Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Letter from California-October 25, 2004

Once you hit 12, you have to accept the fact that in today’s America, Halloween is not really designed for your enjoyment. Of course, nothing’s physically stopping you from putting on a Freddy Krueger mask, walking the streets with a pillowcase and asking for candy, but it’s creepy. Besides that, your wife will never believe your explanation for the five quarts of Good ’n’ Plentys and Tootsie Rolls you bring home.

Just because you’re not cute in a Chewbacca costume anymore doesn’t mean you can’t have your share of spooky moments, though. For example, just this morning, I had a bone-chilling Halloween experience of my own just sitting in my dining room reading the newspaper. Imagine my terror when I found out that in the last 15 months, the City of Los Angeles has only fired six employees for poor performance. Just so you know, not counting police officers, fire fighters, and politicians, LA employees 37,000 people. If only six have been fired in 15 months, only two possible explanations exist: first, the City of Los Angeles hires the world’s most talented people and makes almost no mistakes; or second, egg-headed Aliens routinely abduct incompetent LA City employees just before they’re about to be fired. I admit that both seem unlikely, but let’s be realistic. It’s got to be the alien abduction thing. Maybe the Visitors from Beyond need L.A.’s most useless civil servants to train the home planet on effective methods for human torture. Day 1: Extreme Surliness; Day 2: High Taxes with No Visible Benefits; Day 3: Start Street Construction Project, Stop Halfway Through, Disappear Forever, Perhaps Because of Alien Abduction.

Statistically, City of LA workers don’t stand much of a chance of feeling the sting of the firing boot. In fact, a garbage collector in the city actually has a better chance of being attacked by a pistol-packing has-been celebrity than being let go, and that’s even with Robert Blake in jail and OJ living in Florida! That’s how hard it is for the city to get rid of its most hopeless slackers. If you’d been suspended five times, caught making illegal turns in your garbage truck, skipped work frequently, and disobeyed your boss, what would you do to show your employers that you deserved to keep your job?

If you were like one City of LA sanitation engineer, you’d crash your truck into a pole. Not a wise career strategy you say? That shows what you know. That man merrily hauls garbage through the streets of LA to this day, still worried more about getting shot by Sharon Stone than in keeping his truck off the sidewalk. It’s so difficult and legally risky to fire even the most obviously brainless City worker that no one tries. They just move the real stinkers from department to department like a little kid moving peas around his plate, hoping his mom thinks it looks like he’s eaten enough of them to get dessert. Does it work? Well, did it work for you with the peas?

Big cities aren’t the only ones with a talent for using human resources badly. Our local paper this week reported that Monterey Park, a small city about 10 miles east of Los Angeles, got a $227,000 grant from the State of California to be used by its police department. What did they do to earn such an honor? They had the second most fatal accidents among pedestrians over 65 for California cities of their size. Huh? Am I reading this right? If you do a bad job keeping Grandma safe from runaway garbage trucks, you get money? Wouldn’t it make more sense to punish the city in some way? Maybe you could make the police and the mayor walk to work every day. If they survive the year, they get their cars back, but at least that would motivate them to fix the problem. I’d also tie teriyaki-glazed pork chops to their sneakers and release wolves two minutes after they left, but that’s just me.

Instead, the Monterey Park police are using the money to build a driving simulator that they can take to community events. Once again, that sounds like a reward to me. I’ve known some offices that had foosball tables or maybe even a video game or two. A full-blown driving simulator, though, might be a little too much fun, especially for a group that needs to spend less time on virtual reality roads and more time on ones that actually exist.

So if an L.A. city garbage truck comes barreling down your street, swerving from lane to lane, knocking down elderly strollers like bowling pins, you don’t need to worry. The Monterey Park cops will be along in no time with video games to take everyone’s mind off the whole situation.

Best of all, you’ll hardly notice the tax increase it’s going to take to pay for it.


Post a Comment

<< Home