All the government we pay for

We’re having a business dispute with a supplier, and I had to go down and file a small claims suit this afternoon.

Some parts of it were easy–the forms are online, and you can fill them out on your computer and print them at home.  There are plenty of good instructions, so the process isn’t bad at all.

Then you have to go to the courthouse to file them.  Things start to go downhill quickly.  It took me quite a while online to figure out where to do the filing–the website is very confusing and you could easily end up in the wrong building.  Eventually I worked it out and headed to the René C. Davidson courthouse.

Of course you have to go through security, gotta keep those deputy sheriffs busy.  My suspenders set off the alarm, as everyone knows that all terrorists wear suspenders.

Safely inside,I found the right room and got in line.  A very long line.  A line from the front of the room to the back of the room, around the back wall and nearly to the door.

Here’s part of the reason why:


While you're waiting in an interminable line, you can read why it exists.


There are 8 windows for clerks to be helping.  Three of them were open.


They have the facilities, they just don't have the staff.


After over an hour standing in line, I finally made it up to the window, and things got much better.

I was helped by a very nice woman who knew the ins and outs of filing like the back of her hand.  She shuffled through my papers, used a dozen different stamps in all the right places, asked the questions that helped make sure everything was right, collected my $40 and I was on my way 20 well-spent minutes later.

The problem isn’t with the staff, it’s the lack of staff.  We know budgets have been cut everywhere, but I always wonder how many managers have been let go, or if there is a big crew of senior management all closely watching a tiny cadre of actual worker bees.

It was 2:30 as I left, the official closing time.  I asked the clerk who helped me what really happens, and she assured me that they just close the doors at 2:30, but everyone who is already there and in line would get served.  Seems like a reasonable solution; I would hate to have stood in line an hour and be told to come back the next day.

This won’t get better for a long time, if ever.  If you have to file some papers in Alameda County, go early, bring a book.



One thought on “All the government we pay for

  1. Ah, California. Money to enforce “no frisbee zones” at the beach, money to pay for a train to nowhere in the San Joaquin Valley, but not for essential functions of government like courts. Your tax dollars, working somewhere I hope.

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