Got your mother's maiden name?
When you are in a lousy mood and everyone and everything is conspiring against you, go fill a form. Nothing can compare to the inherent idiocy of an official application and you will forget what was bugging you.
For one, it puts an end to the fear that big brother is watching and various alphabet soup agencies know more about us than we know about ourselves. By now, I must have filled in a hundred forms with all my personal details again and again. So, whatever they want to know about me, they have it on record. From airport landing cards, and all those identification papers needed back home from the historic days of the ration card, admissions to various places, requests for sundry licences of a sundry nature, pathetic appeals to various nations for visas - nations that would not lose a wink of sleep if I did not fetch up - and in all these sorties, I have repeatedly put down my parents' names and, for the past 40 years, renewed my pledge to the institution of marriage by filling in that column with the same name. Talk about fidelity.
Now, at the age of 71 and needing a new document because the old one has ended its shelf life, I discover that one column on the form demands my mother's maiden name. Since my mum was married in 1946 and left the surly bonds of earth 23 years ago, I fail to see the remotest connection between her maiden name and my need to re-ignite a travel document. Can you see them sitting there in some high and mighty office saying, reject his application, he hasn't filled in mother's maiden name?
Omigoodness, that is a gaffe.
What is wrong with these nitwits, doesn't he know he cannot get this precious, vital, oh-so-important document if he doesn't give his mother's maiden name?
Okay, fine, it is mandated and who will argue with authority? The thing I cannot figure out is what will they do with it? How does this data expedite moving things forward?
Ha, here it is, mother's maiden name filled in, high fives and back slaps, now we can get on with the application.
To add to the misery of filling in stuff like country of domicile and where were you in 1984 Alvin Toffler and wondering if the column which asks, have you ever had a police record covers three parking tickets, now it is online and you have to download.
Now, since it is taken for granted that everyone is born with a scanner and a printer and knows how to work them, the general impression is one of casual cool... No problem at all. Except that it means downloading after scanning, then signing here and here and here and then uploading and spending the night wide awake unsure if you missed a signature.
What if it is winging its way back to you... Get up, check computer.
I am absolutely certain that official forms are created by a group of people specially selected because they got full marks in a written examination on sadism.
And once they have the torture down to a fine art, they up the ante by giving you tiny little spaces to fill in what they merrily call full details. There is one country I have been to several times and applying for a visa again, it said, Have you been to this country before? If yes, give full details. The space allotted for these details was a three inch strip, half an inch high, if that. Max you could squeegee in was eight words... So much for my sagas to their country.
Why is form filling such a monumental pain in the neck?
I had just managed mine and was feeling like Tenzing must have after reaching the summit of Everest when the screen froze.
And this message came up in red: you have been timed out.
I am sorry, I'll give you mother's maiden name.