Government services

As we've just moved house we have had to deal with more government bureaucracy than usual while getting our gas, water and electricity set up, and it's been a real insight into why so many Americans don't believe the government can effectively deliver services like health care (although, of course, they already do in the form of Medicare). It was only today, six days since we moved in, that we got our gas connected, allowing us to, you know, cook. And turn the fireplaces and heating on. It has truly been a comedy of errors and has cost the household many many hours of time. They were initially booked to come between 8am-12pm on Monday, so K stayed home to be there when they arrived. At 11.49, driven crazy by lack of caffeine, she went around the corner to our local cafe (the Big Bear Cafe, popularly acclaimed as the best cafe in DC), leaving a note on the door with her phone number and explaining that she was only a block away and would only be gone a minute. When she returned 4 minutes later it was to find a note from the gas guy saying he was there at 11.51 and no-one was home. She called the gas agency, asking them to get in touch with the guy, who would only be a minute away, to come back, but they claimed this was impossible. When she pushed the point they hung up on her.

Both K and our flatmate Sarah then called back to complain, asking to be put through to supervisor. Both times they were hung up on again. This is the kind of service a monopoly can get away with I guess, when they're providing a service you cannot function without.

A new time was organized, with the promise that there would be a courtesy call when they were approaching, so a friend working nearby could come over and let them in. No courtesy call, no-one there to let them in, no gas for another 24 hours. And so it went, taking three appointments over four days to sort out. Our experience with the water and electricity companies has been much the same.

It seems fair to assume that this sort of experience makes people less predisposed to supporting government involvement in other areas of their lives, and more suspicious of government claims and services in general.