Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Heads or Tails #68 -- "Fill" or "Phil"

I couldn't participate in last week's Heads or Tails because I was under deadline on a work-related project. You probably filled in the time without me just fine. This week, Barb gives us a choice to write about "fill" or "Phil." I'll take "fill."

If there's one task at which most lawyers seem not to excel, it's filling in forms.

Oh, we make forms for others to fill, and tax lawyers must somehow learn this skill, but when we try to fill a form out ourselves, there always seems to be a problem. For one thing, there's never a box marked, "It depends." How is a lawyer supposed to answer any question without the option of saying, "It depends"?

Technology has only made this more maddening. Now, we have "fillable" forms in Adobe. Many of our court forms in Cook County are set up this way.

But there's seldom enough room in the space provided for the information that is supposed to go there. Sometimes, for variety's sake, the blanks are as wide as the page but only one or two words is required.

Of course, I shouldn't complain about these. Far worse are the forms that (even if they are available on line) can not be filled in with the computer. That means printing out the sheet and rolling it into a typewriter.

You know, back in the day, I was pretty good at rolling a sheet just so in order to line up the type with the line to be completed. Of course, in those days, computers were mostly megalomaniacs that did battle with Captain Kirk in Star Trek reruns, not the masters of our everyday existence that they've now become. And I could see better, too.

So sometimes I am reduced to filling in the blanks on a downloaded form... by hand. It's like downloading a stencil in order to make a cave painting.

(An example of my early work.)

If you've ever had occasion to look at records from the days before typewriters, you've almost certainly been impressed by the legible penmanship of the makers of those documents. The decline and fall of the art of handwriting is on display every day in the real estate tract books maintained by the County of Cook: With the passage of time, beautiful writing becomes mostly legible, and then becomes a barely literate scrawl. Because we don't write any more.

My own handwriting was never more than barely legible to begin with: The poor dear nuns who tried to teach me the Palmer Method ultimately gave up in despair. These were the 60s and the more liberal nuns no longer automatically tried to make left-handers into right-handers. So I remained a sinistral and held my pen all wrong.

I used to be able to print rather neatly. But even that limited skill has deteriorated over time. It's hard to fill in the blanks neatly with a pen. Although -- sometimes -- I can still clearly write "It depends."


Anonymous said...

Oh how interesting. I have an ancient typewriter that I use when doing our employee taxes at the end of the year. It feels barbaric to drag it out. Sometimes I just write my stuff in the blanks. It looks like a first grader filled out their W2's. LOL

Tumblewords: said...

Enjoyed the information and the thought in your post!

NoBS said...

My hand-writing stinks to and I BLAME the nuns. They put some sort of mechanical brace on my hand to make me hold the pencil "correctly". I hated that thing!

Barb said...

I miss typewriters. I won't give up my computer for one, but there ARE times when I wish I still had one. Pretty much for something similar to what you mentioned.

My handwriting is soooo bad now. If I have to do something like make a long grocery list my hand gets all spastic about halfway through. :P