The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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Please Fill Out The Paperwork!

on September 13, 2012

My mind is absolutely numb this afternoon but I did it! I finally found the bottom of my inbox at work. It wasn’t an easy task let me tell you.  As the church secretary I’ve come close to losing my salvation over the things in my box for about a week now.  Bad attitude? Perhaps. Or it could be that people just need to learn to fill out paperwork correctly and completely.  It’s fall registration time for the Wednesday night ministries at our church.  It’s also time to renew  children’s worker applications.  Kids are excited their classes are starting again. So are the teachers. So are the parents.  The secretary mostly just wants to take a vacation.

I have four kids so I understand how annoying filling out the same forms over and over again, every year, year after year, when nothing has changed, is. I get it really.  It’s about as much fun as a root canal. There is the rebellious part of me that thinks, “They have all this stuff. Why do I need to fill it all out again?”  It’s time-consuming and seems redundant. But my experience from the “other side” of the desk has made me quietly and faithfully fill it all out again and again.  There’s a reason for the  paperwork they ask you to fill out.  Trust me.

We live in an ever-changing world where people change phone numbers and e-mail addresses faster than I change my shirt.  I can’t keep track of the changes in everyone’s lives. (I can’t keep track of the changes in my own life half the time, but that is off subject.)  Inevitably someone changes their phone number, I don’t know about it, and then someone doesn’t get the phone call telling them that church is cancelled.  That is my fault because I was supposed to know about the new phone number. Even though no one told us they had a new phone number.  Or we don’t get something mailed to the correct address because we don’t have the correct address. Again – church office’s fault. If we make you fill out new forms once a year at  least we have a half-shot at finding out your new information. Until you change it again that is.

The other factor that is seldom considered by grumbling form-filler-outers is that we live in a sue-happy world.  There are legal considerations that have to be made by organizations. Particularly organizations that deal with children. We are trying to protect your kids. That is why we need to have that emergency contact name and number.  That’s why we ask those annoying questions about allergies and health concerns. That is why we need your signature to transport your kids on our church van.  I’m not into being “big brother” – I just need to know a few things so that we can provide a safe environment for kids. Really. That’s the reason.

If nothing else when filling out your paperwork please consider the poor person who has to collect that paperwork and enter the information into a data base. You know – that frazzled looking woman behind the desk there.  Why is she so frazzled?  Well part of it is her own fault. Ok – it’s MY fault.  I left town for a funeral last week and forgot to print updated registration forms before the kick-off night last week.  That meant that when people registered their children they filled out the wrong form.  The one that didn’t have all the stuff on it that we needed.  Sigh.  I hate it when I do stuff like that. I’ve spent several hours transferring information by hand to the correct form and mailing those forms back to parents explaining why we needed them to check the new information and sign the new form.  It was my fault the correct forms were not available so I’m trying to make it as painless as possible for people. I have the hand cramps to prove it.  I thought I was helping.  I guess not enough. As the new forms have started to come back in, though signed, I’ve noticed that they still haven’t filled in the new information we needed.  That requires a phone call. Lots of phone tag. And THEN I can enter the information into my computer.  Remind me never to take time off around registration night again.

In between children’s registration forms I have been sorting through Children’s Worker’s Applications.  Again a legal consideration. No one enjoys filling them out. I get that. I don’t enjoy dealing with them either.  Particularly the ones that are barely legible. I’ve considered taking a handwriting analysis class but just haven’t had the time. I’m not sure it would help on some of them anyway.  I have learned that “Please Print” has become just a suggestion. Then there are the forms that aren’t completely filled out.  The ones who have two personal references listed where we’ve asked for four.  The ones that haven’t given us addresses or phone numbers for their personal references. I have time to look all that up right? After all you can find anyone on the internet can’t you? NO!  My favorite one this week was the one who had written “On Record” in the address line of  most of his references and “?” on the rest. It’s really hard to mail a reference form to “Mr. John Smith, ?, Somewhere, USA”.  Those come back in the mail usually. Why didn’t you just write “I believe you have more time than I do so you can look these up”?  I know it is amazing to people but we really do need those things filled out because we really do check references.  Some days I wonder if people do this kind of stuff on job applications. I’m guessing not.

So my whole rant today can be concluded by saying this: When someone asks you to fill out a registration form or an application for something please just fill it out completely if for no other reason than for the person who has to process the information.  She is REALLY tired…..



2 responses to “Please Fill Out The Paperwork!

  1. Awww…I kind of already knew this but it does help to hear why we have to fill out those same forms over and over every year! I also have always sent my forms back the very next day after receiving them even if it means staying up late just so I don’t have them laying on the counter..I know if they laid there for more than a day there’s a great chance they would get lost…then I would have to call the secretary have her resend them all!!!

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