Did you go to HR ?
Ada and I went over to the school district headquarters , to the Benefits office on the 28th floor. We wanted a statement from Benefits that Ada gets no benefits from her few years of work as a teacher with LAUSD . Another bureaucracy , Social Security, demanded verification of this .
It seemed to me that it should be an easy thing to provide a statement to that effect . It’s not like she wanted to claim any benefits , after all. Ah ! , but I know LAUSD from my decades of working there . Nothing is easy . Passing the Buck is their specialty . If you were to ask seven people at LAUSD headquarters the same question you would get seven different answers , and the seven would change the answers if you were to ask them the next day.
I spent 45 minutes the day before we visited the headquarters on the phone being passed around from one LAUSD office to another . I had begun with the Benefits Office. The woman who answered the phone would not so much as let me explain what it was I needed , yet she told me I had the wrong office . Insisted. 100% the wrong office , she told me . That’s after she made me wake Ada up from a nap because she insisted that I was not authorized to speak for my wife . I woke Ada up and she spoke to the woman for a minute or two , got nowhere , and returned the phone to me . And I can’t transfer you to any other office , the woman told me .
I hung up on her at this point and I called a friend of mine who had been Principal of several LAUSD schools . He told me that I should call HR . I called HR . HR transferred me to Employee Relations . A woman there told me not to use the word ” verification ” for what I needed ; otherwise I would have to be transferred to another office . You have to use the right lingo , she said . I asked for the right lingo for my request and she gave me a few pointers .
Employee Relations transferred me back to HR who transferred me to Benefits . Got nowhere and gave up for the day . Nothing would be managed by phone I realized, so Ada and I went down to LAUSD headquarters the next day to wrestle the beast .
The clerk at Benefits asked immediately : Have you been to HR ?
Yes , I said , I’ve been to HR after talking to Benefits . HR sent me to Employee Relations who sent me back to HR who sent me back to Benefits . We have a very simple request .
I laid it out as simply as I could for the guy . We need a letter from Benefits that states that Ada receives no benefits from LAUSD based on her employment with LAUSD . He said that he’d ask his supervisor and he disappeared into a maze of cubicles . He was nice about it , at least. Things are looking up ! In a couple of minutes he reappeared shaking his head and told us that the supervisor wouldn’t do it .
I asked to talk to the supervisor in person . To my surprise the young man agreed to go back to the supervisor and pass on my request . To my utter astonishment a supervisor came out to talk to us after a few minutes .
No , he couldn’t answer our request , he told us . First of all , he said in true LAUSD method , this office doesn’t have employee records before 2006 due to an overhaul of the computer system . This was meant to shoo us on to whatever LAUSD office might have those records . But you , I mean the Benefits Office , has access to those records , right ? I pointed out to him and he reluctantly abandoned that particular pass-the buck ploy . Actually , someone on the phone the day before had tried the same tactic . No , he was stuck with us.
Five minutes into his poo-pooing our ( what seemed like a simple )request , I could see Ada wavering . I held strong . I would talk to this guy calmly but insistently until he got mad and stormed off . Might happen . When the supervisor told us what agency we should go to instead of Benefits I asked him to write us a simple statement on LAUSD letterhead stating briefly that we had come in with a request and that he could not help us .
He kept telling us that the request made no sense . Ada said that she had made the same request of a local library where she had worked and that they had happily agreed to provide us an e-mail in response. He told us , well, that was a small city library and LAUSD Benefits Office was part of a huge bureaucracy with its own rules and regulations . Oh , like the Social Security Department , I said , who are demanding the information ?
In all candor, it just doesn’t make sense to me , he said . He repeated that about six times over the fifteen minute conference .
With all due respect , I said ( having never before in my life used that phrase ) you don’t need to make sense of it . Social Security asked for it . We need to show them something .
He agreed , in the end , to send us a brief e-mail saying that former employee Ada was receiving no benefits from the Benefits Office of LAUSD . He sent such an e-mail the next day . It consisted of one sentence . Probably took the guy two minutes to complete our simple request.
What’s the expression about making a mountain out of a molehill ?