Socrates and Plato walk the grounds of the Academy. Plato wears a look of confused concern. Socrates looks like Socrates always looks: like a man who sees mate in three but decides to toy with his opponent for another fifteen.
Plato: I need to pay my student fees so I can finish my dissertation this quarter.
Socrates: Then you will need to talk to the Cashier.
Plato: The Cashier?
Socrates: (places tiny green hat on his head) How can I help you?
Plato: I need to pay my student fees.
Socrates: You know you have an outstanding fine from last quarter?
Plato: For what?
Socrates: Seems you never paid your dissertation fee.
Plato: But I did. Is there a payment for $131 in your records?
Socrates: Paid on December 14th.
Plato: Then how have I not paid my fees?
Socrates: You'll need to talk to Graduate Studies.
Plato: Graduate Studies?
Socrates: (removes tiny green hat and replaces it with tiny red one) What can I do you for?
Plato: You just—the Cashier just told me I didn't pay the fees I paid on December 14th.
Socrates: So he has a record of you paying yet says you never paid? Interesting. Let me check our records. (stares into space) I see the problem. The Cashier never stamped our records, so Graduate Studies didn't know you had paid.
Plato: But you—you're—you're the—
Socrates: Because the Cashier didn't stamp this before Graduate Studies received it, you never paid the dissertation fee.
Plato: The one I paid the Cashier.
Socrates: Sans stamp. You'll need to have the Cashier stamp this and then talk the Registrar about waving the late fee.
Plato: Could you put on your other hat? (Socrates removes the red hat from his head and replaces it with a purple one) Wait, who's purple?
Socrates: I am the Registrar. How can I be of service?
Plato: Didn't you just tell me I needed to talk to the Cashier first?
Socrates: Did I?
Plato: You did.
Socrates: If you say so. (removes the purple hat and replaces it with the green) So nice to see you again. How can I help you now?
Plato: I need you to stamp Grad Studies record, then I need you to switch ha—
Socrates: One thing at a time. (stamps Grad Studies record with "PAID" of slapstick proportions) There you are. Bring this to Grad Studies and you'll be set.
Plato: ... ?
Socrates: Oh yes. (swaps the green for the red) Looks like everything is in order. Now let me assess your fees—
Socrates: For the upcoming quarter. You must pay $3,500 for full-time status.
Plato: But I'm only enrolled part-time.
Socrates: I understand. But to be enrolled part-time you must first be enrolled full-time. I cannot press this button if you aren't enrolled full-time.
Plato: But full-time fees are more than double part-time.
Socrates: I will reimburse you the difference.
Plato: After you press the button?
Socrates: More or less.
Plato: More or less?
Socrates: I will reimburse you after I have pressed the button, but it may be a while before I do.
Plato: Why can't you just hand it right back?
Socrates: Hand it right back?
Plato: That's right. I hand you $3,500. You press the button. You hand me $2,000 back.
Socrates: Can't be done.
Plato: Why not?
Socrates: Be a bad example.
Socrates: Future academic bureaucracies!
Plato: So we want these hats to stand in the way of an education?
Socrates: Why wouldn't we?
Plato: This is about the hats?
Socrates: Of course! Have I taught you nothing?
Such is the origin of modern academic bureaucracies. Had Socrates but known the onerous machinery his precedent would create, he probably wouldn't have done it any differently—the man had a powerful love of hats.