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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Seeing the future in a teacup, twice.

Last night I was wasting an hour of my life watching "Parking Wars" on A&E. It's a real reality show based on the adventures and the never ending war between parkers and the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA). There are four scenarios: those that walk the streets issuing tickets, those that boot scofflaws, the impound lot and occasionally the tow truck drivers. What caught my attention in my mildly "EUREKA" moment was a scene from the Impound Lot where towed vehicles go to be redeemed by their owners.
Teacup One
A man and his wife had literally just moved to Philly and had their trucked towed within 12 hours of their arrival (in small print on a sign "No Parking 7:30-9:00 a.m.) and away she went!
I didn't hear how the figured out or were told that their vehicle was at "The Impound".
So, off they went, information and a Discover card in hand for the ticket and the tow. A simple process: pay the ticket and the tow, car released, drive away and Welcome to Philly. Enjoy your stay. Yah, right!
So this guy shows up having lived in Philly for less than 16 hours and is about to run into "The Bureaucracy". He's told of the ticket and the towing charges ($125 I believe). OK. "We need your registration and proof of insurance before we can release your car." They're in the car. OK, here's a red permission card that will allow you to go to your car to get your registration and proof of insurance. Just present it to the officer (not attendant, "officer") at the blue booth. he does as he's instructed. And tells the "officer" (instant respect with that title, right?) that he also needs to get his wallet and cash. SCREECH!!!! Oh, no, she (the booth "officer") says. She then tells him why he needs a new card, completely filled out, to get his wallet, HIS wallet out of HIS car. But, he protests, I just want to get my wallet also. Nope. And she makes it clear, VERY clear that he needs a new form, again telling him to have it completely filled out to be able to retrieve anything BUT his registration and proof of insurance. he begins to express his frustration and is told, in NO uncertain terms "Don't you go off on me like that!!!" OK, he'll just get those documents and shut up.
He retrieves registration, proof of insurance and gets back in line. He then notices that the PPA takes Visa and Mastercard. No Discover card. He gets to the window. New "officer" behind the bullet proof window. The man tells the "officer" what's transpired and that he needs to retrieve his wallet where he has a Visa card. No problem, says the officer. Take this card to the "officer" at the blue booth and the "officer" will escort you to your car. The card the "officer" gives the man is a red card. The man dutifully again does as he's instructed. Upon his arrival at the blue booth, Mizzzzz "Officer" CompassionandTolerance sees his red card and hears what he needs to retrieve and immediately berates him as she was abundantly clear on his last visit that he was ONLY allowed to retrieve registration and proof of insurance. The man (as tempted as I am to refer to him as the "victim") repeats the same story he told the bullet proof officer. Officer
CompassionandTolerance repeats again, in a sharply voiced reprimand, that she was quite clear in what the red card allowed. The man repeats again that he was clear what he wanted in his description. Seems Officer Bullet Proof was hasty and gave the man the wrong card. No fault of the man's part. No fault at all. No matter. Rules is rules are rules. We have a process says Officer CompassionandTolerance. So, back to Officer Bullet Proof for the proper form, completely and correctly filled out. This time, finally, everything works out and the man has all the proper forms, cards, credit cards, and approval of "The Bureaucracy" to be able to pay his fine, tow charges and get the other proper form at another window showing he has fully paid all, then gets a release form that he then presents to, who class, who...? CORRECT-Officer CompassionandTolerance, who still is berating the man for Officer Bullet Proof's mistake. And the man and his wife retrieve the car and begin their life in Philly.
Teacup Two
After a night of clubbing, a woman and her brother (celebrating his 21st birthday) had parked in a "No Stopping" space. She mentioned that the sign was posted with a number of others and all were fairly confusing. Well, a new Officer Bullet Proof agreed with her (there was then a video shot of three signs with an arrow on each pointing three different directions complete with three different times, all confusing. Real confusing. But, ya gotta put the sign where the bureaucrat says "put this sign there").So, again "proof of registration and insurance, please." You know where they are. Red card, blue booth. Thankfully Officer CompassionandTolerance is off duty. The woman who owns the car is also handicapped from a motorcycle accident and walking long distances are painful for her. But, off she trudges and retrieves the necessary documents. Back to new Officer bullet Proof. Oh, oh...Insurance has expired. Date on the insurance card reads "12-21". This is late May. What to do at 2:00 a.m.? Walk back and look again. Nothing. So,call the 24 hour line at USAA and have USAA fax the current insurance info to the PPA at the fax number in new Officer Bullet Proof's office. 24 hour line called. A recording is heard: "The system is temporarily down. Please call back later." The PPA Impound Lot office closes at 3:00 a.m. Brother and sister call again and again. Tick, tock on the clock, closer to 3:00 a.m. and pumpkin time for our hapless clubbing brother and sister (whose leg is now bothering her). Finally, success! The USAA system is up and the request is taken and the current insurance information is on its electronic way to new Officer Bullet Proof. Fax arrives. Oh, oh...Now, as it's 2:57 a.m and locks are being put on PPA Impound Lot entrance/exit, new Officer Bullet Proof's supervisor , Sergeant IHaveAWhiteShirtandBadgetoShowIAMinChargeHere takes over. We have a problem he intones with much, much bureaucratic seriousness. The information faxed from USAA is exactly the same as what our now frustrated painful leg car owner has retrieved form her car. The date is still "12-21". However, there is another glaring "oopsy" from our gallant PPA. The submitted insurance card and the new fax from USAA clearly states that the insurance "expires six months" from "12-21". Well, our intrepid new Officer Bullet Proof was told that, but insisted that "12-21" was the expiration date (after all, could he be faulted that nearly all other insurance companies mark their cards with an expiration date rather than an "expires six months from" date? I hear a federal regulation on expiration dates in the offing...). Well, now that new Officer Bullet Proof and new Officer Bullet Proof's supervisor , Sergeant IHaveAWhiteShirtandBadgetoShowIAMinChargeHere finally see their mistake, we also learn that new Officer Bullet Proof's supervisor , Sergeant IHaveAWhiteShirtandBadgetoShowIAMinChargeHere is also a math genius. "12-21" (December 21st) plus six months = "5-21"(May 21st). And therefore, the insurance is expired. No, brother and sister attempt to instruct new Officer Bullet Proof's supervisor , Sergeant IHaveAWhiteShirtandBadgetoShowIAMinChargeHere. "12-21" plus six months="6-21". Repeat new Officer Bullet Proof's supervisor , Sergeant IHaveAWhiteShirtandBadgetoShowIAMinChargeHere's addition of six months onto "12-21" to get 5-21 proving that he's waiting to hear from Lawrenece Livermore to accept the post as Head of Theoretical Physics. Sister and brother repeat. And lo and behold new Officer Bullet Proof's supervisor , Sergeant IHaveAWhiteShirtandBadgetoShowIAMinChargeHere sees that he forgot to carry pi to the e in the regressive application calculation.
And so, at 3:00 a.m., after having wasted a full hour of their time while the highly trained PPA staff once again earns their pay, off sister and brother drive.
So, what was the future I saw in these two scenes? Here is my eureka moment: what I was seeing, on a micro scale at the PPA Impound Lot was how national health care was going to be run, administered, practiced and enjoyed.
National health care is not going to be run by you. It will not be run by your doctor (assuming that you'll be able to have a doctor, "your" doctor that will have a comprehensive view of your health history). It will not be run by your family. It will not be run by mothers and fathers for their children and family. It will not be run by sons and daughters for their aging parents. It will not be run by health care specialists or hospital staff. It will not be run by a Health Care Czar.
It will be run by faceless, nameless bureaucrats that you may or may not ever see. It will be run by functionaries that have rules and procedures that must be adhered to. It will be run by the health care equivalents of
Officer CompassionandTolerance and new Officer Bullet Proof's supervisor Sergeant IHaveAWhiteShirtandBadgetoShowIAMinChargeHere.
These people may, or may not, give a rip about you, your health, your cancer, your child's suffering at 2:57 a.m. because there are rules, hours, procedures and closing times. And those rules, hours and procedures must, repeat MUST be adhered to!
The two most important things I saw? Above all, they have the power over you! They may be little, faceless people at a crappy government steel desk,sitting in a crappy government desk chair, in a government paint job office someplace, putting in their exactly 8 hours a day (with 45 minutes for lunch) but, by checking one box or another, they have power! POWER!
The second thing I saw: if they make a mistake, you suffer. They don't. Period! Again, they have the power. And again,you don't. An appeal to the upper levels, or at least a higher level, to
correct an obvious mistake will yield whatever that level decides. Good luck!
Oh, and one more thing: you can't fire them. You can't go anywhere else as that would be black market health care and there will be severe penalties for freedom of choice being exercised in America.
That's what I saw watching videos of the PPA in action with the citizens of Philadelphia, PA.


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