Just making things a little more difficult for the Men in Black.

More below!


Paper Trails


Sparking (ha!) off Wallend’s comment in today’s page, I personally just received the form from the State Fire Marshal which allows me to renew my Pyrotechnic Special Effects license. And when I say “received the form” I mean “I was mailed a piece of cheap paper that is purple for some reason which has been obviously been ground forth from a computer that may or may not — judging from the font, clip art and general layout — be still running DOS.” The print is not quite dot-matrix, but it is definitely skewed off-center, like the sheet feeder needs some adjustment or maybe just a smack on side of the paper tray.

I am supposed to fill out this form and mail it back to the Fire Marshal, along with a check, via snail mail. No envelope is provided.

Now, Occam’s Razor would likely dictate this to be simply the signs of a small department with an insufficient staff and/or budget. But personally, I suspect it is all deliberate.

Like many of you, I do all my bill-paying online these days. Even when a check has to be mailed, such as to the artist of this comic, I just tickle my keyboard for a few seconds and the bank promptly prints out a check at some automated station miles away and mails it for me. I never even see it. If I were for some special-effects related reason unable to use the keyboard, such as my fingers being currently scattered in the bushes or something, my wife or someone else could press the keys and the check would go out just the same. No one would know the difference.

I even pay other state and city fees this same automated way.

But in order to renew this license, the license that allows me to have state-sanctioned dispensation to melt plastic army men on the BBQ grill, I have to fill out a form. By hand. There is no way to scan this dark purple paper into the computer; and the printing is skewed so that I could not possibly fill it out legibly via typewriter, even assuming I had such a relic about the place. No, I have to fill it out using a pen. And sign it. And write an actual physical check. And sign that. And find an envelope and address it and seal it with my own saliva, probably so they have my DNA in the process.

By the time I’m done, there will be no doubt that it was me, and only me, that filled out that form. They could prove it six ways from Sunday should they ever have to; and that, I suspect, is the whole point.

I just dragged out my business checkbook. It is dusty and the checks inside are crackly and a bit faded. Checking the ledger, I see that the last time I actually used it to hand-write a check was at this time last year.

To the State Fire Marshal.

Yep. All deliberate, I just know it.

— Paranoid Bob out