How may we be of service?

One of the genuinely rewarding things about living in the Outpost is dealing with public services. Most services of the Principality I have dealt with as a member of the general public are swift, polite and spectacularly efficient. Now, before I am once more blamed for sweepingly making coarse generalisations based on half-truths, here is my evidence.

Years ago, recently arrived from the UK — from the fief of blinding ineptitude called ntl, more specifically — I went to Outpost Telecom to ask for a landline at 11:45. I was connected at 13:20. The technician actually rang me in the office to politely request I gave him access to my flat at around 1 pm. “What, already?” He seemed perplexed by my disbelief.

The Electricity Authority are slightly slower: it took them one day to have us connected. But they have even nicer offices and even more polite employees. So there.

The local Water Board is as the above. Untypical in being star efficient.

Generally, paying bills is easy and complaints are processed swiftly: the longest I had to wait for one to be addressed (in anticipation of ADSL) was 20 minutes — and they dealt with the whole thing the following day (I had called at 8 pm)…

Yesterday it was the Inland Revenue’s turn to impress me. I was in at 8.20 (remember, services open at ungodly hours here), I was out at 9.10. That is, having completed my tax forms for three years and having registered for the online system, so that “I can do my income declaration online next year and save myself the hassle”. I mean, hello there, I had not declared my income for 2003 and 2004 and I came in way after the 2005 deadline. No fine? No chastisement? No nothing? Nobody blinked. Moreover, the tax forms themselves are so straightforward, you need no accountant to fill them out — something hard to imagine in Compatridia. Ok, yes, the Principality is small, but, seriously, have they not heard of bureaucracy? Making the public’s life hard just to sardonically assert clerical authority?

Now, I wish things with the Principality Police or the Immigration Service were a tiny fraction as efficient and polite (although I have no personal complaint with either as yet). But hey…

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5 thoughts on “How may we be of service?

  1. While it is true that the phone and electricity authorities are fast and efficient when it comes to connections and the like, there are places were it takes forever to process even the simplest of things.

    For one, they lack coordination between them. Ever seen a road been opened up three times by each of the phone, electicity and water authorities in turn? Ever seen a 150 metre road take over three months to complete (and still going)? Yes, I guess some things are improving, but I am not so sure about the service at CYTA – I have had one or two bad experiences and overall, considering, the size of the Outpost things should move much faster. I guess considering there is no infrastrure in place, we are doing pretty well, or at least moving in the correct direction – slowly but surely.

    This online tax form sound very interesting though… they are finally going to make it so we don’t have to leave work to complete things that can be done online?! Usually, I always felt we were masters at creating unecessary bureaucracy – I mean at the U of C, to reserve a basketball court, you have to go in person, get a piece of paper with a date on it and some fat guy’s signature… I mean, isn’t a phone call and an id number sufficient?

  2. Yes, I guess some things are improving

    A piece of serendipity here: I was planning to write a post about how significantly the Outpost seems to have improved since I first landed here. Almost everywhere, the difference is more than visible and most welcome — in most things and situations that cross the paths of my daily life and my own limited dealings in the public sphere, at least.

    Even political awareness seems to finally be coming of age, a development that (maybe not so) paradoxically seems to have been triggered by the sink-or-swim situations and the mass delusion(s) of 2004 — in a sense, annus horribilis / mirabilis 2004 supplied the impetus for some serious thinking and a broad reconsideration of received ideas and established lies, at least among those who are capable of the such.

    I am extremely reluctant to talk about ‘lack of co-ordination’ among different services in the Outpost, as it feels like a pecadillo to me: I have lived in Britain, after all. What I mean is that the services provided in the UK are pathetic, considering the country is among the richest in the world and a prototypical industrialised liberal democracy. It also used to be an imperial superpower, sucking resources and money from half the world, and there is a continuous tradition in serving the public there. On the other hand, the Principality’s authorities have done so much in so little time — and I will no longer buy the usual dismissive comment on the predecessors, the Evil Empire, “having set everything up in a nice organised manner” here, either…

  3. About the only things that are cheap… relative to wages. Anyways, agreed, although I beg to differ on the political awareness. We vote for those that take care of us and give us a comfy government job. That is about all the political awareness we have!

  4. Yes, the Principality is generally both expensive (relative to wages) and usually bad value.

    When I am talking about political awareness I am not considering party politics, which here (like in a number of places) goes on mainly for its own sake, a bit like football, under pretenses that it’s all for the spectators’ entertainment, or, in our case, the common good. What I do have in mind is this: after the cataclysmic events of 2004 — although Jod insists it was solely the Referendum and the Agony surrounding it — fewer Outposters nurse delusions on a series of matters; moreover, for the first time in its long long history inhabitants of the Outpost were forced to make decisions about their future and have had to form a free but binding association with human beings beyond its watery confines — as opposed to being pawns or serfs or slaves or what have you of powers beyond the sea. The difference is (among other things) in accountability. The Principlaity is for the first time in its existence externally accountable… This has already started making a difference among ordinary people, I can for instance see more and more people for which La Grande (and murderous, when not plainly utopian and misguided) Illusion is dead and buried.

    When or how the above will turn into positive political action, is a wholly different matter.

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