Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Adventures in Bureaucracy

I don't have a great history with bureaucracy. When the karmic wheel comes around for me and its time for me to pay a traffic ticket, register my car, change my address on a form, or really, do anything that requires the cooperation of the State of California, the end result as of late is bound to include me screaming at the heavens or Showcase, or really whoever is around to hear me, that the world is run by C-students. Imagine the raw exasperation on Showcase's face as he attempted to explain over and over again to phone monkey after phone monkey, that the state's $6000 tax judgement against him was actually due to a typo of the misplaced decimal point variety. Imagine the tilt that simmered below the surface as I tried to make the guy on the other end of the line at the DMV who had maybe a sixth grade comprehension level of the English language understand that I did indeed pay that $35.00 parking ticket so there shouldn't be any hold on my vehicle registration, which is why I got pulled over in Beverly Hills and fined $718 for expired tags and was about to be dragged into court.

Why should collecting a few unemployment checks be any different?

Long story short, I made an honest mistake. I didn't put my resume online in the California State Job Bank by a certain deadline. I didn't do it, because I didn't know it was some sort of federal requirement. You'd think they'd warn you about these things with a notice in big red lettering or something. Ed McMahon gets the big red lettering but not the government? However, once I found out that was the case, I took the five minutes and did it. It's not like the job bank was ever going to help me, unless I wanted a new career in distributing flyers or selling things on Ebay. At least that's the sort of spam that's ended up in my inbox since putting it up there.

Well my mistake got me DQed from a month's worth of unemployment checks before I realized and fixed my mistake. I got re-registered, so my checks would come from now on, but there were four weeks in there that I wouldn't be paid for. That's $1800. I needed that money back and now.

Last month I got a guy with at least a somewhat average IQ on the phone at the EDD. I explained my situation and he told me I should appeal. He sent the foms out to me, but not before pronouncing the word "resume" like "re-zoom" at least half a dozen times during the course of our conversation.

"It's pronounced reh-zoom-ay."
"No it's not."
"Uh... yes, it is."
"There's more than one way to pronounce it."
"No, there isn't."
"Yes, there is."

I give up.

So I wrote a letter of appeal and got denied. I decided to appeal the appeal and appear before an administrative judge, really the last stop in the process because (a) it was an honest mistake (b) I'm an intelligent person and if I can't figure this shit out, well God help the rest of the population and (c) I'm a 28 year old blonde girl from the west side who is clearly not trying to cheat the system ;) My appointment was yesterday morning at 11:30. Not in a court of law, but in a conference room in Inglewood, a dicey southern 'burb of Los Angeles, home to the Great Western Forum, the Hollywood Park Casino, and a healthy dose of gang violence.

In life, as in poker, sometimes it's all about your seat draw.

Had the stern, bespectacled woman with the cropped gray hair possessed even the slightest sense of humor, I think I'd have walked out a winner. A guy my father's age who probably hadn't been laid in a while would have been my best draw. He'd see a nice college-educated girl who caught a bad break and just needed to pay her rent. He'd understand the absurdity of the situation. He'd pronounce it "reh-zoom-ay." Instead, I got the reincarnation of my grammar school principal on the other side of the table.

"So, Ms. Change. And why is it you think YOU are above the law?"

I probably lost my case. Then again, I really wasn't expecting to win. My faith in the type of jusitce dispensed by bureaucracy goes nowhere near that far. End result? I won't get my 1800 bucks now, but I can still claim it later if I'm still out of work. So I guess I cashed that tournament Sunday night just in time. I still have a 2-3 week wait before I receive a written decision.

The northbound 405 was jammed as I tried to make my way home from the 'hood. Heading east toward the La Cienega Blvd alternate route, signs for Hollywood Park beckoned. I had $200 in my purse. But I wasn't in the mood to gamble. And I have a screenplay to write.


Unknown said...

"So, Ms. Change. And why is it you think YOU are above the law?"


She probably hasn't seen a movie or a dick in 20 years though.

John G. Hartness said...

The conversation with the paperwork dork who can't pronounce resume has to be a scene in a flick.

Alan said...

Your Honor,

I do not believe I am above the law. I believe that we have the best legal system on Earth and that laws are extremely important for our society to function correctly. No one is above the law.

That being said, the implementation of laws creates bureaucracy. While laws attempt to uphold ideals, bureaucracy tends to stand in their way. That is why we have judges. Judges can intepret the law as humans free from the encumbrances of bureaucracy. There is a reason this appeals process is held in front of a judge instead of a clerk at the unemployment office.

The law required me to pay an unemployment insurance tax. This tax is used to support people when they lose their job unexpectedly so that they do not go homeless or starve until they can find another job. I lost my job unexpectedly, and if I do not receive the pay I missed due to a bureaucratic oversight I will not be able to pay my rent. This law was intended to help me. I do not think that a small oversight, that has since been corrected, should stand in the way of this law's purpose being carried out.

Neither you nor I are above the law, but you are above bureaucracy. Please help me.

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Hey Change. Saw you finished 12th in the bracelet race last night, though I didn't watch you playing at all because I was on my way to a 21st place finish in the 17k on ftp at the same time. But congrats on that -- I know you don't win anything for 12th, but that is quite an accomplishment nonetheless. I have done several of the bracelet races but I think my best overall finish is 35th or so.

Nice try with the appeal. You definitely got sucked out on by walking in and finding the old stern lady as your judge. Hopefully you can get that money back sooner or later. Even with your MTT domination of late, $1800 is nothing to sneeze at.

StB said...

"No it is reh-zoom-ay, dumbass!"

"Did you just call me a dumbass?"

"I'm sorry, I meant doo maas"

Tully Moxness said...

I also hate bureaucracy and always screw up when I'm supposed to follow the rules. I actually failed to post my rezoom and blew off my live unemployment interview back in 2003, and they never did anything except to continue sending me checks.. I still can't believe it, especially after reading about your ordeal. That sucks.