Sociological lessons from public offices

Thewaiting room of the Providence Social Security office, which has been moved and spiffed up, provides some examples of a changing America. These include that many of the folks in the waiting room speak little or no English. (This is probably one of the changes that has distressed many Trump fans.)

For another, very few people these days bring anything to read to pass the time. Most folks just stare ahead or occasionally look at their cellphones. Catatonic America? Or do they just not feel well? Indeed, the clientele look remarkably unhealthy.

The Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal is also sociologically fascinating. One is struck by the number of people who cannot pay even very small fines (say $60) in spite of the fact (or because?) they have big cars; the number of people driving with marijuana in their vehicles; the number of people whose car windows have such dark tinting that the judge orders them to remove it so that law-enforcement people canidentify the people within – and what they’re doing -- and how many confused people are fined after being videotaped passing  school buses parked on the wrong side of the street with their stop flags extended and lights flashing but no driver or children in sight.

It’s a  very good business: the videotape company (now an outfit called Student Guardian) gets 75 percent of the fine, the state 12.5 percent, and the city or town where the violation occurred 12.5 percent. Theeconomic impetus is to keep the flag extended and the lights flashing as much as possible. In any case, stay as far away as you can from school buses, for the kids’ sake and your wallet’s.

Some wags have suggested that the inside of the buses also be videotaped to prove that they are occupied but that would violate the privacy of the children.

You also, as you’d expect, see lots of speeding tickets in relatively wide-open parts of the state, such as Burrillville, but far more school-bus-passing offenses, driving without insurance, license and/or registration, marijuana possession, excessively tinted windows and so on in urban areas – for example, East Providence.