Saturday, July 15, 2006

Ask for Betty...

She's the person who runs the New Castle County Tax Office all by herself.

The background: In order to get a property tax exemption, you need to submit a form, along with a copy of your last year's IRS forms. Then there is a school tax exemption, for which you submit another form, along with--wait for it--a copy of your last year's IRS forms. Why two forms, and two IRS copies, I don't know. You'd better talk to Betty.

I duly sent both these things to the same place. Weeks later, I get one of the forms back because I hadn't signed it. I put it somewhere safe. It is now in a secure location, the same one which contains a CD of all our family photos and a pair of gold earrings. Some day when my heirs and assigns are cleaning out my possessions ("Why did the old bat keep all this crap?") they will find all these things.

So I call the New Castle County tax office. After three employees had kicked the can down the road ("We don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' no tax forms, Ms Scarlett", I was told to call back next Tuesday and ask for Betty. Of course I forgot.

A couple of weeks later, someone from the tax office called and left a cryptic message on my voice mail.

I called back, and got someone who was very pleasant, but said I would have to call back and talk to Betty. She gave me a direct phone number.

Later, I called Betty's direct line. But Alice answered. I asked for Betty; she was not in today. Alice and I had a nice discussion which ultimately did not lead anywhere productive. Alice said she would look into the matter and call me back. If I did not hear from her, I should call on Monday and ask for Betty.

I have a mental picture of Betty. She's a woman over a certain age--no-one young is called Betty. She's been with the county for over 25 years and wears her reading glasses on a chain around her neck. While all the young whippersnappers around her are playing games on their computers or talking about their hot dates on Saturday night, Betty does the work. Her word goes around the tax office.

Betty knows where everything is. And everyone. She knows when the director is off playing golf instead of on the job. When the director wants anything, she finds it. She tells him what to do. He does it. She knows which employees are slackers, and which are workers.

Her desk is always clean, and she has a potted plant on it, which she waters every Tuesday. She polishes her desk every couple of weeks, and uses Goo-gone on her computer keyboard, which is spotless.

What will happen to New Castle County tax business when Betty retires? Is there a slightly younger Betty, perhaps a Patty or Florence, to run the county's affairs? Or is it all over when Betty goes?

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