Hard Time

I had some business with the state's motor vehicles division back in December. I called repeatedly, getting a busy signal for 20 minutes.

After finally getting through, I got a long computerized message (another four minutes). Then I talked with an actual human being, who was polite but couldn't help me because my question was a personal one about my license plate tags, not generic.

He, being Level 1, forwarded me to Level 2--what is this nonsense?, I thought at the time--where I listened to recorded Christmas music for 12 minutes. Finally, I got Kathy, who politely solved my problem in two minutes flat--nearly 40 minutes after I started.

Only now do I learn that Level 1 couldn't help me because that was an inmate doing time at the state prison on South Houghton Road. Prisoners can answer generic questions, but are barred from access to my personal files in the MVD computer.

The state employs prisoners as MVD call-center workers because they're cheap--50 to 80 cents an hour--and because, well, they're cheap--not enough MVD workers to answer the public's phone calls.

And still it took almost 40 minutes by phone to find out what happened to the license plate sticker that I had paid for, and not received, two months earlier.

Oh well, it could be worse. The state could be dithering as a budget crisis worsens, or plotting how to siphon millions in Indian casino gambling revenues, or selling state-owned buildings to the city for a dreaded highway.

Wait, they're doing all that and more. Your state government at work--read all about it in this week's issue.