“Please Make Sure That The Submission Is Under The Correct Category”
Well I read the instructions that said, “Please make sure that the submission is under the correct category” so I did my best. But that still wasn’t good enough for the fellow in the post office.
“You’ve used blue ink.” That’s right, I had. “But you can’t use blue ink on a passport application.” Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize. Where does it tell you that? “It doesn’t, but you should know. Besides, where it says ‘Please make sure that the submission is under the correct category before turning to page 31’ you’ve ticked when you should have crossed. Can’t have that.”
I admit I’m not good with forms. Hopeless, in fact. I dread them. But despite trying every avoidance tactic known to me, I still can’t escape their obscure language. “Please make sure that the submission is under the correct category before calculating the final subtotal to amortize the associated flow of accrued entitlements.” Huh? Who writes these things, and what do they actually mean?
There’s no way of really knowing, of course. Just apply your best guess, hold your tongue in the right place, and hope you’re on the right track. If not, a rather officious little man might tell you it’s not and make you do it again (if you’re lucky). Fortunately, Ruth has a much better head for forms, which is a relief. While I cringe, peering over the edge of the table at the latest form to fill out, she grabs it by the scruff of the cover, dives into each box, leaps across to question nine, and then tackles each category with minimal deliberation.
When she sees a printed request to please make sure that the submission is under the correct category, she does. While I sweat and fret trying so hard to get it right, Ruth breezes through each category without dropping a stitch in her knitting.
Maybe we’re just wired differently because I don’t get the language of forms at all. Even Reader’s Digest letters intimidate me (You know, the ones saying, “Hurry and open this envelope! You may have won the key to a brand new car!”). I view them warily wondering if they’re really yet more forms in disguise. “If you send back these numbers you’ll go into the competition to win a half sized Taj Mahal. Simply complete the form below, and please make sure that the submission is under the correct category to prevent your entry becoming invalid.”
Well, we never got the half-sized Taj Mahal. And still, to this day, I have a lingering feeling that I didn’t fill in the form properly. I might have accidentally ticked the “interested in cactus gardening’ category or the “build a Medieval catapult in your backyard” section instead. Either way, we never heard, so I’ll never know. Which, strangely, I kind of like. The “Please make sure that the submission is under the correct category, lest we repossess your house and force your hamster to work of a wheel” doesn’t reveal the full story. Despite all the officiousness of forms, there’s actually a rather big human factor to them. Somewhere, deep in the bowels of anonymous buildings, real people are trying to do sensible things with each of our scrawled in forms. Being people, sometimes they also tick when they should cross, or whack us in the wrong category. So, you shouldn’t be surprised if your application for a dog permit comes back granting funding for a wooden leg. Or, your passport request triggers a reissue of your birth certificate. Life is slightly imperfect and though forms don’t incorporate that section, human results guarantee it.