Coffee heat rising

Paper!!!

Wads and wads and wads of paper… Am I the only sheeple who’s sick & tired of having piles of paper inflicted on her? Paper physical and paper virtual, makes no difference: it’s all time-consuming, annoying, goddamn clutter.

Every April, I have to file an annual report with the Arizona Corporation Commission for The Copyeditor’s Desk. What this really is is an excuse to extract $45 from you. To distract you from the reality, they blitz you with pointless paperwork, which you now have to fill out online.

The annual report entails plodding through four pages of pointless questions, all of which are the same pointless questions posed last year. The pointless questions never change.

Their pointlessness aside — there’s really no reason to ask most of the questions in the first place, and there’s certainly no point in posing them over and over and over and over, once every year that your company is in business — because they’re endlessly repetitive and pro forma, all the ACC really needs to do is ask you “has anything changed since last year.” But this would absorb about 20 seconds of your time — as opposed to half an hour or so — and would consume only one line of electronic copy. As opposed to making you click through page after page after pointless page.

Once this exercise is completed, you have to — or rather, if you have a brain in your head you will — download and print a lengthy PDF showing what answers you made and attesting that you filed the document and ponied up 45 bucks. You also will download and print the receipt for the 45 bucks.

Stash this in your already bloated file folder, and then move on to the next exercise in futility: You’re also required to write and keep the minutes of your corporation’s annual meeting. Nevermind that your board of directors consists of one (1) person: you’re still required to meet with yourself and record what you said to yourself.

Interestingly, you’re not required to file this silly document with the state. But you are required to write it and keep it on file…in perpetuity.

Honestly. The amount of paper that comes into this place, whether for business or personal matters, defies belief. You could, in theory, store it to disk… But who wants to trust that a computer will not crash or a hacker will not hack when it comes to documents that the government or some insurance company requires?

Okay, so much for that rant. Now to emit some paperwork of my own…

Image: Depositphotos, © gemenacom

The Organizeder I Try to Get, the More Disorganized I Am

What is it about basic organization that I seem incapable of mastering? I imagine I’ve kept careful records, I delude myself that four drawers full of carefully categorized file folders have organized every important piece of paper that comes into the house (and thousands of faintly important, maybe-important, and irrelevant pieces of paper). In my mind, it looks good…if sometimes cluttered. I am, in a word, organized!

Well, until someone asks me a direct question. Last night the new accountant e-mailed a few innocent queries.

No. 1. How much is your social security income before taxes and medicare deductions?

Uhm…not very  much.

No. 2. How much is deducted for Federal and AZ taxes?

Too much?

No. 4. Did you receive a statement from the state of AZ showing the taxable amount of your sick pay?  Were any taxes withheld?

You would think so. But if I did, I can’t find it. Yes, taxes were withheld. The only record I can find is notes on a telephone conversation with the lady who runs the RASL program.

No. 5. Please forward a copy of your latest MCCD pay stub.  The one I have is dated 09/24/2010.

Okay. You do realize that through this entire semester, no two community college paychecks have been the same? Does that matter?

No. 6. How much was your Fidelity IRA distribution?  Was it from a Roth or a regular IRA?  Were any taxes withheld?

Who, what? Where, why? When?

No. 9.  Are you getting a new A/C unit that will qualify for the tax credit?

Far as I can tell. The AC guy says it’s worth $1,500.

The only reason I could answer that last one is that the receipt is still sitting on my desk, yet to be filed.

Social Security totally flummoxes me. After they took away an entire month’s benefit check as punishment for my having committed the sin of earning a few bucks more than the earnings limitation, they turned around and announced they had recalculated my benefit and were raising it. I have never been told the dollar amount that is withheld for federal taxes, and as far as I know Arizona doesn’t tax Social Security. If it does, I don’t know how much or whether Social Security withholds state taxes. When I try to figure out what the gross must be, assuming they’re withholding 15% for federal tax and nothing for state tax and $110 for Medicare, I come up with a gross on the new “increase” that’s smaller than it should be if I were paid the original gross the entire year.

Such a vast flood of paper pours into my house that I’ve developed a flinch reflex about any form to fill out, any document from a threatening official agency such as the federal government or an insurance company, and most anything that requires a response from me. Every day I walk past the recycling bin coming in from the mailbox and dump everything that looks like advertising or pointlessness into the trash. The mailman delivers so much garbage that in a week the four-foot-high bin is half-full before I’ve tossed the newspapers and all the overwrapping that swaddles every product we buy.

That still leaves me with mounds of paper to have to sort through, try to understand, figure out what to do with, and file. Right now, after just a week, my desk and kitchen counter are covered with the stuff!

And file it I do. But once it’s filed in those tidy drawers, it’s effectively lost.

Oh god. Just writing about this is giving me another throat spasm. I’ve gotta get up, feed the hound, and go for a walk.

Is this REALLY necessary?

Image: Paper recycling in Ponte a Serraglio, Italy. By H005. Public domain.

Wait. You think I exaggerate? Check this out:

The boggle minds!

Paper

Like dust, paper sifts into my house and settles on the countertops and furniture. If I don’t get to it, before long it stacks up in great dunes of paperwork, forms to be filled out, bills to be paid, statements to be entered in Quicken or Excel, junk to be filed away. Whether its ultimate destination is a return envelope, a file folder, or the trash can, every single piece of it has to handled, examined, thought about, and acted upon.

I’ve known for a while that I would have to get to the stacks on the dining-room table and on my desk. It couldn’t be put off another day, nevermind the stack of student papers and the remaining work to do in the index of medieval & Renaissance history, forget the housework that hasn’t been done in three or four weeks, the empty gas tank, the long shopping list hanging on the fridge. Somewhere deep in the pile was a Visa bill and a car insurance bill, both of which needed to be paid. Soon. Maybe yesterday, for all I knew.

So, having overslept Saturday morning, along about 8:30 I dove into the dreaded task. And…

It took a good four hours to dig out from under all that crap!!! Filling out the forms and copying all the receipts and supporting information for the Avesis claim was probably the most infuriating. Why is it necessary to ask the customer for policy numbers, group numbers, and individual numbers that do not appear on the insurance card, were never sent in the mail, and have to be retrieved by calling the company? What is the point of demanding repetition of facts that are already in the company’s records?

And how, pray tell, do my gender and birthdate bear on my purchase of one, count it, one pair of cheap glasses? What is the point of wasting paper, ink, postage, and my time on this redundant and irrelevant trivia? By the time I finished, I’d filled out a two-page form and photocopied nine more pieces of paper to stuff into the envelope with it. Postage consumed two of the USPS’s pricey little stamps.

Then there’s the form required to ask for the $10,000 of tax-free funds residing in a Northwestern Mutual whole life policy. Is there a reason a form has to be incomprehensible? What, for example, do you suppose is meant by “cash value of,” “face value of,” and “to cost basis”? These terms have exactly zero meaning to me, and I can’t even imagine where to go to look them up and try to figure out how they apply to my particular request, which is a simple “please give me back my money.” No one’s home at Northwestern Mutual, of course: on a Saturday, only the customers have to work.

The Hartford sent not only the current policy and two copies of the piece of paper the State of Arizona requires one to purchase each year and carry around in one’s car, but also three more envelopes full of paper. Lots of dense copy there, too, much of it mind-numbing. The vast amount this company charges to insure my aged car, OF course, requires me to get online and transfer funds from the money market to a checking account, another time-consuming bit of ditz that has to be entered in Quicken, after the credit union’s receipt is printed out and filed. More paper, more ink: more of mine.

By the time I was finished, along about half-past noon, the house was still filthy and the larder still bare. Half the day was absorbed by dealing with paperwork, much of it pointless and way too much of it invasive demands for information that is strictly none of anyone’s business.

A nation of sheep is what we are. If, as a people, we were not passive and indolent, we would rise up in full rebellion at corporate demands for private information that go way beyond anything needed to get a given job done, at the deluge of unnecessary and wasteful paperwork, and (most infuriatingly!), at the newest trend that requires consumers to download and print out online forms, thereby wasting their own ink and paper for no very good reason.

Allons, enfants de la patrie!
To the barricades!