News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Shooting fish in a barrel is not an Olympic sport

Some friends of mine are pissed off at the government, especially our state. One friend — let’s call her Lucy — complains that the State of Oregon is “incompetent.”

It’s a reasonable accusation. I spent a couple hours on the State of Oregon’s webpage for pandemic unemployment assistance. Haven’t seen a dime yet.

But I also spent hours on a simple matter with a local, private company. I wasn’t asking them to make millions of dollars appear, figure out which of the over 362,000 citizens who applied deserves a share of it, then deliver each their portion using various feats of computer-aided logistics. Nope: that’s the enormous request I’ve made of the State of Oregon.

From the private entity, I simply needed to log onto my accounts. One of their third-party providers of digital something-or-other got hacked, and then they upgraded a thingamajig, and then none of my accounts worked, on phone or computer. All this happened to coincide with COVID hitting the fan; walking into their office to sort things out wasn’t an option.

Digital upgrades are a big deal; I get that. In fact, I worked so hard on an upgrade for an online company back in the Internet Stone Age (a.k.a. the early 1990s) that I managed to permanently injure my hands and arms. So, I was willing to cut a local business some slack as they waded through the mire of their technology. Even though the service they provide is essential to me and my family, and we — like most of you, dear readers — were having a pretty weird, rough time already.

The nice people at the company sent apologetic emails. A customer service representative eventually took my call and alleged to solve my problem.

Three days later I once again couldn’t log in. It was 8:30 on a weekday morning. Tried to call customer support. They weren’t open yet.

Huh. Even the State of Oregon’s unemployment office answers calls that time of day.

Speaking of governments everyone loves to bitch and moan about: check out what the federal gubmint has been up to. They’ve managed to put operators on the horn over the weekends, so the Small Business Administration can administer emergency pandemic loans seven days a week.

A loved one got through fast on a Sunday call to SBA. Now his loan is sittin’ pretty in his company’s bank account and his employees are getting paid.

But here I was at 8:30 on a business day, unable to get through to my essential services provider…which also happens to be my friend Lucy’s employer.

I’m not mad at Lucy’s employer. (Nor am I mad at Lucy, a very smart and awesome person who sews beautiful COVID masks for the community whilst I tap uselessly away at my computer, spewing words into the ether.) I’m also not mad at the State of Oregon.

Whenever you get a bunch of people, procedures, and computers together, there will be failures. There will be stupidity. There will be aggravation, grumpiness, and lots of waiting. That’s just reality.

Would I like to see a better, shinier reality? Sure, I’m always up for Utopia. In the meantime, I’m going to give both my sweet local company and my beloved State a break. I’m gonna say: People are doing their best.

Hell, I’ll even go out on a limb and thank the federal government for not imploding — at least not completely, not yet.

Government’s an easy target. It’s big! It takes money from us! Its largest budget item is devoted to killing other people, including civilians, often in gruesome and torturous ways!

It’s got a plethora of easy-to-loathe public faces! In DC: snarky Tweet-bots, grumpy old people, clichéd Millennial Instagram Influencers, narcissistic buffoons.

Over the pass in Salem: career paper-pushers who can’t see past the confines of the Willamette Valley, PERS mismanagers, lunatics who believe their fellow Americans are actively trying to wrangle a Communist Chinese takeover. Manning the bridge, a rather nerdy and unspectacular bureaucrat.

Fish in a barrel, my friends. Fish…in…a…barrel.

There’s a reason shooting such fish is not an Olympic sport. It ain’t sporting.

In a more sportsmanlike spirit, I propose a different narrative. What if the State of Oregon has done a pretty good job in the pandemic? Washington exploded with COVID-19 cases. California was next. Here we are, sandwiched between them, with respectably low death rates and plenty of hospital beds.

Should someone in Oregon have a heart attack from getting worked up about government overreach, the ER can zap ‘em back to life.

Kate Brown and her cushy-government-job underlings can’t magically find all the money and distribute it to 362,000 people with a snap of their greasy, sausage-like, Democrat-electing fingers? So it frickin’ goes! Waiting is frustrating, but no more so than dealing with the average non-governmental entity.

Is there a solution to the ills we face as a nation, a state, and a society? I dunno. I do know we’re not gonna find it in a barrel full of spent lead and rotting fish. Here’s hoping we move on to something tougher, more productive, and less stinky.


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