Tag Archives: paperwork



the 10-second tax return.

in sweden, the vast majority of taxpayers just get a document from the government with all the relevant information already filled out. some even get a text message with their prepared tax information.

in the united states, the experience it is quite the opposite.

the nightmare return.


“the hardest thing to understand in the world is the income tax.”

-albert einstein





credits: theatlantic.com, google images

dying on the blue cross



once again, i’ve stumbled into a bureaucratic rabbit hole:

in short, i filled out a ‘healthy incentives’ survey in order to qualify for the most cost effective program offered by my health insurance provider.  somehow it all went wrong at *step 1.

  1. *i filled out the survey 
  2. felt happy that i had completed a horribly tedious piece of paperwork and based upon the results, would easily qualify for the program
  3. got a letter from blue cross
  4. letter said they never received my survey and i was now automatically enrolled in the higher cost plan
  5. i called them (where things got worse)
  6. music i was subjected to while on hold during the experience: smooth jazz, easy listening, elevator cover music
  7. departments i spoke with/was on hold with/opted into with my keyboard pounding : customer service, non-compliance, nursing, engagement center, health resource coordination center
  8. lots of 800 and 888 numbers and extensions involved
  9. conversations along the way: 

  ‘ who gave you this number?’

‘the letter you sent me listed it as the one to call.’

‘who told you to call us?’

‘you did.’

‘can we call you back?’


‘our department doesn’t handle this kind of thing.’

‘i really have no idea who deals with this.’

10. after lots of transferring action, holds, disconnects, etc. – more conversation:

‘i can see the form you filled out online, and it does look like you qualified for the healthy incentives option, but you never pushed the button at the end to get your official score.’

‘so, you do see that i’ve filled it out?’


‘and it shows i am healthy and do actually qualify?’


‘but because i didn’t push the button it doesn’t count?’


‘yes, it counts?’

‘no. yes, it does not count.’

‘what can i do about it?’

‘well it is after the deadline now.’

‘what can i do about it?’

‘i guess file a complaint.’

‘will i be paying the higher rate in the meantime?’

and – after 1 hour and 47 minutes, my favorite and final response:

‘i would definitely not be able to answer that.’

(i believe that if i was to fill out the survey again after this, i may not qualify as ‘healthy’ due to a rise in my blood pressure and an elevated heart rate. though of course this is just a guess, because there is definitely no one who would be able to answer that.)


only rules rush in….



in trying to file some final paperwork following my mother’s death, i found myself time and again in the local social security office.  for some reason, (as in, i was dealing with a bureaucracy), it took me forever to complete what i had assumed was an easy task.

the office was only open during my working hours, so i had to wait for a day off to come around before i could get everything filed with them. in the meantime, i got tired of looking at all of these papers and tried to call in sick one day but that didn’t work out as planned, had a snow day at home and drove there through the icy roads only to be told, ‘of course, we’re not open, we close every wednesday at noon’, went during my winter break only to find i didn’t have the right forms, i was missing some obscure piece of original paperwork,  and on and on…. 

well the day finally came when all the stars were aligned, the office was open, i had the day off, and i was armed with every possible form of documentation they could potentially need. i walked through the door, signed in and was handed a number. when i finally heard my lucky #488 called, i went to ‘window z’ to file the papers at last. 

upon looking at my form, window z woman said, ‘i’m not sure what this is, i don’t understand.’ her reaction kind of surprised me as it seemed to be a standard form, one provided by their office in the first place, and they are the ones who had insisted that it needed to be completed and brought back to them. with all original, obscure documentation of course. i suggested that she talk to the last guy i had dealt with there, (window x), as he seemed to have had a pretty good handle on it during my last visit.  after a quick stop at window x, she returned, said everything was in order, and let me know that i should hear back from them in 6 months or so, as they “usually work very slowly.” i easily agreed with her on this one –

as an afterthought, while there, i thought i’d mention that i’d noticed someone in their office had mistyped my address when sending out my last notice from them, and it was now off by one digit. i explained that only reason i actually got the letter was that my postman saw it, figured it out, and brought it to me. i asked if they could change it back from ‘123 to 124’ so that in the future, i would actually get mailings from them and wouldn’t have to rely on good luck, timing, and a nice postman. 

she delivered her quiet response with a straight face and a certainty that only the truest bureaucrat can possess. ‘we cannot change your address once you are dead.’ even though i tried to point out that i was actually alive and sitting in front of her, requesting that my address be changed back to the correct one, and that i was simply representing the dead person, and trying to make sure that i received mail from them that they insisted i respond to, under penalty of federal offense. 

she simply looked me in the eye and repeated, ‘we cannot change your address once you are dead.’ i thanked her for her time and her help, and mentioned that i hoped i would actually receive the letter from them when it arrived in 6 months or so, or perhaps my neighbor would get it. with a mutual nod, and new level of understanding, we parted ways.