Saturday, June 12, 2004


Here's the backstory: My lawn had been in need of mowing for a long time. Fizban was supposed to do it quite a while ago, but stuff kept getting in the way. Eventually, Dingus said he'd take over the job, but we had to wait for it to stop raining for three solid days before he could come over and do so. It was starting to look like a jungle, since Fizban hadn't weed-eated (-eaten?) the previous time; he didn't feel comfortable using my electric trimmer, and his own device had run out of some special mixture of fuel that his dad had to make (Papa Fizban's Magic Trimmer Potion: three parts gasoline, two parts oil, one part eye of newt). Dingus said that, with the grass and weeds so tall, my house looked like it belonged to an old lady who had 37 cats. (Sorry, Tasha is plenty, thanks.)

So anyway, my lawn finally got mowed yesterday. And today, with pure government efficiency, I got a violation notice from the city's code enforcement bureau saying that my grass was too high. It was dated yesterday, probably mere hours before Dingus came over and made me not in violation anymore.

The timing of this bugged me for several reasons, the main one being that we had just gotten finished with three freaking days of rain in a row. You would think that someone who works for the city actually was in the area to know that and would thus give Joe Citizen at least a full rain-free day to cut the grass before pouncing on him.

(In case you're wondering why I didn't just do this my own dang self when Fizban got busy, there's a good reason--I'm allergic to grass. If I can hire out a college student to do it for Chipotle burritos or free bowling or whatever, I'll most likely do so. However, it had gotten so bad this week that I would have just doubled up on allergy medicine and done it myself, but again, it rained for three freaking days. They didn't really expect me to go out there in a driving rainstorm and cut my grass, did they?)

So even though the problem is solved, I'm trying to decide whether I should call the phone number at the bottom of the letter on Monday. I would start out by telling the guy that the problem was solved, but it'd be hard to avoid the temptation to chew him out for being excessively overzealous at his job and wasting the city's money (and my tax money by extension) for sending out a notice for a violation that was resolved before the letter even hit my mailbox.

[rant] I know I'm not an anarchist (though I have libertarian leanings in some areas), but I'm not too fond of government most of the time. With the exception of the big things, like defending our shores and the proverbial "making the trains run on time," there aren't too many things that government can do that the private sector can't do better and cheaper. I really hate giving them so much of my money in the form of taxes when I know how much of it ends up being wasted.

I'm trying to figure out why I have such a low opinion of the government (especially the local variety) in so many areas. I think it has to do with the nature of how the thing is set up. I've never been a fan of big bureaucracies; most of them are inherently corrupt--not necessarily corrupt as in crooked (though there are plenty of those--can you say Enron?), but corrupt as in a corrupted file on a computer. After a while, there are so many layers of crap in a bureaucracy that the entire thing ceases to function efficiently, if at all. There are plenty of examples of this in our society, but government is one of the most obvious ones.

Part of me says that I shouldn't chew out the person who sent me the violation notice, because it's not his fault; he's not being paid to think, just to do what he's told. But many times, the people in these jobs don't help the process at all. It's nearly impossible to punish someone in a government job, and even more impossible to fire them, so I think many of them end up with a certain feeling of entitlement. Because of this, they have absolutely no incentive to do their jobs well, and many of them don't. This sense of entitlement also encourages some of them to be extremely bossy with the people they are supposed to be serving, which, granted, must be one of the few perks of the job, along with the aforementioned Teflon coating that keeps them from getting fired.

Ultimately, the problem is that the mindset of many government workers dictates that rules are more important than people, and this is totally backwards. If you just mete out citations and punishments blindly, in the name of "following the rules," then you're using a one-size-fits-all approach with a group of people of many sizes, and it just doesn't work. Granted, actually tailoring your response to the specific needs of the "customers" (who in this case don't have the option of patronizing the competition) requires thinking--creative thinking, even--and perhaps creative people just aren't attracted to government jobs. I don't pretend to be representative of the entire creative community, but I know that the mere thought of working in any bureaucracy just about makes me break out in hives. (It's a good thing that I work for myself and go to a nondenominational church--that means that two big potential bureaucracies aren't a part of my life.)

So to those in such a position, I would say one thing: Behind each problem is a person. Deal with it in that manner, and you're likely to be more successful and have a much nicer day at the office. Treat everyone like a number, and you shouldn't be surprised when people call up and bite your head off from time to time. [/rant]

As for me, I feel much better now after writing this; maybe I won't make that phone call on Monday after all.

Is there anybody out there? Dingus has touched on this in his latest post, but I'm chiming in as well: This is the slowest weekend of the summer, in a way, because the volume of my good friends who are elsewhere at the moment has hit its apex. Here's the rundown:

Halfling: Orlando (gets back tomorrow...yay)
Fizban: Brazil, till the 20th
Demon Matt: Smelling the money in Greeley for about two weeks
Zack: Houston for the weekend

Of the locals, that pretty much leaves me, Dingus and Coop, and Dingus is playing in a concert tonight. Fortunately, this weekend won't be as dull as it might seem, as I'm playing with some college folks for the famous "pig roast" tonight and going to a Rangers game with the DFWAAA tomorrow afternoon.

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