Yesterday was my first full day back at school. The day mostly consisted of lots of pressing admin style jobs which were extremely fiddly and irritating and involved filling in online forms.
I used to think online forms were infinitely better than regular forms. For a start you don’t have to worry about whether you need to fill them in in black ink.
The black ink thing is an administrative circle of hell.
I have learned, over the years of form filling, to get at least two copies of forms, as I inevitably sail into choppy form filling waters by starting with a blue pen. I then read the small print as an afterthought, and have to spend two hours searching for a black pen before realising that they are as rare as hen’s teeth, even though I could have sworn we had a gross of them only yesterday.
Anyone who has to fill out forms or return letter slips with any regularity will know how impossible it is to lay hands on a suitable writing implement at the time it is needed, no matter how many pens you actually possess. I have been known to fill in permission slips for school in orange crayon. We are currently filling in Oscar’s reading record using a lime green felt tipped pen.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Then there’s the whole palaver of finding that whatever form you are filling in requires information only your mother and Pope Francis know, and that once you have found this out, which usually takes at least a week, it is inevitably too much information for the teeny weeny box they give you to put the information in – yet you need to add all of it.
Or the bit where you have to fill in a single letter per text box, but there are either not enough boxes for the number of letters you need, or you should have started from right to left but didn’t.
With online forms this is generally less of a problem.
It doesn’t solve the issue of obscure questions which no matter how many times you read them, or any notes and appendices which may be attached to them you are still left shaking your head in utter bafflement at what it is you are being asked.
This happened to me yesterday with a form destined for HMRC with regard to our PTFA charitable status. It ended up with me on hold for forty minutes to the particular department I needed to speak to.
I do not know who chose the on hold music for HMRC, or whether it is the same for all departments but whoever decided that; ‘Ching, chicka ching ching, chingety ching.’ in a semi jazz porn way, on an endless loop was a good idea will be first up against the wall when it comes to my personal revolution.
When I finally got through to the right person it turns out that I was not, as I suspected (and which could well have been the case), being dense. It was that they had changed a certain piece of policy, but neglected to alter the information on the form, or indeed tell anyone other than the three people who work in the office itself.
Which is nice.
The form in question is a particularly hellish, new sort of form I have come across in recent months. It is a special sort of PDF file.
A PDF file, in the olden days, used to be a file that was read only. This meant that it was perfect for forms that you didn’t really want people to tamper with. You just made your file a PDF, people would then print them, fill them in, and send them to you.
This new sort of form is a PDF which you can fill in online. Except that in their infinite wisdom, HMRC specialise in a form which you are required to only partially fill in online. When you have finished filling in the bits they require online, you then have to print it off and fill in certain sections in BLACK ink. You then send it to them through the post.
It is the sort of form that frustrates me the most in all the world. It has all the drawbacks of a regular form, none of the benefits of a wholly online form, and if you haven’t got the latest all singing, all dancing version of Adobe Acrobat installed, it mangles the PDF into a small, scrunched up ball of virtual gobbledy gook and throws it behind the virtual sofa.
I wrestled with this for an entire morning yesterday.
I will never get that morning back.