Jul. 28th, 2010

muscadine: (Headbang/Frustration)
The transition from AZ to PA has been a repeated lesson in the failure of law and bureaucratic policies to keep up with even the most commonplace shifts in practice due to advances in information technology.

The first way I was confronted with this issue was in the case of several pieces of paperwork required to move forward with my dissertation defense and graduation. Each of them required my signature and the signature of each of my committee members. In other words, it assumed we would all be present in more-or-less the same local space for a substantial period of time, despite the existence of online courses, the propensity for faculty members to travel during the summer (or, for that matter, take fellowships at other campuses during the year), and the surprising pattern of graduating PhDs with jobs moving to new locales. Thankfully we have great staff in the department who have been willing to help facilitate the process.

I have also been dealing with health and property insurance companies which, while willing to email you forms, require you to FAX them back. Who has a FAX machine these days other than businesses? I think one person in our 48 household co-housing neighborhood had one. Tellingly, one of the business I contacted that was listed as offering "FAX services" no longer does so. More to the point, though, why oh why would you not have a system for taking scans when you clearly have email capabilities and scans are in no way substantially different from a FAX (except insofar as they might be of better quality)?

The latest situation has been the most frustrating: obtaining drivers licenses. At first glance, the requirements are not particularly onerous. Besides ID they want two things that provide proof of residency: a lease agreement, mortgage paperwork, tax records, a W-2 form, a current weapons permit(!), or a utility bill. In a pinch they'll take official mail such as a bank statement or magazine with your name on it (which we initially read as meaning "a bank statement" will do - silly us). Guess what? If you've just moved here and your apartment building handles utilities and/or you use paperless options on all your bills and statements...you might only have a lease or mortgage paperwork on hand, and perhaps only a copy at that. We took a copy of our lease, the utility statement from our apartment, our checkbook (which came in the mail and has our address on it), our insurance cards with our address on it, and a printed out bank statement. The person who handled Allen's paperwork took the copy of the lease and the bank statement, but the person who handled mine would only, with some hesitancy, take the copy of the lease (although, to her credit, she did ask her supervisor about taking the bank statement after I objected). I also tried a shipping statement/receipt I happened to have in my wallet. No luck. Has to be "official mail."

What do they do with these verifying papers? Scan copies of them into a machine.

It gets better. You don't even get your permanent license at the facility. They give you a temporary while they check to be sure you aren't fraudulently getting a second ID under a different address. What do they do after they verify this? Send your permanent ID through the mail. Identity theft much?

I have the feeling the car registration is going to be just as much of a headache.


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