Homeless 0-29: Paperwork

paperwork
Say what you will about the greatest works of man, not one history ever mentioned the paperwork involved. Leonardo’s great struggle requisitioning the marble for his David sculpture or Columbus’ great inventory innovations, history doesn’t care. Though history, I suspect, was always written on the back of paperwork, and not the other way around.

As the search narrows, paper appears: applications, tenancy forms, hazardous building materials warnings, credit checks, recommendation letters. Most of this blessedly occurs electronically now, but the crinkle and clutter persists. So much to specify, so very little to actually state.

Left on my own, I would have smothered beneath paperwork long ago. You won’t find a form that doesn’t leave me frozen for a response. When Amy and I first got together, she watched as I performed my monthly checkbook balancing ritual, a two or three day affair where I would alternate diligence with complete frustration. This to resolve a dozen or so checks; or, more likely, to find twenty three cents unaccountable for. She shortly thereafter volunteered to take over this onerous task, which she now dispatches in about as many hours as I used to expend in days.

She has the gift, the long under-appreciated gift. She seems capable of interpreting just what the form designer intended, while I usually end up entering information on the wrong line and into the wrong spaces. Why did they leave three inches for the zip code and only a half inch for the street address? Because I parsed the space incorrectly.

Whenever someone gives me a form to complete, I ask for two extras. “What are those extras for?” they ask. “Practice,” I reply.

The paperwork becomes the medium within which an inquiry unfolds. Those easily misinterpreted questions encourage ambiguity-bashing conversations which, if I’m fortunate, becomes the basis for some decent kind of relationship. I’m reminded that the covenants forged in those early resolved misunderstandings will serve as the real cement holding together whatever agreements we make. The most fragile agreements are the ones we never suspect we’ve backed into until differing interpretations expose wildly different intentions.

So we’re comparing intentions when we fill in those forms, and though I need Amy to serve as my seeing eye dog to participate, I’m engaged. Finding a home’s just the start of the real work. Sharpen pencils, it’s time to get explicit enough to see if anything’s possible now.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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