Digging Deeper Into The Red Tape

, , , , | Working | July 9, 2021

In my town, if you are planning to dig in your yard, you call a number and they’ll come out and mark the location of all sewer, gas, and water lines, etc., so you don’t accidentally dig into one. I call the number.

Me: “I’m planning on putting in a little shed.”

Operator: “Okay. How deep are you planning on digging?”

Me: “I’m not actually going to have to dig.”

The shed is a kit that you bolt to a heavy wooden platform that sits directly on the ground.

Operator: “Sorry, we only mark dig sites.”

Me: “Yes, but I want to make sure I don’t build this on top of a line.”

Operator: “Dig sites only.”

Me: “Yes… but say I build this on top of the water line, and then five years later they have to work on it? I don’t want to have to take the whole thing down.”

Operator: “Dig sites only, sorry.”

Me: “So, what should I do?”

Operator: “Call the water, power, phone, gas, and cable companies and ask if they’ll come out and mark the lines.”

Me: “Is that free, like you guys?”

Operator: “No, they’ll probably each charge you for a service call.”

Me: “You know what? I think I am planning on digging.”

Operator: “How deep?”

Me: “A quarter-inch.”

Operator: “We’ll send someone out this week.”

I couldn’t tell if she was trying to give me a hint or was just that officious.

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First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes Plague

, , , , , | Right | CREDIT: SeaworthinessTrue988 | June 23, 2021

I work at a town hall, one of my tasks is issuing marriage licenses when health crisis restrictions ease up as they have.

Today, I have an appointment to issue a license. I grab my mask, sanitize my hands, grab the different documents, and head down to one of our rooms that’s big enough to have people standing six feet apart. Since the town hall’s doors are locked to avoid walk-ins, I have to meet them at the door. The woman has no mask; when I ask her to wear one, she says she is exempt, showing me a screenshot of a US exemption; we’re in Canada. We’re not allowed to ask for proof, so I just deal with it and pretend like she never showed me. I ask her to sanitize her hands. Again, she refuses.

Our process for a marriage license is to have them bring their application, any prior divorce or death certificates, and IDs. I ask if her partner is going to show up and she says yes, so we wait for about ten minutes. This puts the appointment a little late; we have thirty minutes for each appointment, and I have one in another room right after.

The woman’s partner arrives, we exchange pleasantries, and we get started. I’ve already checked their IDs and application by email, so I quickly recheck and write the info down. From there I get into the health-crisis-related questions.

Me: “1. Where is your wedding being held?”

Woman: “Inside the church at [Street].”

No big deal; we still allow church weddings if the group is smaller than ten people.

Me: “2. Will you be having a reception? If yes, where?”

Woman: “Yes, at [Banquet Hall].”

Red flags are sailing, so I ask the third question.

Me: “3. How big is the group attending?”

Woman: *All giddy* “Well, for my group there are about ninety-three guests, and on his side, there will be eighty or so. We have more coming to the reception. I think in total there will be 200 people or so.

I look up at her from the license. I look to the guy and then back at her.

Me: “I can’t issue a license for a gathering that large. Indoor gatherings must have fewer than ten people, including the couple and the officiant. Outdoor gatherings can have up to thirty, including the couple and officiant.”

The woman immediately flips out.

Woman: “You’re infringing my right to get married! [Health Crisis] is just a scam. It has a 99.9% survival rate! I should be allowed to get married! I’ve been planning this for three months and already paid for all the food and everything!”

I try to deescalate, telling her I can’t give her the license because it’s against the law. I hand her a pamphlet with [Health Crisis]-safe marriage information and start to walk them out. She’s still throwing a tantrum. She demands to speak to my manager, so I call her down.

My manager was already busy dealing with other stuff, so she isn’t in the best mood. The woman says I was belligerent, called her names, didn’t accept she wouldn’t wear a mask, etc.

Manager: “Well, why don’t I pull up the footage and we can take a look?”

The woman flips out even more, saying the same stuff as before. My manager is done with this.

Manager: “No clerk in [City] will issue a marriage license in this situation because it is against the law. We need to write down how many people will be at the celebration. You then have to post the green paper outside the venue and an officer may or may not drop in. If we are found to have issued a license and there are more people present, you will be fined. The clerk will no longer be able to give licenses and we will be in a lot of trouble. As you told the clerk, you have only planned this for three months. That means you’ve had enough time to know it’s a health crisis. Because of your attitude to my clerk, we will no longer be accepting any appointments for you or your partner. As far as I’m concerned, you are banned.”

She then took the application, stamped “Rejected” on it, and took it with her.

We ended up having to call security to escort them out of the building. Oh, and as for her partner, he did nothing. He literally sat in the chair and did nothing. But at least he wore a mask.

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Extensive Laziness

, , , , | Working | June 14, 2021

I’ve been working on getting a permit to build an extension on my house; such permits are required where I live. Most government services in the area are run out of the county courthouse. If you don’t know the phone extension for a specific office or employee, you call the courthouse’s main number and the receptionist transfers you to the right person.

I have a question about one of the forms I have to submit to the county zoning office, but I don’t know their direct number, so I call the courthouse’s main number. The receptionist answers, I explain what I need, and she agrees to transfer me. I’m on hold for a few minutes when the next person picks up.

Employee: “Hello, this is [Employee] in Licensing. How can I help you today?”

Me: “I have a question about [form].”

Employee: “I’m sorry, could you say that again?”

Me: “I have a question about [form]. I’m looking for a permit to build an addition on my house, and I have to submit [form] to be approved.”

Employee: “This is the licensing office. We don’t have anything to do with zoning or building permits.”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry. Your receptionist transferred me to this extension.”

Employee: *Under his breath* “God d*** that stupid woman!” *More clearly, to me* “I understand. The courthouse recently hired a new receptionist. She’s been transferring calls to random extensions all week because she’s too lazy to actually learn which department deals with each issue. Do you have a pen and paper ready? I can’t transfer you directly to the zoning office, but I can give you their direct number instead of making you deal with our receptionist again.”

Me: “That would be great. I’m ready for the number.”

Employee: “The zoning office is [phone number]. Since you’re here, is there anything you need help with as far as licensing is concerned?”

Me: “Nope, nothing. Thanks for helping!”

Employee: “You’re welcome! Have a great day, and good luck with your addition!” *Under his breath, as he’s hanging up* “And now to yell…” *Click*

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It Makes Cents To Be Stern

, , , , , | Working | June 8, 2021

I recently moved in with my girlfriend. This means our combined income changed our eligibility for certain tax and municipality rebates, so I was prepared for letters from the city council. I was not prepared for how thorough this new city’s governance actually is.

Month #1: We received a sternly-worded letter stating that we would be receiving a letter regarding a council tax.

Month #2: We received a sternly-worded letter stating that the council tax would be reevaluated and we would be receiving a revised estimate.

Month #3a: We received a sternly-worded letter stating that we would be owing extra taxes and could expect an invoice and new estimate.

Month #3b: We received a brochure about our options if we could not repay right away.

Month #4: We received a sternly worded letter with an invoice attached.

Obviously, we made sure we repaid the eighty-three cents as soon as possible. 

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The More Locked The Doors Are The More They’ll Try To Get In

, , , , , , | Right | June 4, 2021

I work for the town government. The building I work in is closed to the public, but we have temporary workspaces in the building next door to allow for customers to come in. There are only two departments with designated workspaces — I represent one of them — and all other departments in the building are closed or by appointment only.

This is explained on the website, on social media, on the phone when you call in, and on the doors of the building. Roped stanchions are placed across the staircases with “DO NOT ENTER — EMPLOYEES ONLY” signs on them.

The other departments have also locked their doors to prevent wanderers from walking in. Benches are placed across the doors of the large event room to prevent people from going in. The only places customers can go freely are down the hall from one outside door to the other as well as in the bathroom.

We also have to use a visitor log for contact tracing in case one of us is sick with [contagious illness] with the date, time of visit, name, and phone number of the visitor. Below are a few customer interactions I’ve had within the first two weeks of opening. Also of note, we aren’t supposed to call to make appointments for other people. They are supposed to call themselves. Every department is extremely short-staffed, so if we use our time being the liaison calling other departments to make appointments for people, we will be missing our own phone calls, which we are already missing due to not having enough staff.

Me: “Hi, can I help you?”

Customer #1: “I need a permit for [item].”

Me: “Oh, okay. [Department #1] isn’t here, but you can either mail the application and payment in, put it in the dropbox, hand it to me so I can give it to them, or call them and make an appointment to meet with them.”

Customer #1: “No, that won’t do. I need a permit now.”

Me: “Right, well, they aren’t here, so those are your options. I can write down the phone number and mailing address for you if you’d like?”

Customer #1: “NO! I NEED A PERMIT NOW!”

Me: “I’m sorry, but I can’t issue permits. The only departments here today are [My Department] and [Department #2]. [Department #1] doesn’t have hours here, but if you need to meet with them, you can call them and make an appointment. Or I could hand your application and payment to them when I go back over. Or you could mail it or put it in the dropbox.”

Customer #1: “NO! GOD, YOU’RE USELESS!” *Storms out*

Next customer:

Me: “Hi, can I help you?”

Customer #2: “I just tried the doors for [Department #3], but they’re locked! Can you call them and tell them to open their doors?”

Me: “Unfortunately, I can’t. I can give you their phone number, though, and you can make an appointment if you need to meet in person.”

Customer #2: “No, I’m not going to make an appointment. I just want to go in. I need an [activity pass].”

Me: “Oh, well, they aren’t selling [activity passes] right now for health reasons, but again, I can give you their phone number if you want to talk to them.”

Customer #2: “No! I’m not calling them! I’m going to stand right here until you let me see them!”

Me: “Okay, but they aren’t coming out right now. The only way to see them is to call them.”

Customer #2: *Stomps foot* “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!”

She leaves two minutes later after realizing her temper tantrum won’t solve anything.

Next customer:

The door to the event room is slowly but forcefully pushed open, knocking over one of the benches.

Me: “Uh, sir? Can I help you?”

Customer #3: “Yeah, I was just looking for [Department #4]. There was a bench in the way, so I moved it to get in here, but it looks like you put another bench in the way. Why would you do that?”

Me: “Well, sir, no department has ever been located in the event room, and we don’t want people going in there unsupervised, so we put the benches up to block the entrances.”

Customer #3: “They used to be in that room. Did they move?”

Me: “I don’t know if they were ever in that room, but not in the seven years I’ve worked here, and not for at least thirty years to my knowledge. In any event, you can meet with [Department #4] by calling them to make an appointment. Do you want their phone number?”

Customer #3: “No, that’s okay. Thanks, sweetie. I’ll talk to them some other time.”

Customers #4-#50:

Customers #4-#50: “Do you have [very specific item/book/information that requires research]?”

Me: “We do back at the main office, but not here. I can call you later with that information, you can pick it up on [list days and times], or you can make an appointment to view it later.”

Customers #4-#50: “I don’t understand why you don’t have it here. It’s public record. I should be able to get [very specific item/book/information].”

Me: “As you can see, I have nowhere to keep it here.”

I gesture to the twenty-five-square-foot room/closet acting as my “office”.

Customers #51-#100:

Me: *On the phone* “[My Department], can I help you?”

Customers #51-#100: “Yes, are you open yet for us to come in?”

Me: Yes, we are open, but not at [main building]. [Main building] is closed. We are in [building next door] at [address].”

Customers #51-#100: “Oh, like where we vote?”

Me: “Yes, exactly — [building next door] where the voting takes place.”

Customers #51-#100: “Okay, see you soon!”

A few minutes later on the phone:

Me: “[Department], can I help you?”

Customers #51-#100: “Yes, I just went to [main building] like you said, but the doors are locked! And there is a sign saying to go to [building next door]? Is that right?”

Me: “Yes, that is correct. Come over to [building next door]. Remember where you vote? It’s that building.”

Customers #51-#100: “Oh, it’s where we vote? Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place instead of sending me over to [main building]?”

Customers #101-Infinity:

Exit doors, which are locked from the outside and clearly marked as Exit Only, are being tugged at.

Customers #101-Infinity: “Did you know your doors are locked?”

How did you get in, then?

Me: “Only the exit doors are locked. There are big signs on them saying ‘EXIT ONLY.’ There are also large signs next to two other doors, such as the one you came in, that say, ‘ENTER HERE.’ Those doors are unlocked.”

Customers #101-Infinity: “Yeah, well, I just wanted you to know that the door was locked. You should probably fix that.”

And I bang my head on my desk.

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