Two things happened on Friday that are sort of related, in that they both are examples of the government pissing me off. While my wife was being treated like scum by a petty government bureaucrat, I found out what my final tax bill for 2013 was.
First, my wife needed to renew her driver’s license. The DMV requires some specific pieces of info to decide if you are worthy. It doesn’t matter that she’s had a license in Utah for 20 years. Nope. It doesn’t matter that she has a Utah Concealed Firearms Permit (because a state issued form of ID that is background checked out the wazoo DAILY totally doesn’t count). She needed a W2 (oh, you’re a stay at home mom? Too damned bad) and a Social Security card. She couldn’t find her card. It doesn’t matter that there are a dozen other ways to verify her SS number, including our taxes, our mortgage, or the aforementioned other state issued IDs, nope, you need the actual piece of paper, because regulations, and we all know that nobody has ever forged a piece of paper before.
But no big deal. The guy at the DMV was just doing his job. He was polite and professional. Sorry, no hard feelings, understandable. So my wife needed to go to the Social Security Administration to get a new card and once she could show the paper indicating she’d asked for it the DMV would issue a temporary license.
So before going to the SS Admin, the lovely Mrs. Correia decided to check to make sure she had everybody else’s SS cards in the safe. For some reason Correia 2.1’s card was missing. 2.1 is now a teenager, so it probably got pulled out for some minor function, and not put back in the file, and was floating around the house somewhere with some other paperwork. Either that or it was being used by a dozen Guatemalans working for ACORN, who knows. So off Mrs. Correia goes to the federal building to get a new card for herself and for our oldest. She takes Correia 2.4 with her, because the only thing better than standing in line at a government building, is standing in line at a government building with a 2 year old.
Meanwhile, I’m home writing another novel. I’d like to say I’m Getting Paid (as should be on all author’s mission statements) but since I’m still writing the first half, apparently that part of the novel was written entirely for the federal government, but I’ll come back to that.
So Mrs. Correia and Moose go to the federal building, where they have to go through a metal detector and a guard checkpoint, and then stand in line waiting to talk to some ladies behind bullet proof glass… Judging by how they treat people, I can understand the need for guards and the bullet proof glass, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Those of you who have met my wife normally have the same reaction. “Why’d she marry you?” Basically, Mrs. Correia is a beautiful, charming, friendly, kind person. When she says that she was polite and nice at this point, I believe her, because that’s how she is. She’s not snooty. She’s not bitchy. And this is important, when she gets mad, she gets quiet. Not loud, that’s me. Quiet. She gets real calm and starts to plot her revenge. In 16 years of marriage I’ve never seen her shout at anybody other than me or the children, and it isn’t like that’s happened very often, which is what lets you know you done really screwed up when mom yells. She also put herself through college working crappy service jobs, and has waited tables, answered phones, been a hostess, and a restaurant cook, so her default to anybody doing a service job is always patient, because she’s been there.
So she’s in a good mood. 2.4 is in a good mood. She gets to the window. The woman, or shoggoth wearing a woman suit, I’m not entirely sure, on the other side of the thick glass doesn’t make eye contact. She keeps staring at her computer screen, mumbling something incomprehensible.
The woman barks at her that she’s not talking to her yet. She’s talking to some of the other .gov employees. Okay, no problem. Then she mumbles something else, all without making eye contact, and then gets angry when my wife doesn’t immediately respond, because now she is being addressed. She finally looks at my wife, and gives what she described as a sneer. Oh, yes, pretty lady, you’re in my lair now.
Okay, Mrs. Correia is still patient. Because she can barely hear the woman through the glass, she assumes the woman can’t hear her, so she speaks loudly and clearly and states her business. Keep in mind, my wife isn’t a loud person. I’m the loud one. She explains that she needs a new card for her and her daughter. She presents various pieces of paperwork that show she is who she says she is.
The shoggoth says she can’t accept the driver’s license, because it is expired. My wife, who checked the website to make sure she had enough stuff before standing in line, says that expired licenses are still good for like 60 or 90 days, and this just barely expired, so it should be fine. (meanwhile, our insurance card, which we could have made up and printed and then had laminated at Kinkos? Totally legit form of ID)
And this is when it gets sideways. The lady says, I shit you not “Ma’am, you need to calm down or I’m going to call the guards and have you removed.”
What the fuck?
My wife doesn’t even have an immediate response. She’s flabbergasted. That was too out of left field. Her reaction at this point was, huh? She’s not been agitated, or angry, or even particularly loud by adult human standards or even a little upset. There is literally nothing in her demeanor that suggests she is in any way distressed, at all.
My wife says she’s not upset… And this is why I love her, says “When you call the guards, call your supervisor too.” Then she reaches into her pocket, pulls out her cell phone, and says “I’m going to record the rest of this conversation.”
Boom. That stops the talk of Guards! Seize her! And the surly minor mandarin gets back to her super complex job of pushing a couple of buttons on a keyboard. But oh no, she couldn’t just shut up and do her stupid job. She actually warns my wife that she’d better not lose any more cards, because the SS is only allowed to issue a few replacement cards over someone’s entire life, and if our kids don’t have cards, then they won’t ever be able to have jobs or licenses…
According to Mrs. Correia, that snide little comment was delivered with this sort of maternal, self-righteous, lecturing tone you reserve for crack heads. Why, look what a terrible mother you are. To quote my wife telling me the story, “that comment was not delivered in a helpful manner, but it was more of a, you’re a shitty mom because your kids won’t get jobs or have drivers’ licenses.”
Yes… If you lose this token from the king, then your children will starve in a ditch. Are you kidding me? My wife says she’s not worried, gets her stuff for her temporary license and leaves (they don’t even print the cards there, they have to mail the cards from another facility, because pushing Ctrl P is probably WAY TOO COMPLICATED for this crew).
I don’t know what part of that makes me angrier. That fact that some petty bureaucrat can threaten to sic armed guards on a woman holding a 2 year old because she didn’t like her imaginary attitude or the part afterward where she needed to be put in her place, peasant.
Now if I’d been there, it probably would have been a lot worse, because I worked closely with the federal government for a big chunk of my professional career and I am a keen expert on their various forms of nonsense. When she said she’d call the guards, I probably would have said, sweet, you do that while I call my senator’s chief of staff. That reminds me of a story that I still can’t tell because I know the petty little scumbags involved would punish the people I used to work with just out of spite. But I once dealt with a minor government functionary who was so screwed up, imbalanced, hateful, and dumb, that the only thing that finally got them straightened out was when we got a senator involved with their bosses’, boss’, boss. (on that note, Mike Lee is a total badass, and he doesn’t just talk the talk about stopping out of control government abuse, but he walks the walk). Yet you know how that particular agency solved the problem? They promoted the idiot so they wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore. That’s what happens in an organization where it is almost impossible to fire anyone.
Before the easily butt hurt get all up in arms, no, I don’t hate all government employees. Like I said, I’ve worked with the government a lot and I’ve known many solid professionals during that time. However, everybody who has worked with or for the government in any capacity knows exactly how inefficient they are, and if they are one of the aforementioned solid professionals working there, they know that many of their coworkers are useless sacks of poo. In most functioning entities, if you have somebody who sucks, you fire them. When it is almost impossible to fire people, .gov managers do the next best thing and simply shuffle them around so that they are somebody else’s problem. They are fundamentally immune to the repercussions of their actions, and they know it. Then when you give these people some small measure of authority over other people’s lives, it shouldn’t come as a shock when they act like assholes.
Yet Americans are expected to shut up, know our place, and be good little serfs… If we get out of line, we’ll be in trouble.
No, lady, get off your high horse, make eye contact through your four inches of glass, quit fucking mumbling, and speak to us like a human being. I don’t know if you’re talking to me or one of your other friends, nor do I give a shit, because you work for me. That security guard you are threatening my wife with? I bet he doesn’t really like the way you’re using him like a club to intimidate peaceful people either.
Because I lost a slip of paper, my children’s lives will be ruined forever? And I’m being told this by a snide little cog of the government that routinely loses billions of dollars, thousands of rifles in Mexico, or every email that might be vaguely incriminating? Fuck off.
And when I say you work for me, no, I kid you not. I got my final tax bill for 2013. On the same day that my wife was being disrespected by somebody so bad at customer service she wouldn’t be qualified to run a register at Taco Bell, I found out that I paid enough in taxes to cover that woman’s entire salary… Only I’m hoping she doesn’t make that much, and I actually paid enough in taxes to pay her supervisor’s salary, assuming he was a GS 11 or 12, and probably cover his benefits too.
Whenever I complain about taxes I can count on somebody to come along and lecture me about how I should be glad to pay my fair share—about how it is super importantto pay for the iPhones for crack whores program, or the legions of useless departments and their functionaries. Every single time I say something on Twitter or Facebook complaining about the sheer mass of my taxes, or lamenting the other useful things I could have spent that money on, I’m told what a bad person I am and how I should feel bad. If I pay that much, it must be because I’m rich and therefore evil, so I should be super happy to fork over a bunch of what I make. Wanting to keep the fruits of my own labor is greed.
I should be happy to pay my fair share because more Americans work for the government than in the construction, farming, fishing, manufacturing, and mining industries combined. And somebody needs to foot that bill. But that still isn’t enough. The government still needs to do more, because they haven’t yet managed to bring their shitty brand of customer service to every single facet of our lives.
The condemners are usually the same crowd who bitch about everything related to America, or American history, or American exceptionalism, who get all angry at people like me for actually believing in that stuff. The difference is, they think America is the government, whereas my side thinks America is awesome despite our government.
Here is a lot more detail on my opinion on that subject, and my Cut Everything plan. This was my Tax Day Rant that went viral back in 2011: http://monsterhunternation.com/2011/04/15/happy-tax-day/ Hilarity ensued. In fact, it got me so much hate mail that it spawned a response a few days later. http://monsterhunternation.com/2011/04/18/a-response-to-the-tax-day-response/ Which is what helped me come up with the Arguing Checklist.
Since that time I’ve quit my day job to be a full time writer and the amount I’ve paid in taxes has gone up dramatically. The government sure hasn’t gotten any smarter with our money during that either, and nothing drives that home quite like having some petty bureaucrat disrespect your wife all while having the honor of paying for it.