So I had a crazy past 6 months. At the end of a 5-day hospital stay caused by an undiagnosed allergy to presciption antiobotics that nearly made my skin fall off, I went home for Christmas and had a great time.
Then I came back to work early to finish out the last days of 2009 - and was laid off on December 31st.
At which point I attempted to file for unemployment, and entered into Kafkafornia. Kind of like the Twilight Zone, but sunnier and more vapid.
I wanted to talk with someone before I filed, so I could make sure I filed at the right time, and do everything properly. There's a phone help line - that tells you to go the website and then hangs up on you. There was no office I could find that had a single human being available to talk with you.
So I filed online, and then looked around some more. There had to be someone somewhere, I figured. Finally I found a strange sort of satellite office located in the upstairs floor of a train station. I called and asked if I'd be able to speak with someone if I came there. They said yes.
So I showed up, waited in line at the desk, and finally got to the desk. I told the clerk I wanted to talk with someone about unemployment. He said I should just file and see. I told him again I wanted to talk with someone. He then handed me a slip of paper with a 3-digit number on it.
To paraphrase, he then said "There's a phone behind you with a direct connection to the unemployment office."
"The same number as on the website?" I said in disbelief.
"Yes. But this time, when you hear 'Welcome', enter this number. If you don't get through, try again. You should reach someone in 4 or 5 tries."
I looked over at the phone. There were 10 guys ahead of me, waiting. Figuring at least 5 minutes to get someone on the line, and at least another 5 minutes for their question, that's 100 minutes.
So I went home, filed, and watched some TV.
The worst thing about this is, on the surface this looks like bureaucracy grown out of control. But in fact it's exactly the opposite: it's cost-cutting gone wild. Rather than hiring people to help the populace, California has cut corners in every way possible to still barely serve the public.
And so it goes.
Boy, California and America in general better get it together. I can't honestly blame Schwarzenegger, at least not alone; the budget's been a mess since Enron days, and it's only continued it's slide. But it's not going to last much longer.
As for America, I think Obama has misread the public, and is delivering a Bill Clinton-style administration when what the country needs is FDR. In defense of Obama, FDR inherited a far worse crisis which enabled him to have far more leeway. But the change Obama promised is unlikely to be delivered with compromise.
I don't think they realize how close the seemingly sleepy public is to pitchforks and torches. One day, it's going to be one corporate bonus or cozy bank deal too much. I'm shocked it hasn't been already. But I guess we're all hope fiends right now.