CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Without Form and Void – On Donuts and Bureaucracy

Mar 2, 2019

There may be a number of folks who think my articles are rather useless and not worth pursuing. Obviously I would tend to differ. But here I will have to agree with them: this a completely useless and totally unimportant piece. In fact, it is simply my attempt at a bit of admittedly lame humour to offset all my heavy articles on so many gloomy subjects.

It has to do with something I have always disliked intensely. If there is anything that really gets my goat, and what I utterly detest in life, it is bureaucracy in general and filling in stupid forms in particular. They are the bane of my existence. They drive me nuts.

I once again realised this today as I discovered to my horror that my passport has expired, and we head overseas soonish. Of course being the weekend the dumb place is closed, but an online look revealed more misery, torture, fear and loathing.

It seems I have to download 450 pages of documents, fill in 97 lengthy forms, and pay them $8500! OK, so I exaggerate slightly, but that sure is what it feels like. Woe is me. But all this brought to mind something I wrote over two decades ago.

This may have been an unpublished piece at the time, but it is proudly going on my site now! I was working with an organisation that seemed to delight in tormenting its employees by having them fill in a kazillion forms. Given that my hatred of forms is only equal to my love of donuts, I penned this piece back then on donut procurement forms.

My bosses gave it a half-hearted laugh, but it may have cut them too close to the bone. In fact, if I recall correctly, I had to fill in a form to get them to read this in the first place! Anyway, for what it is worth (and yes I know it is not worth much), here is what I penned over twenty years ago:

[Insert Business Name Here]
Donut Procurement and Assessment Form
(Form K2961)

As part of our attempt to make the procurement and indulgence of donuts an efficient and enjoyable process, we ask that you fill in the following Form to help us evaluate and quantify our donutability. While this Form may take a bit of your time (we estimate no more than 35 minutes a day) we believe that in the long run this Form will actually save time. We all know that eating donuts, as opposed to filling in Forms about eating donuts, is the most important thing, but we believe this process will help contribute to that end. (For a complete rationale for filling in Forms, please see Form E4092.)

We ask you to have this Form completed and returned to Joe’s office each morning by 9am. (If you cannot make this deadline, please refer to Form C5396.) If you have difficulties in filling in this Form, please refer to the How to Fill in a Form Form (Form L4237.)

Name:
Department:
Date:

How many donuts have you had today? (If more than 15 donuts, please fill in and attach the Supplementary Donut Form T3596. For rules about attaching Supplementary Forms to non-Supplementary Forms, please see Form Y6734.)

What kinds of donuts did you have? (See Schedule I2598 for the various kinds of donuts possible.)

How big were they? Please answer to the nearest centimetre. (If you have trouble making exact measurements, please refer to Form H4275)

What kind of icing did they have? (If more than one icing per donut, please fill in the Supplementary Donut Form G6888.)

Did the donuts have jam filling? (If filling other than jam, please complete Form A3664.)

How were these donuts procured? (If you used your own funds, please fill in Form J4320 for a refund.)

Were you satisfied with the quality of the donuts? (Please ensure your quality quantifications comply to company standards of quality control – see Form T4399.)

Was proper time allotted to the enjoyment of your donut? (Please refer to Form H3196 for time allotment schedules.)

Were enough donuts ordered for all staff to have plenty to choose from? (Please see Schedule W3319 for proper donut/employee ratios.)

Were the donuts available no later than 24 hours after the last batch was available? (For holiday donut availability, please see Schedule J3781.)

Did the person who procured the donuts do so in a pleasant and courteous fashion? (Remember, according to Forms K4298 and K4299, smiles must accompany the donut delivery for at least 50 per cent of the delivery time.)

Were all leftover donuts properly wrapped up and placed in Bill’s in-tray? (If Bill is absent from his office, he is probably out filling in forms somewhere, but he should be back shortly.)

Were all complaints about donuts properly documented on the bright yellow complaints Forms? They need to be returned to Bob each day by 2pm. (If Bob is out of his office, he is probably dreaming up some new Forms to have staff fill in, and should be back shortly.) Also, if you have run out of yellow complaint Forms, please fill the Complaint Form About No Complaint Forms Form (Form Y4877.) If this Form is out, you can fill in the Complaint Form About the Complaint Form About No Complaint Forms Form Form (Form Y4878.) If you have any complaints about too many Forms to fill in, please fill in Form U9041.

Finally, did the donuts you ate give you as much pleasure as filling in the Form? If not, please see Bob about getting some more Forms to fill in.

Please fill in this Form and return in triplicate to Joe’s office. If you cannot fill out in triplicate, please complete Form R3532 and return in triplicate to Bob.

Thank you for taking the time out to fill in this Form. Keep in mind the verse which says, “No filling in of forms seems for the moment joyful, but afterwards it will yield the peaceable fruit of bureaucracy, and will keep several thousand people in the forests industry gainfully employed”.

Finally, if you find that you just do not have the time to complete this form, just get Form V3097 from Joe to waive the requirement to fill in this form.

Always remember, filling in forms is but a means to an end. One day we will all live in a form-free world, but as long as we remain in this fallen world, there will always be forms to fill in. As Solomon once said, “Of the making of forms, there is no end.” Such a prospect may be formidable to some, but a new day is coming. Remember the story of Moses. When he first went to Pharaoh and complained about the number of forms the people of Israel had to fill in, Pharaoh said, “I see you do not have enough work to do”, so he gave them more forms to fill in. But in the end Moses and his people were delivered, and Pharaoh’s army was drowned in a sea of forms. So deliverance is coming! Transformation is on the way! As Karl Marx once said, “Form-fillers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your forms!”

Compiled by Bill Form-o-Phobe Muehlenberg, 29 April 1997.
Authorised by Joe Form-o-phile Smith and Bob the Form Freak Jones.
This Form complies with the Forms Standardisation and Specifications Act (Form U4909).

[1244 words]

12 Responses to Without Form and Void – On Donuts and Bureaucracy

  • OK, this will be my last attempt at humour – at least for the remainder of this year!

  • I also identify as a formophobe! Thankfully the Lord still uses bureaucracy for His purposes for example the Roman census which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.

  • Bill, your prodigious output amazes me (at least 500 words per day on average—incredible!), what a talent for writing you have, and I’m very pleased to see what you penned about doughnuts two decades ago wasn’t wasted, but finally seeing the light of day today. But I would add another ‘F’ word: Fees! Forms and fees. For the public, the two unfortunately invariably go together. And it doesn’t just suck up 35 minutes per day as in the case of your apocryphal doughnut Form example, but whole livelihoods.

    Overly dramatic? Well here’s a minor example. When my wife and I lived in NSW for a few years during the 1980s, if you wanted to go fishing in any stream that flowed down to the east coast, you had to fill in a Form and pay a Fee. Rationale was: to pay for the stocking of those streams with trout fingerlings. Seemed reasonable enough, and didn’t bother me personally because I don’t fish for trout, being just an occasional angler whenever we had a trip to the beach. But now? On a return visit to NSW, driving down the coast, I was puzzled to see that the formerly-abundant “Ice, Bait, Tackle” shops in every beachside town had all but disappeared. Upon enquiry I discovered the reason: In NSW you can’t fish anywhere now, no, not even in the ocean whether from boat or beach, without first having filled in a Form and paying a Fee (cost according to duration of permit). (Monies collected go towards paying wages of inspectors, who slap Fines on any adult who hasn’t earlier Filled in the Form and Financed the Fee.)

    And now here in Queensland they’re using Forms and Fees to “go after” the 3 Fs: Fishers, Foresters, and Farmers. You can’t do anything without first submitting Forms with their requisite Fees, and even then there’s no guarantee that your application will be granted. Result: Family dynasties have lost their commercial fishing livelihoods, and now the Foresters are facing same. (Governments were very shrewd, nominating 2024 as clamp-down year, seems like a long way away, no? Yet the next generation sees it and says, “Why should I follow Dad, going into debt to buy the requisite machinery, when it all shuts down while I’m still a young man?”) Witness also the whole Adani saga; they’ve submitted the requisite Forms and Fees for nigh on a decade I understand, and still no sign of getting the go-ahead.

    Forms and Fees: a shrewd way of destroying productivity under guise of ‘good’.

    Anyway Bill, thanks for providing me this outlet for a serious whinge, so from my perspective your article was not ‘useless’ at all.

  • You’ve hit on the the foremost form formula!
    You’re in fine form, Bill!
    Enjoy your daily quota of ? donuts ?.

  • Nuts! Donuts. YUUUKK!

  • After leaving school I spent a short time working for the Forestry Commission where I was told a story that was supposedly true. The Forestry Commission offices, at that time, were often on the outskirts of things and often with not a huge amount to do so when a clerk there had to reorder his forms and the printer asked if there were any modifications required, for a lark and because he was ready to move on anyway, he said they needed an extra entry at the bottom the form for “F.C. Number.” It, in fact, had very little to do with the Forestry Commission and was in fact his idea for a “Fly Count Number.” It was sort of a combination joke and the clerk’s annoyed protest at the Commission not putting fly-screens on his office windows. Anyway the number had very little to do with the Forestry Commission and obviously was of no reasonable use but the recipient of the completed forms was happy to receive the newly modified form – it had all the information they needed, and they had little regard to the fact that they did not know what the “F.C. Number” was. The clerk eventually moved on to a new job and was surprised and delighted to get a desperate call from the new Forestry Commission clerk because his paperwork had been rejected because he had left the “F.C. Number” blank, as he did not know what it was and had no instructions regarding it. Apparently Head Office, who were keen to cover their backside and to ensure the new clerk was doing his job properly had noticed he had left the entry blank whereas the previous clerk had been putting numbers in, so the new clerk was told they could not accept his paperwork unless all of the information, including the “F.C. Number”, was present. After being told the joke by the previous clerk and because he was not able to get any information to the contrary, the new clerk decided the easiest solution was to put a random entry into the “F.C. Number” section that approximated the number of flies in the office at the time the forms were filled in and then resubmitted his forms and, sure enough, all his forms were accepted. Apparently Head Office did eventually arrange to have the “F.C. Number” removed from the form but not before a full inquiry had been done and they had assured themselves that no one within the Forestry Commission knew what the “F.C. Number” was or what it was used for.

    I don’t know if this story is in fact true but, having worked in the computer industry, I know things like this do in fact happen.

  • Forms… forms and more forms! Symptoms of an increasingly amorphous, increasingly “diverse” world where everyone’s backs must be protected by paper walls of documentation…

    Forms don’t just drive me nuts… they drive me donuts! I remember sitting in a certain university hall with a horde of other students, filling out the mandatory annual enrolment form years ago. Someone nearby was heard to complain, “They should give you a B.A. just for filling these things out!”!

  • Mr M,
    I think you are amazing.
    I think it would be really good if once a month or so you used those craftsmen fingers to dance across your keyboard and bring to us something amusing or something unusually uplifting found in our troubled world. it would be good for you since it would be momentary relief from having to suffer commenting on news stories so we don’t have to.

    I am very sorry but I am going to have to ask your Followers if they agree with me on the matter.

    Dear Brothers and sisters in Christ If you agree with the above could I please ask you to fill the Form in below and send it to Mr M, where there is a section for him to fill in. Please do not send brides to Mr M, such as doughnuts or quality hardcover books since he has mentioned in passing he has 6500 books and another on the way, do not think I did not notice this comment slipped at the end of one of your articles to mock my meagre 375 books holding Mr M. I have a post pending that will be placed commenting on Your excessive book collection which is only dwarfed by your consumption of the aforementioned doughnuts.

    Form to be filled in triplicate.

    Please answer Yes or No to the following description of your sexual description. Please do not skip any, as a yes or a no is required alongside each of the 58 possibilities (do not delay filling this section in as tomorrow there will likely be 60.

    1 Are you- Agender
    2 Are you – Androgyne
    3 Are you – Androgynous
    4 Are you- Bigender
    5 Are you- Cis
    6 Are you- Cisgender
    7 Are you- Cis Female
    8 Are you- Cis Male
    9 Are you- Cis Man
    10 Are you- Cis Woman
    11 Are you- Cisgender Female
    12 Are you- Cisgender Male
    13 Are you- Cisgender Man
    14 Are you- Cisgender Woman
    15 Are you- Female to Male
    16 Are you- FTM
    17 Are you- Gender Fluid
    18 Are you- Gender Nonconforming
    19 Are you- Gender Questioning
    20 Are you- Gender Variant
    21 Are you- Genderqueer
    22 Are you- Intersex
    23 Are you- Male to Female
    24 Are you- MTF
    25 Are you- Neither
    26 Are you- Neutrois
    27 Are you- Non-binary
    28 Are you- Other
    29 Are you- Pangender
    30 Are you- Trans
    31 Are you- Trans*
    32 Are you- Trans Female
    33 Are you- Trans* Female
    34 Are you- Trans Male
    35 Are you- Trans* Male
    36 Are you- Trans Man
    37 Are you- Trans* Man
    38 Are you- Trans Person
    39 Are you- Trans* Person
    40 Are you- Trans Woman
    41 Are you- Trans* Woman
    42 Are you- Transfeminine
    43 Are you- Are you- Transgender
    44 Are you- Transgender Female
    45 Are you- Transgender Male
    46 Are you- Transgender Man
    47 Are you- Transgender Person
    48 Are you- Transgender Woman
    49 Are you- Transmasculine
    50 Are you- Transsexual
    51 Are you- Transsexual Female
    52 Are you- Transsexual Male
    53 Are you- Transsexual Man
    54 Are you- Transsexual Person
    55 Are you- Transsexual Woman
    56 Are you- Two-Spirit
    57. Are you- female.
    58. Are you- Male.

    Please tick alongside the options below:-
    Do you think, in the interest of the outcome of equality of book holding, Mr M, Should as part of reparations to Sarah, otherwise Known as Miss C, send her via courier the 3077 books all hardcover and suitable for turning a 15-year-old (actually over 16 if my dad could follow the simple logic that a teen girls age includes her gestation period of 9 months as any sensible person would know.) school girl into the female equivalent (but someone with hair) of a, Mr M.

    Yes, I do ___

    Certainly, I do_____

    Do you think, Mr M, should on a monthly basis, fast for at least 5 days from the consumption of Doughnuts? Please tick as appropriate.

    Yes___
    Yes, but not including Wednesdays___
    Yes but any unconsumed doughnuts are to be sent to____________
    No, that would be too cruel______

    Do you think Mr M should on a
    (enter period) ______ entertain us (preferably not at Miss C, cost) with:-
    1. Amusing funny post_____ tick as required.
    2. An uplifting story_______ tick as required.
    This last point is serious.

  • Forms for donuts??? I think I hear Homer Simpson sobbing!

  • Good afternoon Bill.

    You are on for donuts tomorrow, or would be except that today is Pancake Day.

    No, maybe that should stand as the beginning of Lent means no more pancakes for a while.
    🙂
    John A

  • I so enjoy filling out this on line form that I might do it again

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