Tag Archives: bureaucracy

Broken by Paperwork, or The Man Really Has Me Down

I’ve been crying a lot lately. And I think it’s because all the paper-pushers have finally, after years of dogged pursuit, totally broken me.

It seems like my husband and I have spent all of our life together filling out paperwork for banks. We bought an apartment in New York, which involved pre-approval, various mortgage brokers, and about 15 lawyers, then we tried to refinance it and loan-modify it.

To no avail.

But along the way we filled out forms for name changes and address changes and 600 other things that must be requested-over-the-phone-then-mailed-out-in-7-to-15-business-days.

Because banks don’t actually do anything over email. Which is totally hot because the 1950s are so on trend right now!

Besides the paperwork, I’m tired of feeling like an idiot. I am not an idiot, but I’ve come to realize that customer service calls are recorded for the purpose of making sure the customer feels totally moronic and ideally defeated.

Recently a woman at the Arizona state pension fund (I used to be employed by that state) found it so funny that I filled out the wrong form that she insisted on telling me the story:

  • Her: You won’t believe what happened… (laughing)
  • Me: Can we focus on how to fix this?
  • Her: Let me first tell you what you did. You filled out the form for the City of Phoenix. And they sent it back because you never worked there! (maniacal laughter)
  • Me: When did your soul get sucked out of you?

In the face of this lunacy, I assessed all my options, and determined that all I have left is crying.

For example, the gremlins figured out how to delete the App Store from my iPhone. According to the Apple people, this is impossible. But as fellow parents know, nothing is impossible for gremlins. So I discussed my options with Apple.

  • Apple Care: To fix your issue you’ll have to buy coverage in three installments of $79.99.
  • Me: Come again? I have to pay over $200 to get the App Store back, just so I can buy more apps from you?? That doesn’t make any sense.
  • Apple Care: You could purchase just one month of coverage for $79.99.
  • Me: (terrible crying and gnashing of teeth)
  • Apple Care: Please don’t cry.
  • Me: (more terrible crying, plus snorting of nose)
  • Apple Care: I’m going to call someone and have them set it up for you.
  • Me: (snorting) Thank you.

I know that there are other people out there like me–smart, savvy people who’ve been slowly reshaped thanks to the Chinese water torture of grown-up paperwork. Together we’ve been flinging rocks at the dragons with our little slingshots for years.

I recognize you by your glazed-over looks at the post office and the way you just stare off into space as you hand over your credit card to literally anyone who asks for it.

I could be confusing your dazed, hollow demeanor with the fact that you’re raising young kids. But whatever. Something is slowly sucking out your soul, and I feel you. 

I don’t know how to save us, so I’ll just be over here gnashing my terrible teeth on some bourbon-soaked cherries in your honor.

Department of Motor Vehicles

On the day of the royal wedding I went to the DMV. I don’t have a good track record with the DMV. I get very nervous. If I’m not nervous, my fury over the pace of operations takes over and steam starts coming out of my scalp.

As a teenager, the nerves got me. I took out some DMV shrubbery. The shrubs were beyond a curb I had scaled while parking the car.


A few years later in New York, I popped in to the Express DMV in Manhattan to apply for my license after getting married. After about three hours of watching other applicants hit rock bottom, my number came up. I was changing to my married surname and keeping my maiden name as my middle name.

The DMV woman’s eyes popped right out of her head: “Girrrrllll! You just makin’ up names!”

Really? This seems pretty straightforward to me.

She insisted I keep my original middle name. As she turned around to confirm with her supervisor, I got a view of her hot red thong and an extra four inches of gluteus maximus that didn’t make it into her jeans. Mrs. Fire Thong now possessed the key to my new legal name. Superb!

But it’s the DMV: What choice do you have?


For all my bad luck I have never failed a DMV test or left without a license. I have managed to overcome my issues with no ramifications–especially since I learned that it’s legal to use an alias as long as you have no intent to defraud. I’m not usually into that kind of thing, but Mrs. Fire Thong left me no choice.

However, this is also not the kind of DMV history that allows you to blow in to the DMV like you own the place, throw down some shells (the only form of payment the DMV accepts), and leave with a laminated glamour shot of yourself.

I started praying as I left my driveway.

Hey, God! I know you’re at William and Kate’s reception, but I need some help with the DMV. If a really good dance song comes on, you can go back, but please try to stay through the written test.

That’s right, I had to take the written test.

Before I went I did the practice tests, lined up my conch shells, and assembled every form of identification I’ve ever received (including my membership card for the North American Guild of Change Ringers). I crossed myself before taking the test.

And I passed.

Because of Mrs. Fire Thong and my subsequent aliases, my Oregon DMV representative was obligated to enter a list of names I might go by into the computer before issuing my license. After naming off six she asked me, “Are there other names you might use?”

Um, no?