Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Labor Pains

"The thing I dread most about having another baby is not the labor - it's the paperwork!" My wife announced the other day. And for a woman who had contractions for 59 hours last summer that's saying something.

Take, for example, a few years ago when Petra had to figure out why some of her paper work had "Kuzmič while others had Kuzmić". The difference in the last letter is the difference between a Slovenian last name and a Croatian last name although both letters are in the Croatian alphabet. Still other American documents had a plain "c" that complicted the matter even more.

We spent a month gathering birth certificates, passports, high school and college transcripts and identification cards, while visiting police stations, health insurance offices and city halls in several different towns. Why all the fuss? Because Petra had to change her name to Bohall.

When we first moved to Croatia my mom had to drive to Albany NY from Worcester MA to get my birth certificate. Had I lost mine? No. They just needed an original that was "up-to-date".

And though this kind of bureaucracy causes headaches and short tempers on both sides of the window it's much worse for those people going through legitimate legal battles or need urgent medical attention.

Take my friend for example. His mother who passed away years ago was fired from her job illegally. The State has declared that her family has a right to the money she would have earned had she continued working. Unfortunately the town in which she worked has found a way to stall the legal process indefinitely. He's not sure if he'll ever see the money that has been declared legally his because of a glitch in the system that no one cares to look into.

Sure, I've waited in DMV lines in the States. I had to fill out college applications and scholarship forms. I even hurried up and waited in the military. But if someone would rather go through labor than go through this process, I'm thinking some changes are in order.

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