This language, such a silky song of bureaucratic thinking

Posted by & filed under Misc, Oddities.

Everyday I run into oddities of the language. I suppose I pay attention because English is not my frist language. Technically speaking it’s not even my second, though leftovers of my German are barely enough to say Wienerschnitzel (I have to remember to write an ode to the wonders of childish stubbornness towards anything knowledge, multiplied by the soviet foreign language schooling, resulting in such pitiful outcome).
So, when I read, say, a bill from the city, I try to understand, how exactly people come up with this stuff. What do they mean? What was the reason write explanations of charges in this way, instead of the human way?

Here’s an excerpt from the City of Austin bill:

“Solid Waste Service”
I don’t want waste to be serviced. Can I have “trash removal” instead? No, of course I can’t.
Anti-Litter Residential ($5.00)
These people have something against cat litter? Or is this an advance fine for littering on the street? Maybe littering inside the house (residential, after all), or do they mean guests of the city litter for free. So not fair!

Res. – Base Customer Charge ($8.75)
Spelling out “residential” twice is hard, so let’s shorten it. But then, why not just call it base service charge? It doesn’t matter how many people live at the address anyways.

Res 60 Gallon Cart@ $10.00 each ($10.00)
Third time “residential” is mentioned, so the dot evaporated too. Plus, if it’s a solid waste, why is this cart measured in gallons, like milk? I understand that my metric brain can’t really comprehend the volume of 60 gallons, hopefully locals can (by the way, that would be the output of an “average” holstein cow over a period of 10 days).

Sales Tax
Hey, I am not selling the garbage! Nor buying it. Nevertheless, it is charged here ($1.56). But not on water service. Hm…

Drainage/Street Service
They charge it no matter what time of year it is. Even when there’s drought.

Comprehensive Drainage Fee ($7.75)
Um… is there a shortened or small drainage fee? Apparently not. Calling it “street cleaning” would be too human, I suppose.

Transportation User Fee ($6.63)
This one has a small note, saying that if you’re over 65 or don’t drive/own a car, then you can get an exemption. First I thought that this is a “bus” fee — I mean there is a public transportation system in Austin, however unusable in suburbs. But apparently it’s just a charge for driving on the roads. I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise.

Another small weirdness hides behind water/wastewater service. Water service section has “customer charge” and “consumption charge”, while wastewater has “customer charge” and “flow charge”. Why one is consumption (I can’t consume 400 gallons of water, though I can use as much) and the other is flow? Mystery…

Bonus note. Billing rates for water and wastewater are listed as:
$1.0000000 and $3.4300000 per 1,000 gallons
1.2345678
Now, let’s see how much water (and sewer service) can one consume before the last digit becomes relevant. Presuming rounding is important, 10,000,000 gallons (which would result in $10,000 bill, if scale was linear, which it is not). That would be a 267 feet long x 50 feet wide x 10 feet deep pool filled 10 times over. I’m not quite sure that would qualify as “residential”, especially within city limits…

All this out of a single bill… phew… better go pay it now, or no matter what language they use, the outcome will be regretful.

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