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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WTH Wednesday: there should be a universal form for ... everything

I just returned from the pediatrician's office, where I paid $15 to have them fill out a medical form for me: you know - the one that says, "yes, my child is healthy and has had all her shots."  Similar to the one you need, say, to kennel your chihuahua.


Anyway, aside from the irritation of having to PAY for such a form (ok, I know, I'm paying for the physician's time in filling out the form, or signing it, or at least having the office staff make some unintelligible squiggles and STAMP the doctor's signature and office information at the bottom.  Whatever.),  I was thinking:  Every place that needs a form has a different form.  Daycare, camps, school, multiple sports and clubs... and EACH FORM IS DIFFERENT.

They want the same info.  From the same professionals/persons and/or parents.  And yet the forms are all different: Columns. Check boxes. Y/N.  Places for dates (or not).  Fronts and backs.  Fronts only.   Squished-up spaces.  Lots of room for notations.  30-yr-old fuzzy Xeroxed type.  Colored paper.  Crappy paper.  Neatly printed and updated-each-year.  Archaic fonts.  Crisp, new fonts .... etc.

So why isn't there a standard form?  If I want to donate my grandmother's full-length mink coat*, I might need to fill out IRS Form 8283 for my tax return next year**.  Why aren't there standardized, generic, regular forms for most, if not all, things?  With large, boldface titles and numbers at the top?

Think of it!  Need to have your family's contact info on file?  Just download and print Universal Form 348 and hand it in.  (Or better yet, fill it out online and email it to the party who desires it, who STILL might print it for ease of access).

Saved -- Time:  Picking up specific forms to be filled out (or having them mailed or emailed by someone), taking certain forms to be filled out by professionals (email them the form, they can fill out at any time, in any format) and returned to the interested parties.

Saved: (potentially) paper, stamps, the mailman's posture.

Saved: Office staffs' spit-laden fingers from leafing through stacks of mystery forms

Saved: Secretaries' dry, fluorescent-lighting-tired, squinting eyes from searching for a form's identifying feature before dealing with it appropriately.

Ok, I think I'm being Pollyanna about all this.  What happens when Business A doesn't need most of the information on Form 227?  (this is why you get a stack of forms in the clipboard, but only have to fill out the "highlighted sections" ... which, come to think of it, could also be done digitally, but I digress.)  What about Big Brother, watching over the intrawebs, waiting to snag your personal info as it goes hurtling through cyberspace?

Still, it seems like a workable idea to me.  Am I alone here?

* I do not have a full-length mink coat.  To my knowledge, none of my grandmothers ever did, either.
** If I DID have a full-length mink coat, I would not be donating it.