Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bureaucracy and paperwork

I have never really had much of an issue with bureaucracy. I think this is because at my heart I am a bureaucrat myself. I understand the need for records, the need for paperwork, the ned to make sure all the details are worked out before the "go" signal is given. In my 13 years at my current job* I have been responsible for creating many bits of paperwork for other people to fill out. I have always strived to keep these forms as streamlined as possible to collect the maximum amount of usable data with the least amount of input. Generally people don't have too many complaints about things they have to fill out for me, and I can always provide them with feedback on how this data is used and why it is collected.

It seems that I exist in a state of bureaucratic grace. I can slide easily though Customs, even when I need to have my bags thoroughly inspected, because I instinctively know how to walk up to the right inspector, and I know how to behave in a way that puts them at ease. If you get hostile, they get more hostile. If you become annoyed, they will decide it's time to have a little fun with you, and you may find yourself missing your flight because they've decided to search every page of every book you have with you for any subversive content. (This actually happened to a foreign writer entering the country. When she became antsy about being delayed and missing her connecting flight, the goons at Customs decided to go through her journals page by page. She missed her flight, and the inspectors probably had a good laugh at the bar afterwards.) Be at ease, project an aura of peace and tranquility, and go with the flow. It will help if you study Taoism before you get to the customs area.

Yes, I don't usually run into bureaucratic problems, but my immunity does not extend to family and friends. From them I have learned two things:

1. The INS - Immigration and Naturalization Service - has made legal immigration a nightmarish, multi-year ordeal involving repeated submissions of reams of paperwork and copies of records, numerous trips to the INS office, and requiring more fingerprinting sessions than your average mass murderer, apparently in an attempt to encourage illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants involve less paperwork for INS, and if they start to get uppity about things like being subjected to slave labor conditions by unethical employers, they can be deported without much fuss.

2. Nursing homes have made the procedure of getting a spouse placed in long-term care maddeningly difficult, requiring copies of pretty much every piece of paperwork ever generated in that person's lifetime, in order to encourage the placing of pillows over the faces of the elderly and infirm until they are no longer nursing home candidates.

*Which has consisted of four different jobs in two different buildings for three different corporate entities (or four, depending on whether you count a company as being a different company after a merger.)


Betz said...

Being the "friend" who has been tied up in INS bullcrap noone need wonder why I admired Harolds blog today. My advice to you all?
Marry someone from your own is not worth the aggravation.

As for the nursing homes? Shame on them. As if the decision to admit someone there is not difficult enough they have to add insult to injury by creating more road blocks!

You have said a few things here today that we all feel. It makes reading your blogs worthwhile. Well..that and the pictures. :)

anne said...

Amen, brother!

While I am usually a patient paper-filler-outer and provider, it appears as though the Department of Transportation is destined to be my arch enemy. I once had to send a letter of desperation, complete with time line and stick figure drawings, when I was trying to transfer plates.

It seems it takes a lot of patience just to exist now a days. Ok, I have to get back to filling out marching band paperwork now...