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cassette decks in action

a couple of weeks ago, i got a parking citation for being in a spot for longer than two hours in a two-hour zone when i had actually left for lunch and come back to the same spot. It felt worth a trip to downtown to try to dispute it. I took the day off today to take care of a bunch of errands in preparation for the drumline party tonight and Carl's arrival tomorrow, and this was one of the checklist items.

i didn't win the dispute because i didn't keep a receipt of me going to lunch so it was basically my word against the officer who issued the ticket. i could have fought it, but it would have required going to a hearing at a specific date and time in late may that didn't seem worth it, so i said, "i'll just pay the ticket."

That's not what this blog entry is about. What the blog entry is about is the process they have in place to deal with these disputes.

The front desk person had a computer at her desk, but she didn't use it except for a brief moment when i gave her my information. When i handed her the ticket, she wrote down my information on a paper spreadsheet in which my information was a single line below about fifteen other entries. She wrote down the date, the ticket number, my car information, and then asked me for my name and address before handing me a couple of papers to sign.

I watched this happen and thought, "this seems outdated. i know that this information is already present in a database somewhere because i have the ability to pay this ticket online. if anyone would want to find this data later, it would be a huge pain in the rear unless they have someone data-entrying all of this after the fact, but if that were the case then why don't they just do it from the outset? I could definitely find ways to make this whole process more efficient."

Then i waited for a very small amount of time before getting called back to a back office to plead my case. I walked into the office, the guy in charge said, "sit in that orange chair," which was on the opposite side of his desk. And on his desk sat two honest-to-god cassette decks. p> like, the relatively small rectangular kind where the speaker was a square, the cassette tape mechanism is right below that, and the row of buttons is below that. tech that i haven't used in any degree of seriousness for over twenty-five years.

The guy hit play and record at the same time. He spoke out loud a summary of the case, he made me raise my right hand and pledge that i was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me god. We went through it, and at the end of the whole thing he hit stop.

i wanted to ask all of these questions. how many of these tapes do you have in archive? how many do you actually ever go back and listen to again? do you index each case in a way that makes it easy to find on a tape if you have to? Isn't that cumbersome? I guess you're low on the totem pole for an increase in budget or a one-time budget to move all of this to current technology and this is just how you've been doing it for the past 25 years?

I didn't ask any of those questions. not because i was afraid to, but it's a busy day for me and i was also running out of time on my parking meter. So i just said thanks, paid my ticket at the payment window (the only window that seemed to actually use a computer for a bulk of her job and this process), and left.

It was fascinating. And something that i wish i or someone else could be brought in as a consultant to fix. with how many of these cases that they have to deal with, they deserve better data recording and collection methods to make their job easier and to serve the city better. And if that division is outdated in that way, i shudder to think what else in this city could be the same way.

Comments

( read spoken (3) — speak )
belenen
May. 2nd, 2014 03:42 am (UTC)
whaaaaaat, how strange and bureaucratypical. That takes so much space and is such a delicate form of storage, terrible.
lifeofmendel
May. 2nd, 2014 04:26 am (UTC)
When i posted this on g+, my brother pointed me to this article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2014/03/22/sinkhole-of-bureaucracy/
sabr
May. 7th, 2014 12:46 am (UTC)
This is so fascinating to me, because I work in a upper level position of the county clerk's office. SO MUCH of what we do is still a manual process - and as one of the "young minds" in the office, I am dragging the office out of the ice age, but there is so much room for improvement beyond what we've already improved.

And to think, as a metro-Atlanta county, which has maintained our excellent credit rating throughout the recession and been able to keep above water instead of hemorrhaging money, we're ahead of the curve. Scary.
( read spoken (3) — speak )

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