I turned ancient yesterday.
Only 7 more years until I hit 50, but I really don’t count on living that long. 50 is way older than I ever imagined myself getting, and the thought of being a 50-year-old man holds no joy for me. “50” reminds me of all of those fogies who think that you should automatically respect them for no reason other than the fact that they are old. Just because cancer decided not to claim you yet doesn’t gain you my respect. I don’t want to be that fogey.
Anywho, along with marking my crawl toward death with another anniversary, yesterday was the day that my driver’s license expired. I had been putting off going to get my license renewed because I have never… NEVER… had a completely positive experience in anything I have done at the Scotts Bluff County building in Gering. Whether it’s registering an automobile, or anything to do with my driver’s license, or protesting my property valuation in front of the county commissioners — it’s like the entire place is run on the foundation that you are going to leave pissed off; this is their goal. And they will tell you that this is not their goal, but they lie.
Government employees have some of the best training in customer service of any profession… said no one… EVER!
So, three days ago, I put on my big boy pants and went down to the DMV in the county building for what I was sure would be a miserable, stresstastic experience. I get in line and grab the paperwork to fill out. The other guys waiting in line are bitching about how much it sucks to have to deal with the DMV, but I try to ignore them and just concentrate on my paperwork. I don’t need anyone else to raise my stress level — I do a plenty good job of that myself.
Well, I get my paperwork filled out and come to the realization that the reason the other guys in line are complaining is the fact that the DMV’s computer system is down. They can’t do anything with their computer system down, and they have no ETA on when the computer system will be back up. So, I sit there for my lunch hour, hoping that the computer system will come back up, and it doesn’t. I go back to work feeling a little like I just wasted an entire lunch hour… and knowing I have to go back to the DMV…
… but I prepare.
I actually read over the “required forms” crap at the DMV before I leave so that I can make sure I have every stupid piece of paper that I am going to need to get out of there with no hassle, because that is usually where most of the issues at the Scotts Bluff County building come from. You see, there are various hoops that have to be jumped through. Many of the hoops seem ridiculous, and many of the hoops are ridiculous. The hoops are what make any visit to the Scotts Bluff County building a major pain in the ass. Well, the hoops and the hoopmasters.
Hoopmasters are the employees within the walls of the Scotts Bluff County building. Many of the hoopmasters are so mired in rules and regulations that there ability to use common sense is turned off as soon as they walk through the doors of the building to begin their shifts.
One guy one time did such-and-such with a doohickey which caused issues for the county. All of the “customers” of the county are criminals. Therefore, a rule is implemented that no one can now use a doohicky, because everyone is out to screw the county and everyone must be blatantly treated like they are out to screw the county. “We” (the residents of the county) are the “them” in the “us vs. them” that is how the hoopmasters view our relationship.
I have a different address than what appeared on my old license, so I need various proof of this in the form of various pieces of paper. I make the necessary photocopies of all of the required pieces of paper in the morning before going to work so that I can use another lunch hour to get my license renewed.
When I arrived at work in the morning, I went online to once more check all of the required paperwork. I immediately called the wife and asked her to bring in the original forms that I had made copies of — because copies will not be accepted. One of the forms was a recent credit card statement.
“But the part that you have to mail in with the payment is the only part of the statement that has your address on it,” said the wife.
“Yeah, but there is one that hasn’t been paid yet,” I said.
“But that one is in my stack of bills to be paid,” said the wife.
“I know, but I need it,” I said.
“But you’ll lose it, and then you will be making it harder for me to pay that bill,” said the wife.
“Yeah, I probably will, but I have a photocopy here that we can use to pay the bill if I do,” I said.
“Why can’t you use the copy you made?” asked the wife.
“DMV,” I said.
“Oh yeah, right,” said the wife, “one guy one time with the doohickey.”
“Exactly,” I said.
So, the wife brought me all of the necessary originals, and when my lunch break rolled around, I was all set to go. I had even taken a blank check so that I could pay with a check. The county treasurer accepts credit and debit cards, but they add on some stinking fee if you pay by that method. You know, kind of like the cheap-ass gas station owners who charge an extra 3¢ per gallon if you’re using plastic.
Cheap-ass gas station owners and Scotts Bluff County, almost one in the same.
So I walk in expecting the worst, even though I feel like I am as prepared as I can be. There is no line. I take a number and a pleasant lady immediately asks what she can do to help me. I tell her I need to renew my license. I already have my form filled out, so she takes my form and my expiring license and sets to work typing into her computer. She gets a little bit of a pained look and she glances at me from the corner of her eye.
“Uhm… it looks like your address has changed,” she said.
“Yep,” I said, and I handed her a pile of check deposit tickets, credit card statements, mortgage statements, utility bills and my most recent copy of Sports Illustrated. Her pained look disappears and she digs through my pile until she finds two suitable forms of proof of address.
I look into the little eye tester dealie, she makes some notes, and I’m off and running to the treasurer to pay for my new license. I AM STOKED!
I am so basking in the glory of having a pleasant experience at the Scotts Bluff County building that almost don’t understand the elderly lady who helps me at the treasurer’s office.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“How would you like to pay?” the elderly lady repeated.
“I don’t like to pay extra fees, so I brought a check,” I said. I was almost giddy with how easy this was all going.
I fill out the check with the appropriate amount and hand it to the elderly lady. This is the most fantastic experience I have ever had within the four walls of this building and I have never…
“I don’t think I can take this check,” says the elderly lady.
“It’s from out of county, and we can’t take out of county checks,” says the elderly lady as she points at the little homemade sign hanging on the back wall that reads:
NO OUT OF COUNTY CHECKS
“But I live in Gering,” I say. “My address on the check is Gering. This county building is in Gering. Isn’t all of Gering in the same county?”
“It’s not your address,” says the elderly lady. “Just a second…”
The elderly lady calls over a slightly-over-middle-aged lady (who I’m assuming is some kind of supervisor or something) and shows her my check.
“Yeah, we can’t take that,” says the slightly-over-middle-age lady, “it’s from out of county.”
“It’s from Western Heritage Credit Union,” I say. “They have branches in Alliance, Scottsbluff and Gering.”
Now, I have banked at Western Heritage Credit Union since moving back to the craphandle of Nebraska in 2000. Western Heritage Credit Union has been doing business in the craphandle for over 75 years, and has had a branch in Gering since at least 2000 (probably longer, I’m guessing). Yes, their main office is in Alliance (a county over), but I bank at a local branch. In fact, the local branch is less than 2 blocks from the Scotts Bluff County building.
“I’m sorry, the address under the bank on the check is Alliance,” says the slightly-over-middle-age lady, “and Alliance is in a different county.”
“But the branch I use is less than two blocks from here,” I say, my voice probably rising as I point to the south (the direction of the local branch).
The slightly-over-middle-age lady’s eyes start to get big and she thrusts her finger at the little homemade sign on the back wall. You remember, the sign that read:
NO OUT OF COUNTY CHECKS
The sign looked like it was probably made on an inkjet printer and was printed on a standard 8.5″ x 11″ piece of printer paper. The bold, capitalized lettering was in red. The sign actually looked kind of junky, but now I was apparently supposed to bow down to the sign in all of its glory.
There is a Sign on the wall! Yes, we made the Sign on an inkjet printer, but the Sign is all powerful! There can be no arguing with the Sign! Common sense cannot overrule the Sign! The Sign has spoken! Now, fall to your knees and worship the Sign!
I am left just staring in wonder at the fact that the slightly-over-middle-age lady felt that pointing at that stupid sign had some kind of meaning. I guess I should make a sign. I have an inkjet printer, I have 8.5″ x 11″ printer paper, and I can print in red. And I have something to put on that sign.
“You know,” started the slightly-over-middle-age lady, “one time there was one guy from out of the county with a doohickey…”
“NEVER MIND,” I’m pretty sure I may have shouted. “I’LL PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD.”
“Well,” said the slightly-over-middle-age lady all indignantly. “If you wouldn’t have gotten argumentative, I was just going to tell you that I was going to make an exception this one time.”
Argumentative? All I did was interrupt her insipid story about why the stupid homemade sign was placed on the wall in the first place. I wasn’t argumentative. I was upset. I was justifiably upset that they were refusing to take a check from a credit union with a branch that was less than a two minute walk from where I was sitting. If she wanted to truly offer customer service, she wouldn’t have started her spiel about the “one guy” and his “doohickey” and she would have led with the “we’ll make an exception this one time” part. You can’t get argumentative. You aren’t even supposed to get upset. They have signs all over the place threatening you with deputies and crap if you lose your temper in probably one of the few place on the face of the earth where losing your temper is guaranteed.
Walking into the Scotts Bluff County building is like walking into the largest catch 22 of all time.
“I’LL PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD,” I say. “I DON’T NEED YOUR EXCEPTION. I’LL PAY YOUR STUPID FEE AND USE MY CREDIT CARD.”
The slightly-over-middle-age lady turned and stormed off and I handed my debit card to the elderly lady who now refused to look me in the eyes. She swiped my card and started doing her thing.
“Do you know your security code?” the elderly lady asked… AS SHE IS HOLDING MY CARD!
“No, I don’t,” I said. “The security code has worn off, but you are holding the card. You just swiped the card. You don’t need my security code if you have swiped the card.”
“Yes, I do,” said the elderly lady.
I give the elderly lady my Amazon Visa without saying a word. I am looking around for an object sharp enough to slit my throat, but nothing appears to be within my reach.
Now, because the elderly lady swiped the card that I do not know the security card for, the machine does not seem to want to accept my Amazon Visa card. The elderly lady is starting to look really nervous. She keeps saying, “Oh my” with every button she pushes on the keyboard, and sweat is starting to pool in the wrinkles on her forehead. She keeps looking around as if looking for help, but everyone has cleared my portion of the office. I just sit there, staring at that stupid sign.
After about 10 minutes, I believe a drop of sweat from the elderly lady’s forehead fell on the keyboard and shorted something out to the point that she could use my Amazon Visa. She insincerely apologized for the wait, and I left without saying a word, the sign burning an image into my brain as I tried to keep my head from exploding…
Here’s an idea! How about instead of putting these flipping signs in every nook and cranny of your stinking building, instead of that, try training your employees to treat people in a manner where those people will not have such a strong desire to use abusive, threatening, or profane language! Could we try that? I know I sure in the hell wasn’t being treated in a courteous manner when the idiots in the treasurer’s office told me they couldn’t take a check from a bank that was two blocks away! Could I have summoned a deputy to escort them from the premises for their noncourteous actions? IS NONCOURTEOUS EVEN A WORD…