Say the magic word
1. DMV doublespeak. I observed a Chico DMV patron politely asking to use the restroom. The desk worker told him in great detail that customers are never allowed to do so because the government leases, rather than rents, the Rio Lindo office and thus is not required to provide public restrooms. I talked to Robb Deignan of the state’s Department of General Services. Indeed, state code exempts agencies in older, leased buildings. But in Chico, “they say they do allow people to use the restrooms when they ask.” Customers just need to be escorted back for security reasons. Guess the person I overheard, a man with a Spanish accent, just didn’t know the secret password. But then DMV Spokesman Steve Haskins offered more details: “The staff does try to accommodate little kids and pregnant women who are close to bursting, and the elderly.” But it would take too much time and be risky if everyone got to go, so to speak. “We don’t want just anybody to be able to look at computer screens that are up.” So, Haskins said, next time make an appointment, and you should be in and out of the DMV in five minutes.
2. Harness hypocrisy. When my car’s seat belt broke, I took it to the dealership. They told me the lifetime warranty didn’t include the shoulder belt retractor mechanism, and it would cost me about $400 to fix. So I drove around with just a lap belt for a year, until I learned it was illegal. I called the manufacturer’s national headquarters, which told me to go to the dealership, where my belt was then fixed for free.
3. Bank bunk. I opened an account at the Chico branch of a large bank and was told it didn’t issue temporary checks because this is a “college town.” I smelled a story and called every other bank in town (all issue them) and my bank’s headquarters. Turns out you just have to say you want them really, really bad—or ask for the manager.
4. Apartment angst. In our previous dwelling space, my husband came home to find an unannounced worker drilling into our closet ceiling, depositing gunk all over my clothes and photo albums. The management was rude and dismissive when I asked that they at least pay my dry cleaning bill. Finally, I left a message with my work number and job title. A top manager called back with a personal apology and the next day delivered a gift certificate to Nash’s and a basket of goodies. That’s even worse than the brush-off, in my book.