The Park Service Paperwork Blues

Well, a lot has happened since I’ve last written. I was waiting for everything to become official before I posted it here, but at this point I’m wondering if that is ever going to happen. And seeing as I have internet access today for the first time in quite a while, I might as well take advantage of it right?

Shortly after writing my last few posts, I went up to the visitor center to say hello and meet a few new faces. While there I met the new lead interpreter – Melanie – chatted with her for a few minutes, than went down to town to get some groceries. No sooner had I pulled into the parking lot did I get a phone call from Mike – a permanent ranger who just accepted a job at the monuments in Washington DC and would be leaving soon. Melanie had a great idea, he said, when could I come back in and talk with her?

It turns out that the park had been given the funding to bring on an emergency hire to fill Mike’s vacancy until a new permanent could be appointed. Seeing as I was in the area and already trained, Melanie wanted to bring me on until I had to leave for my season at Mesa Verde. I couldn’t believe my luck. Melanie was planning on posting an announcement that afternoon for the job. But by walking into the visitor center on just the right day at just the right time the position was offered to me in order to save everyone a little trouble. So after all the emails and phone calls, the job I had been fighting for all winter fell into my lap without any real effort on my part.

But like pretty much everything related to the park service hiring process, it was a little too good to be true. I was offered the job on March 28th and given a start date of April 7th. It is now April 25th, and I am still not working. Why you ask? I would love to explain it to you. Especially seeing as I am going on 4 weeks of unemployment and most definitely have the time. 😉

The creation of the ’emergency hire’ status was introduced to the park service (and, I imagine, most government agencies) because the current method of hiring is so inefficient that it often takes several months after a job offer is made to get a person cleared to begin work. An emergency hire doesn’t have to submit a lengthy application, make a certificate, compete with veteran status, complete hours-long interviews, fill out half the paperwork, or pass the same kind of background check. All that is needed is a resume to prove qualification, and another teensy weensy background check that is not near as thorough as that required for other appointments and that is, supposedly, stamped with something super shiny and special that allows it to be expedited. The only catch is that this person can only work for 60 days – which was perfect for me as, at the time, I had just under two months before my training at Mesa Verde began.

But someone down at corporate (whose name I know very well but will withhold as gracefully as possible) has completely undermined the entire idea of ‘efficiency’ by taking her sweet time with every small bit of paperwork involved. Initially Melanie and I discussed going forward using the clearance given to me through the Mesa Verde background check which at the time was due to come through any day (after being submitted in February, may I add). About a week before my original start date Melanie called me and said she had submitted the paperwork necessary to transfer that clearance to Canyonlands and had spoken with the people at Mesa Verde, who said that actually my background check may or may not take another week to go through, so my start date would be pushed back 7 days. No big deal. On April 6, TEN DAYS after I was offered the job at ISKY and one day before I was originally set to start, the nameless good-for-nothing at headquarters mailed me a set of fingerprint cards. I did not get them until several days later, as she never told me they were coming, and I had no reason to think any more paperwork was necessary for this appointment so I wasn’t monitoring my mail. When I did get them I contacted her because A: I already had a background check clearance and B: she didn’t send me all the paperwork I supposedly needed, just the fingerprint cards and a letter listing the paperwork that wasn’t included in the package. She said that because this position included fee collection, while the appointment at Mesa Verde does not, it requires an entirely different type of background check. I pointed out to her that I had collected fees at the park for 6 months last year without a background check, but that didn’t seem to interest her.

Curiously, when Melanie questioned her about running the extra background check, she didn’t mention a thing about fees. Mrs. Einstein said it had to do with wearing the uniform. Even though my background check at Mesa Verde most definitely clears me to wear the very same uniform. So really, the conclusion that I’ve come to is that it is a-okay to collect fees without a background check and to wear a flat hat and badge with my current clearance. But there’s an extra special clearance level designated for people who want to collect fees while wearing that silly uniform at the same time. I offered to staff the entrance booth naked, but Melanie didn’t think that was a good idea.

So that’s the story. Melanie continues to apply the questionable power of wishful thinking by adding me to the schedule every week, but at this point I’ll be lucky to work 5 days at Canyonlands, much less 60.

Ah well. On the upside the park has decided to hold off on hiring another permanent and instead hire a seasonal for the second busy season in the fall (the first is spring, which is now), and Melanie has asked that I apply. It’s nice to know there is someone at ISKY that is watching out for her people, regardless of what happens. Besides, all the free time has given me the chance to get reacquainted with magnificent Moab and it’s surroundings. Plus I’ve made impressive progress in my Mesa Verde studying. My pile 20-books high gets smaller and smaller every day!

Well, speaking of studying, that is what I moseyed all the way down to the library (and a reliable internet connection!) to do. I guess it’s time to get to that. Wish me luck!

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