Thursday, April 8, 2010
Our inefficient government bureaucrats, cont.
When we last left our plucky heroine – aka me – I was trudging along to the County Building to meet my fate, or the Board of Appeals as it’s commonly known. Knowing that it would be a long wait, I came prepared, but damn it all if my wheelie bag didn’t keep tipping over. Sigh. I should have known how the day would go when I went up to the 6th floor of what I thought was the County Building, yet found no Room 613. What the hell, our government bureaucracy is so inefficient they can’t even be bothered to put numbers on the doors? Puzzled, I ask a woman in the elevator what’s going on.
Me: Excuse me, do you know where room 613 is?
Woman: Oh, that’s in the County half of the building – you’re in the City half.
Me: You mean this building - that’s all one building - has a magical invisible dividing line down the middle?
Good thing I remember reading about this odd phenomenon, whereby this one building that takes up a whole block is half county, half city. And by going in the wrong door, I had unwittingly entered the city part. Silly me!
Now that I’m in the right half of the building, I find my room on the 6th floor, and follow the signage to the Board of Appeals room. Finally, let the madness begin.
Me: Hi, I’m early but I have an appointment to....
Woman behind counter, cheerfully yet efficiently: Appear before the Board, right? Not a problem, just hold on a quick second and I’ll be right with you. Sorry for the wait!
Me: Excuse me a minute.
I go back out and look at the door – yep, Cook County Board of Appeals. What’s going on here??
WBC: Okay, let’s see your paperwork....great, just grab a seat and someone will call your name shortly!
Here it is then, the government process we’ve all come to hate and dread: the interminable wait, hours long, as we look at our watches and wonder how much in parking fees this will cost - somewhat akin to watching paint dry on grass as it grows. I slump over to a chair with my wheelie, and start tugging out my copy of War and Peace – in the original Russian, of course. I’m sure I’ll have time to plow through at least several hundred pages of it, which would mean I’d be about 5% done with it, and the.......
Guy: Tasha Huebner?
Me, startled: What? Who, me? You must mean a different Tasha, don't you?
The guy looks at me like I’m slightly unstable, but still responds chipperly and efficiently: Nope, there’s only one of you! (thought bubble over his head: thank god...) Come this way! You’re meeting with that guy sitting right over there.
Aha! Here’s where the bureaucratic part begins. I lived in the former Soviet Union for a few years, I know how these things work. Damn, why didn’t I bring a bottle of vodka as a bribe? I could be here for days, as he "pretends" to work!
Desk guy: Hi, how are you! So glad you came in, have a seat.
Me, resigned: So I have this paperwork but it’s probably not what you need and...
DG: Great! Let’s take a look here. Comps, perfect. All these listings, great. And pictures! Terrific! Though I’ll let you in on a little secret – nowadays you don’t even have to take pictures – you can just use the ones we have on our website.
Me: But that’s just the front of the house. You don’t need pictures of my crappy garage compared to this beautiful double-decker one with roof deck? See, look how my garage is falling apart, made in the Polish style by having pieces of plywood tacked on willy-nilly.
DG, cheerfully: Nope, not necessary! So you can save money by not taking pictures and use it on a bottle of wine!
Me: O.....kay then, but...
DG: And I’ll tell you something else, that’ll save you time next time. See, you can check this little box on the form and then you don’t even have to come down here – we’ll file the appeal for you!
Me: Seriously? So I could avoid all this and save money on parking?
DG: Exactly! We do that also so that folks don’t have to come down here in the winter, especially the older people, and deal with the snow and ice and everything that can be dangerous. Plus how expensive it is to come down here these days.
Me: O....kay then....
DG: But make sure you keep filing these appeals – you want to get whatever savings you can! Okay, we’re all set, now just wait over there and then you’ll speak to the Appeals person. Good luck!
I feel like I’ve just entered some form of BizarroWorld, or maybe Oz. Yeah, that’s it, the Land of Oz. When do the flying monkeys attack?
As I’m walking the less than 10 feet over to the chairs by the side of the room, no fewer than 2 people look at me, smile, and also wish me luck. This is really bizarre. I’m starting to think that because this is more or less the last step in the appeals process, they must figure that the folks who pursue it to this degree are batshit crazy or poor or both, and need to be handled vewwy vewwy carefully. Either that or, like a restaurant critic, my fame precedes me. Yeah, maybe that's it.
I wait for a minute or two, during which time DG has come over to chat with me some more and wish me luck, again, and then someone grabs my file and sends me over to the Appeals person. I am positive that now is when the bureaucratic process will kick me in the teeth. Positive. She’s a stern-looking black woman, and aren’t all stern black women angry yet inefficient? Isn’t that the government way?
SBW: Hello, and how are you doing today?
Me, suspiciously: Fiiii...ne, and how are you?
SBW: Just great, thanks! Okay, let’s take a look at what you have here. Comps, pictures, great, looks like everything is in order.
Me: Do you want more pictures, of, say, my crappy falling-apart garage?
SBW: Let’s see – no, these are fine.
Me: Oh, and here are pictures of my yuppie neighbors’ house that I threw in there – the house is a different style, but it’s a gut-rehabbed place that they have on the market for $1.3M, and mine is a dilapidated 2-flat.
SBW: Oh, that’s just not right. Okay, we’ll include that. Now, what I’ll do is go to my computer later and look up more comps so that you have more data in your file. We want to get your assessment back down to where you should be!
SBW: And you should hear back from us within 4-6 weeks, and if you don’t, or if you have any questions, just call us any time at the number that’s on your assessment form. Or here, take my card, you can also call me directly.
Me: Bu....bu......you.....I.......can I just tell you how great you all are? Seriously! You know, with this health care reform, people keep talking about how inefficient and horrible government is, but you’re all wonderful, and then compare that to the idiots I talk to at BCBS about the bills for The Cancer!
SBW, whispering: It’s true, people don’t understand shit about those kinds of things until they have to deal with insurance. Oops, I shouldn’t say things like that.
Me: But it’s true!
SBW: You have cancer? I hope you’re in remission – that’s tough, my grandmother dealt with cancer, but she’s doing well now.
Me: Oh, I’m glad to hear that.....
At this point, I’m ready to invite my new BFF Shani over for some bundt cake and tea as well – hell, at this rate, I should buy stock in a Bundt Cake Emporium or something. We finish chatting and I walk out of there grinning, just because everyone’s been so damn nice, then I thank the nice people at the front counter, make my way out of the building, and see that it’s.......2:50? That took half an hour total? I decide to get a celebratory bagel from Dunkin Donuts, but the one I pass on the way to my car is inexplicably closed. So I just get my car from the garage - $10 – and am on my way. No flying monkeys......yet. I remain alert.