account that community tax and community are waived for accustomed citizens bringing adversity appurtenances to our islands.
Our government should be authoritative it accessible for us to get emergency supplies.
Our government should get out of the way of commitment of goods.
For several months afterwards a disaster, Community and Community fees should be waived, and the paperwork should be waived. That would annihilate the cat-and-mouse in lines, and we could get bound actuality we charge badly.
— Alex Randall V, Baptize Island, is a cultural anthropologist who teaches Digital Media Communication at the University of the Virgin Islands
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