Oct 14, 2009

On Certified Letters, Paranoid Anxiety, and Paperwork Nazis

While I was busy at work today the mail carrier attempted to deliver a certified letter, and when I arrived home I found the orange "We Missed You" notice in my mailbox. I saw that I would have to wait a few hours until the carrier returned to the station before I could learn about the mystery letter.

Let me preface this post by noting that I once owned a business that tanked in the late 1990s, and I am no stranger to the terror of certified letters. It took me almost a decade to finally wash my hands of the lingering legal fallout of that enterprise, and I have long since paid in full all debts to government entities for which my role as CEO made me liable under such frightening provisions as the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty (TFRP).

Thus, it is not without good historical reason that the anxiety and paranoia set in on me today.

I tried to convince myself that my fears were misplaced, but I had difficulty recalling a time when a certified letter meant something besides aggravation and headache. Usually a certified letter means a lawsuit, a debt collector, or an over-zealous city inspector, all of which I have encountered via this postal delivery method. My stomach churned for two hours as I grumbled about exactly which thieving government agency had set its sights on me to harass.

Finally the appointed time came, and I traveled to the post office to sign for my sealed fate. Of course, I had to wait in a lengthy line behind people sending out a dozen eBay packages and some advice-seeking and chatty landlord wanting to know the best way to get a recalcitrant tenant to sign for an eviction notice. At last my turn arrived, and I opened my dreaded item.

The envelope contained a one-page "Separation/Termination/Transfer" form that an ex-employer wanted me to fill out. This was for a part-time adjunct teaching job I left to take a full-time position at Bowling Green State University.

Somewhere at College X is a bureaucrat with way too much time to spend, and I noticed that this idiot wasted $5.54 on postage plus at least a few minutes of institutional time on a meaningless human resources form. Then there was the cost of my time (30 minutes) to drive to the post office, stand in line, and drive home.

Add to this my 90 minutes of anxiety and irritation, and you have yourself a great big stinking pile of bureaucratic surreality.

So my question revolves around the appropriate response to this Kafkaesque drama into which I found my semi-paranoid self today. Should I: a) be a compliant drone, simply filling out the form in a prompt fashion and mailing it to the obsessive lackey; b) ignore the letter and see if the twit has the audacity to keep wasting institutional funds on certified letters; or c) fill out and return the form with annoyingly incomplete details, thus making the pesky institutional zombie have to perform extra work to dig up the missing details?

Feel free to comment and to offer your creative solutions to dealing with such paperwork Nazis.


Anonymous said...

The next time you have to defecate take the letter and use it to wipe. Mail it to the jerk as a present.

Middle Aged Woman said...

Mail it to the university president as a cost-savings suggestion. Maybe then they won't need to give the faculty stupid parking tickets.

Thomas said...

I like anonymous' suggestion.

But whatever you do, do not comply. Stick it to the man!

Randy said...

Fill in the form, but omit the vowels. If it gets sent back, resend it with only the vowels.

Of course, this would be a colossal waste of your time, so you might just prefer to forget the whole thing and see how long the party continues.

microdot said...


Here is a little pamphlet which I have found helpful in dealing with my feelings towards drones in offices who thing nothing of wasting paper and my time in filling their meaningless hours behind a desk in an industrial office cubical in a desolate building in nowheres ville somewhere east of despair...

Just print it out and put it in the prepaid postage mailer they provide.

Mad Jack said...

If you can make work for the bureaucrat, you're perpetuating the species, thus causing the government to grow. It's fun, though. I suggest filling out part of the form and requesting clarification on other parts of the form.