Where did I go Wrong?


Automated processes, forms might not garner the data you seek

I feel as if I've known Michael all my life. In fact, even in my earliest recollections of childhood, he is there. To this day, we are constant companions, see eye to eye on most things, and even work together at my clinic.

That's because we are the same person. I know this is true because we have the same Social Security number.

Michael A. Obenski VMD

Recently, however, our friendship was tested when some bankers asked me to rat on my friend. It seems that Michael, the self-employed employee, (that's me) had applied for a new home mortgage. The bankers, in their infinite wisdom, required that character reference forms and verification of employment forms be filled out by his self-employed employer (that's me too).

Having known myself for so many years, I thought that answering few questions would be easy. I was wrong.

Paragraph No. 1 boldly stated that the employer, who's name and address were shown in section four, was not under any circumstances, to share the contents of the forms with the employee, who's name and address were listed in section six. It didn't take long to figure out that this rule would be hard to follow since the names and addresses were the same.

At the bottom of the page there was an toll-free number to be called in case there were any questions. Frankly, I thought that sending me the forms was a silly mistake, so I called the number fully expecting the bankers to laugh along with me at their faux pas. I was wrong again. My call was answered by one of those computerized voice-mail systems. It kept giving me options and telling me what buttons to push on my phone depending on which one I chose.

The machine was obviously determined to deprive me of any opportunity to speak with a real human being. However, I was equally determined to work my way through the maze until I could do just that. The battle between man and machine lasted almost 40 minutes. When it was over, my call was taken by an abrasive fellow named Carl Borundum. His personality was not as nice as the computer's. He let me know, in no uncertain terms, that the bank always knows what it's doing. Furthermore, that the form was written in plain English with simple directions and the processing of the applicant's mortgage would not continue until it was completed.

I decided to fill out the form. So, in blatant defiance of the rules, I began reading and answering the questions in full view of the employee (that's me again).

Naturally, I considered giving them a barrage of sarcastic answers, but it is never wise to use sarcasm on people who are destined to go through life with no sense of humor. The best course of action seemed to be straight honest answers.

First, they wanted to know how long I had known the person listed in section six. I simply filled in my age. Then, there was a series of questions concerning character issues such as honesty, reliability and morality. I gave myself a glowing report.

Proceeding down the page, the questions got harder to answer. How long was I planning to keep the applicant employed in his current position with my company? I couldn't put down "forever." So, I wrote that he had a job with me until he voluntarily chose to retire. They asked if the person was a relative. I had to put down "yes". This, of course, meant that I had to answer the next question. What is the exact relationship (i.e. uncle, cousin, child, etc.)? I wrote "self".

Near the bottom of the page, there was a space for comments. I wrote that the applicant and I were one and the same person, and that if there were any questions concerning this matter, to call me at my office. I don't think they'll call though.

If they did, how would they know which one of us to ask for?

Dr. Michael A. Obenski owns the Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

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