Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Bureauacracy Rampant...

I had occasion to accompany Tess to the New York City Department of Vital Records, yesterday, in an effort to recover some very important and necessary documentation, and was treated to a first-hand experience of just how stupid and quite redundant most public union...ahem...workers...are.

That picture on the left? That's a Rube Goldberg. For those who were born under rocks -- or after X-box, which is sort of the same thing -- Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who used to create images of the most outrageous machines that performed the simplest of everyday tasks.  The point was to go to an extreme to avoid doing something simple and mundane. This one shows a machine that wipes somebody's mouth without them having to dirty their hands. This fairly describes the Bureaucracy of the City of New York: why work efficiently when you can add so many complicated steps to the process? And employ a lot of seemingly useless people while you're at it?

After all, it's only TAXPAYER MONEY, right?

Let me state for the record: it is my considered opinion that most people who work in any governmental capacity -- at any level -- are basically no smarter than chimpanzees, and perhaps, no better. I base this judgment upon three factors:

1) The majority of Civil Servants have jobs only because they managed to pass a Civil Service Exam. Because this country -- especially government -- is obsessed with things like race and gender, those Civil Service Exams are written for a 3rd Grade reading level, and specifically designed so that women and minorities can easily obtain a passing grade. Which hovers somewhere in the neighborhood of 62.

2) It has been my experience with government that a simple function or request is beyond the capability of any one person to fulfill. This is done on purpose, because now that the Civil Service has all these mouth-breathers who passed with a 62 at it's disposal, it must find something for them to do. So, instead of engaging in linear thinking (government is incapable of linear thinking, it means using a logical process that progresses from point to point in a rational way until a task is complete. Imagine the process as a line rising from the bottom of a page to the top, with identifiable signposts on the way to success), government operates by the theory of lateral thinking, which is to say, there is no job that can't be done if you simply engage more people, working on their own one little bit of the task as inefficiently as possible. Instead of our line going upwards on the way to completion, imagine a line that moves steadily horizontally...forever.

The percentage chance that whatever you have asked the government to do will be fucked up beyond all recognition is about equal to the square of the number of people involved. I have noticed this formula holds true whether we're speaking of the DMV, the IRS, Traffic Court, The State Department, or the Census Bureau, all of which I have had the distinct misfortune of having to deal with at some point in the last decade.

3) A good many seem to be doing little else but jerking off in public.

Back to our story...

You see, Tess required copies of the death certificates of both of her parents. This because an insurance company (another bureaucracy that could probably do with fewer workers and more logic) will not transfer a policy into her name without proof that the original two beneficiaries are deceased, and that she is entitled to be named on the policy by virtue of familial bond. It's a sordid affair and I'm not quite certain I understand the whole thing, but suffice to say, there's probably at least twenty-three minimum-wage clerks and half-a-dozen overpriced lawyers involved in the process.

Everything in America would run more smoothly, I reckon, if you could horsewhip minimum wage earners, and shoot lawyers. But I digress...

The point of this monologue is the relative lack of quality in the public-sector employee, who is being paid with my tax money, and the inefficiency of the system, itself.

Tess and I arrive at the proper government office, after having to surf the web for several hours the day before to seek out the proper address. You see, the City of New York may be online, but it's various department's websites were probably designed by the same people who brought you the ObamaCare website. Back in the Old Days when we all lived in caves and had to catch our own food, you could simply pick up the Yellow Pages which contained a section called The Blue Pages, which had the phone number and address of all government agencies, state or federal, in your local area. Within a minute you could find things like The Board of Health's Chlamydia Hotline, or the location of the nearest Post Office.

This totally inefficient and archaic system (that was sarcasm) has now been replaced by this new-fangled Intertoobies thing that requires you to know the address that you're currently looking for so that the doohickey can then find it for you. You have to grapple with something called www.nyc.gov, which is supposed to help you navigate the vast, Byzantine New York City government structure, but which instead leads to various pages that simply say "if you need more information, please call the City Helpline at 311" where a legion of telephone operators are probably standing by to misinform you all hours of the day and night. That's when they aren't directing you to the exact thing you need, only for New York State, which can't help you with local records.

So, anyway, I finally managed to snag the address of the building we were looking for by using Bing, because God Forbid the City of New York should put the address under the "Contact Us" banner on the webpage. I was able to find the address by naming the building. "New York City Department of Records" yielded "125 Worth Street". Score another point for the private sector!

Upon arrival at 125 Worth Street, we are confronted with a security checkpoint which consisted of three rent-a-cops: One to open the doors, one to run the x-ray machine, and one to apparently hold conversations with everyone as they walked in. None is armed. None seems especially formidable. I could take 'em all in a fistfight, especially the fat Puerto Rican broad with a mustache who has probably not run for anything not stuffed with cheese for many years, and if she did, her pants would catch fire from the friction of her thighs.

I was instructed to put my backpack and heavy winter coat through the x-ray scanner. I emptied my pockets of all objects. I was wanded after I stepped through the metal detector. In the meantime, Tess, in her wheelchair, is off to the side, waiting for me, unmolested by building security. I'm sure Al'Qaeda is taking notes.

We then make our way to the proper room in the Department of Vital Records, and are met by a cheerful, smiling lady, who greets us with the paperwork we'll need to fill in in order to obtain the records we seek. She gives us two copies of the same form, since we need two death certificates, and points out a convenient place where we may fill them in. Forms filled in, we return to her, and then she points us to a computerized kiosk where we will have to enter the same exact information -- two more times -- into a touch-screen contraption that will spit out a number for us to take. It also processes payment via credit card.

We've just filled in a triplicate form. "Why did we have to fill in a triplicate form if we could just enter all the information into the computer?", I wondered. I did ask the cheerful, smiling lady and she just nodded and said, "That's the way we do things..."


Anyhow, now armed with two slips of paper bearing numbers that we will have to wait to have called, plus a pair of triplicate forms that no one has taken from us, we patiently await our turn in a DMV-style waiting room. The numbers you have been given are called at intervals, so that you may be "serviced" by a knuckle-dragging, drooling idiot in the order in which your request was received.

Now, I use the term "knuckle-dragging, drooling idiot" with a bit of reticence here, because our interaction with them was minimal. They are behind thick glass, and thicker walls, and barely speak. They take your triplicate form, split it into it's component parts. They scan your identification documents. They write something unintelligible on one of the papers they've just taken from you, and staple another to a fourth piece of paper that gets spit out of a printer on the counter. The unionized douche behind the thick glass and bulletproof walls then informs you that the 48 minutes you've just spent waiting for your number to be called was a complete waste of time, because the two triplicate forms you've just filled in, the computer nonsense you've endured, the strip search you've received at the front door, were all for naught.

Your documentation will be sent to you via snail mail in approximately 10 business days, because why should overpaid underworked New York City Bureaucrats be the only ones to have a piece of this scam. The Post Office needs some love, too.

If you ask the woman you just told you this why this should be, she tells you "that's not my job. If you need more information, there's an information agent on the second floor. Next time, you should do this by mail." When you complain to someone, "Hey, if I had known that I could have handled this entire thing by mail, I would have; why wasn't that on the website?" you get told that this option is, indeed, on the website, and they point it out to you. And sure enough there was. It was an instructional video on how to make your request for vital records via mail.

This is bureaucracy in 21st Century New York.

Records that are not computerized so that someone has to search through rooms full of paper seeking them (hence, the 10 business day wait); clerks who are being paid to staple pieces of paper -- which they probably misfile or lose immediately -- after the information has already been entered into a computer system for them by the customer; websites that are difficult to navigate and which don't have the address of the agency you're trying to contact; cheerful idiots to hand you paper you don't need and then inform you that you just have to do it this way; a city agency that can take a credit card payment electronically, but which still relies upon the Pony Express to deliver what is paid for; long waits in an uncomfortable waiting room painted institutional canary yellow. All to get a piece of information that, had it been in the private sector's hands, or an efficient government's, would have been online and ready for immediate printing from my desktop.

Rube Goldberg would be proud.

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