Tag Archives: forms

Broken by Paperwork, or The Basement Drones Try to Steal My Doctorate

I knew you were out there! You smart, savvy friends who’ve been slowly overtaken by the fog of indecipherable bureaucracy! I feel better already sharing some champagne out of a can with you from afar (thanks, Esther, for that new find!).

After Broken by Paperwork part one, a dear friend who is in the home stretch of the marathon to get her Ph.D. wrote to tell me this story. We’re going to call it….

The Basement Drones Try to Steal my Doctorate, And I Wrestle it Back at the Mouth of Hello

In my Ph.D. program, when you are about to graduate, you have to “apply” to graduate.

This means that in March, you run around and get all of these papers signed and filed saying that you have done everything you needed to in order to be ready to graduate. [Editor’s note: I know that this generally involves hunting down half-time, troll-like department assistants to validate your paperwork with a special wax stamp that must be sealed onto goatskin.]

I did this.

Then the system booted me out. Chewed me up. Spit me out.

I got a panicked phone call from the secretary in my office last Wednesday. She was shocked that I had decided to quit.

I had no idea what she was talking about. I checked my email, then got very panicky myself.

I got an email from the grad school with the header: “Application for Degree Withdrawn by Student.”

I am less than 30 days from graduating. I am NOT quitting now. 

So then I made some phone calls.

One to a Ms. Cheeryface, who sounded suspiciously like our old friend Saul in Americorps. Y’know: bureacratic basement dweller, never does anything quickly, requires forms in triplicate, etc.

She looked through my file and then said,” Oh, I accidentally hit ‘withdraw from degree program.'”

It turned out that some of my paperwork had been filed incorrectly, and this needed revising. Instead of revising, SHE HIT WITHDRAW!

What the flip?!!!

Had this error not been caught by my secretary friend, I would have been KICKED OUT OF MY DOCTORAL PROGRAM.

Like you, I wanted to cry. It is the only logical thing to do.

Later that day I also received a hefty fine from the library for some technology equipment I had checked out (and returned on time!). I went in there and read the riot act. It was not pretty. I am not proud of my actions. I got my dollars back. But I am sleep deprived and annoyed, and my fightin’ energy has to go someplace.

Yours in the struggle,

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.