Still drowning in paperwork in a paperless age

October 22, 2006|By SUSAN REIMER

WHEN MY FRIEND LINDA CALLED, I told her I'd have to get back to her.

"I'm in the middle of a pile of paperwork," I said.

It was almost a week before we talked. And she called me.

"Done with your paperwork?" she asked, laughing. I think she thought I forgot.

"Nope," I said.

I am going to have to start taking these calls from my friends because I will never be done with my paperwork.

I may soon run out of friends, but I will never run out of paperwork.

And it isn't even tax season yet.

I have been hearing that we are entering a paperless age -- when everything is recorded and all business is transacted in electronic ways.

It must be the case that everyone else's paperwork has come my way because my dining room table is piled as high with unattended paperwork as it ever has been.

(Why we still insist on calling it a "dining room table" is beyond me. We do not dine in that room. And the table is not used for food.)

I pay all my bills online after receiving electronic notification that they are due. So I receive no bills, and I write no checks. I balance my accounts online, so I receive no statements.

I correspond with friends and send out invitations and family pictures online, so I receive no personal mail and mail no letters.

I pay with everything with a debit card, except my coffee, which I pay for with my Starbucks card, so I don't even have any paper of the spending kind.

If all of this is true, if I have shifted all this record-keeping to cyberspace, where in the world is all the paperwork coming from?

I don't have the answer.

My mailbox is full every evening -- my actual mailbox, as opposed to my virtual mailbox, although that is full, too.

There are catalogs and credit card offers and fliers and political mail, and I sort it while standing over the recycling bin. (Where most of my paperwork eventually ends up.) But still, I am left with a handful of paperwork that I put on the dining room table until I have time to deal with it.

By Saturday morning, the pile is high and I am filled with dread. Resignedly, I make a pot of coffee while my family sleeps and wade into my paperwork.

My husband comes down the stairs hours later, in his bathrobe and with his hair tousled, and asks what I am doing up so early.

"Paperwork," I say.

Recently, he has asked another question. What happens to all this paperwork if I, God forbid, get hit by a truck.

"I don't know where you keep all the paperwork," he said.

"I noticed," I said.

He has asked me to write a summary of all the accounts and all the bills and all the -- well -- paperwork, so if tragedy strikes he will be able to carry on. With the paperwork, at least.

So this morning I will get up early, make a pot of coffee and while my family sleeps I will write detailed instructions in the event of my untimely death.

But as far as I can tell, I am just creating more paperwork.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

To hear an audio clip of this column and others, go to baltimoresun.com / reimer.

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