Doing Business in the City (Sometimes Government Works)

Old County Courthouse, Knoxville, October 2013
Old County Courthouse, Knoxville, October 2013

We all know that thousands of people work downtown every day. Obviously, they are taking care of business. A few of them live downtown, as well. Still, while we know there are people working in the city, many people tend to think of downtown as the place you go to attend events and have fun. This blog probably contributes to that perception.

But there is much more happening downtown. Maybe it’s just too mundane to discuss, but I think it is worth mentioning that it’s possible to take care of quite a bit of personal business downtown. Today was an example of that and one particular portion left me feeling pretty good about a much maligned institution among us, so I figured I would let you in on the story.

I’ll have to start by being honest and saying I did complete some errands outside the city and I used a (gasp) automobile to do so. I had to take Urban Girl to pre-school and used that trip as an excuse to stop by the everything’s a dollar store and to get gasoline before heading back into the city.

Once here, I met with an insurance adjuster and a repair person about an issue at my home. I dropped a coat off at Prestige Cleaners and there I chatted with Lance, one of the nicest human beings in the city, who has an uncanny memory for names. I stopped into Coldstream Market and checked in with Sandy before buying some coffee beans at Just Ripe. I talked to Kelly Segers about cycling and encouraging bike culture in Knoxville. She pointed out they’ve registered some of the highest bike counts ever, recently.

I talked to John Black and Amanda Taylor at John Black Photography and to Nancy Solomon at Re-runs Boutique. I had lunch at Shuck while working on photographs for the blog.

I also walked to the Old Courthouse to purchase two car tags and to renew my driver’s license. Here’s what you need to know about your government at work, at least as it applies to the people in this department downtown: they rock! I’ve spent many hours in other county/state offices getting the same tags and license and I’ve been treated like an annoyance at best, if not a downright aggravation to those who have to help me get the business done. I’m not calling any names (Farragut), but it was bad – many times.

It’s never been that way at the Old Courthouse downtown. I clipped right through the tag business without a wait. I saw a woman on crutches who, when called to the next available clerk, was helped into a chair and told that the clerk would bring her the papers – no need to walk to the clerk’s desk.

Then there was Paul. Paul was on driver’s license duty and didn’t look particularly happy to be at work. His phone rang constantly and he had a line of people waiting for him. He steadily did his job and finally called me to his desk. He efficiently went about the business and then I realized I didn’t have enough cash. They do not accept cards, which I didn’t realize, and a four dollar fee put the price above what I had in my pocket – by fifty cents.

I confessed to Paul I’d have to get more cash and return later as I was short. And that’s when I realized Paul was as good as the other employees in the house and then some. He unceremoniously took fifty cents out of his own pocket and said, “No problem. I can cover you.” He paid my fifty cents with no expectation from me. No way that happens in the other governmental offices

I’ve endured.

I walked out of the courthouse feeling, for the moment at least, like government does work sometimes. Like maybe some people there really do care about doing their job well and are willing to help out a blogger in need. Outside the air was crisp, the sky was blue and I felt a little more hopeful about the state of the world.

So, that’s another side to living in this particular city. It’s not glamorous, but it’s real. From buying clothes to mailing packages, seeing an attorney to get a document drawn up, lots of us do regular, everyday things in the city. And generally we have very nice people to interact with as we do our business. People like Lance and people like Paul. If you see them tell them you’ve heard they are really good people – because they are.