Friday, May 16, 2014

bureaucracy 101

At the end of season 4 of The West Wing, Toby and his ex-wife Andi have twins. Stunned by the whole birthing experience, when Toby makes it back to work he remarks to several people that, unbeknownst to him, babies come with hats. In Okinawa, I’m sure they come with hats, too – but really, they come with paperwork.

Today, Yoni and I attended what’s called the Birth Registration class, which is highly recommended if you want to properly understand everything you have to do to get your child a birth certificate, passport, and social security number. To be fair, having never had a baby in the US, I don’t actually know how complicated it is to accomplish these things there. I’m sure passports at least require the usual paperwork. But I very much doubt that you have to attend a class to make sure you properly fill out the pages and pages of paperwork necessary for all of the steps of the process. Oh, and by the way, the class is taught by the only employee of the Birth Registration Office – a Japanese woman – who is solely responsible for processing about 130 births a month. And each package processed requires a one-hour interview with both parents and the baby in attendance.

I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. After all, if there’s anything a military life trains you for, it’s an understanding and expectation of endless bureaucracy. But just in case finagling a birth certificate, passport, and social security card didn’t seem like enough, you also have to get the baby enrolled in the military personnel system, added to your healthcare plan (I’m sure that’s normal outside the military as well), and – my personal favorite – you have to request that the hospital create a medical record for your new child. Apparently, it’s not obvious that all of the medical records generated by being born need to be collated and kept on file somewhere for future use. Instead, one must specially request that the Medical Records office create a file. Will wonders never cease? 

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