Why have a blog if you can't be snarky?*

Well, after my blissful 10 days off, I returned to the grind, and one more happy customer.  In my real work life, I'm courteous and professional, but this was kind of therapeutic to write.  The regular text is word for word from an e-mail I received, and the italics are what I wish I could say...

it's amazing how time flies when nothing is being done. It is bad enough that I have to ask the government-no..pay the government to tell me I have a wetland on my property, but now I have to chase the issue. So far I've--paid $770 for which I expect to receive nothing of value.

Oh, you are so right!  You haven’t received any benefit from the zoning code.  At all.  Because who cares if your neighbors construct a meat rendering plant or an amusement park near your back yard, or put their drainfield in the wetland that feeds your well?  That wouldn’t be a problem.  The land use regulations that have kept this huge, fast-growing county fairly rural have done absolutely nothing for you, and your $770 is just pure government waste.  I see what you mean.

This is designated for someone on the payroll to drive out to my property and point at the water. 2) with no response in a month I made the trip to Renton to be told that my paperwork hadn't yet reached the desk of the person who will assign it a number....Later you e-mail that something could possibly happen.
Oh, sorry, I thought it was customer service to contact you and let you know we’d received your application and it takes 4 – 6 weeks before someone could get to it.  I thought it might actually help in your planning, but please forgive the intrusion. 

 3)Approaching two months, I am writing to see if any intelligent life exists in your office.

I like how you think, customer.  You really have a way with people!  Hey, why don’t you swing by with some IQ tests or something.   Oh, and when you come, could you bring me a cup of coffee?  Double tall latte, please.  Because that’s what we do here.

Predictably, you will feel under appreciated, telling me of your work load and the machinery of permitting which you assume I cannot understand. Hardly convincing Betsy.

I’m glad you already figured out what I was gonna’ say, and decided it wasn’t convincing.  Phew, that made it easy for this lazy government slacker!   More time for drinkin’ da java.   And sorry, you’re right, workload has nothing to do with it – the fact that we’ve scaled back from 400 to 100 employees really shouldn’t affect service at all! That would just be lame!

The Executive made the noble gesture of declaring that your agency should start seeing patrons as customers, and that hints at something the private side knows as "customer service". We all recognize it's presence and absence.

Well, if I'm your customer, I'd take my busness elswhere. But of course this is not possible because the government is behaving in a feudal way, assuming total authoriy over property, water, air, animals, movement, imprisoning anyone without the proper paperwork. Yikes!

Exactly.  Why, in my very own attic, I am keeping some Douglas squirrels captive; I won’t let them out without the proper forms.  No, Mr. Customer, I don’t think you’re crazy at all.  I seriously don’t.  (Oh, and speaking of intelligent life?  It’s cool the way you spell stuff.  Super-creative!)

If you are a student of social/political history, you'll know how this trend plays out and it isn't pretty. Rent the movie "Brazil" sometime.

Um, I hate to bring this up, but besides all my other failings, I have a facial recognition disability.  I can only watch really easy movies, movies where the characters look very different from one another.  Movies with lots of white guys in it confuse me.   (In fact, white guys in general confuse me, but that’s for another e-mail.)  That, and the intelligent life thing.  Even if I could tell the people apart, I doubt I could track such a complicated plot.  But anyway, thanks for the tip.  I’ll see if my sister wants to watch it and then explain it to me.  
OK- I know you don't care, so I'll just get to the point.

Oh, there’s a point?  I thought we were just going to be penpals.  Darn!

After your blood cools when you are finished reading this, get up and locate the paperwork. That's right..assume responsibility,take action and follow through. Step two--move the paperwork to wherever the action takes place so that we can get this step over with, that is, the person can come over and point at the water.

You, my friend, have a good way with people.  It’s all about respect and motivation with you.  I like that.

There will be about 20 permits required of me to build on my own property, Betsy.If all the guardians of each and every permit feels as disconnected from my experience as you do and they take 2 months to do nothing, I'll be approaching two years before the government will grant their almighty permission. Do I have to point out how tragic this all is or are you starting to picture it?

Just to clarify, friend, I feel super-connected to your experience. It is a tragedy, that it will take some effort, money, and time to build a second home on the property you bought three years ago and put into forest preservation, and now want to take out. It should be hassle free, and cost nothing! Guy buys land with house at height of housing boom, three years later wants to build a second house, has to actually determine whether the drainfield and house will be outside of the wetland and stream.  This actually reminds me of King Lear.  Have you read that?  I know!  The plot comparison is uncanny.

Look, I don't want to be penpals, so don't write back to say that something might happen--haha.

Shoot.  Okay, Mr., you’re goin’ a little too far.  Why don’t you want to be pen pals?  Come on.  Pretty please? What?  Does this font make my butt look big?  I liked your use of “haha,” by the way.  It made me feel even closer to you.  And I know for sure you have a good sense of humor.  :-)  (That's a smiley face, fyi!)

Try being data-rich-" so-and-so will call to schedule the site-visit 11/24/10 to your number XXX XXX-XXXX between 10 and noon, Mr Customer"

Okay, I hate to be picky and full of excuses, because I know how you hate that, and I’m trying to win you back.  I need a pen pal like you, one who will recommend movies and stuff.  But um, the number you gave?  It goes to the voice mail of a young woman who’s never heard of you.  I know, that might seem like just one more lame excuse from the government, but truly, it does make it a little hard.  Oh, and by the way, I love your suggestion that I be data-rich.  I’m all about that.  (It feels like we’re getting to know each other a little bit here, doesn’t it?  I like that.  :-))

If there is no action very soon, you will be mentioned in my next communication with The Executive as we discuss the relative failure of his "customer" vision.

We'll see if you can do it.  I doubt it.

Thanks so much for writing!  I hope you had a great holiday.  You should totally try my Aunt Gladys’ Steamed Cranberry pudding


  1. Dearest Betsy, I love your inner stark - one of many many things I love about you. As for Mr.Customer, please provide me with his address. I would like to shave his head and paint a picture of a blue bottom on it. It is definitely called for in this situation.


  2. I always wondered what "snarky" meant. Now I know. (or was that "snarly") Don't you just love words?

  3. Are you sure that your neighbor to the north, Sarah P, didn't write this?

  4. I'm pretty sure it's your inner stark that attracts me as well, or is it your inner spark....at any rate, I think all of us catblogreaders should acquire this delightful gentleman's-why do I assume he's a he- address and collectively answer his arrogant and sniveling missive.

  5. remember the secret word that we wouldn't tell the girls until they were older? Well, this letter was written by one.


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