Charles Dickens was right…

As briefly mentioned in a former post, I have been hired to work full-time at a mortgage company. This is probably one of the last things that I, as an English major, was expecting to be hired for — but apparently, the company is new and expanding rapidly. They’ve hired several people who, like me, had degrees but no prior mortgage experience. They put us all through two weeks of intense, information-satruated training, and then determined which department would fit us best. I was put in the Quality Control department. And perhaps this is a fitting position for an English major, after all, because my job is to review and examine mortgage documents for accuracy. Dealing with mortgages can be an extremely complicated, paperwork driven process. A Quality Control Associate like myself ensures that there are no mistakes in any of the documentation. This has been quite the learning experience, and I definitely like my job so far.

Our company is a third-party vendor that handles short sales for large banks…and if you don’t know what a “third-party vendor” or a “short sale,” is, I  suggest looking it up. It’s interesting stuff, but I would have to devote a lot of space to explaining it. I was hoping to keep my post relatively short today, so I’ll omit long-winded explanations.  In any case, dealing with mortgage documentation has given me a greater appreciation for Charles Dickens. How so? Well, one of the many things he satires in his writing is the needless complexity and ridiculous amount of paperwork present in the Victorian legal system. It reminds me, a little, of my own company. They are extremely strict about what they will and won’t accept on mortgage documents. For example, if a client’s name is “John Robert Smith” in our company computer system, it is expected that all documents in John’s loan file should be signed with that exact name. If his purchase contract reads simply “John Smith,” without the middle name, the file is rejected. John Smith and his agent would then be required to add a Name Addendum to the file, which is basically an extra sheet of paper stating that “John Smith and John Robert Smith are the same person.” So there you go…lots of needlessly complicated paperwork. It puts me in mind of the Circumlocution Office from Little Dorrit. Arthur Clennam goes to the Circumlocution Office hoping to enquire about Mr. Dorrit’s legal problems, only to come out more confused than ever:

“‘I want to know [about Mr. Dorrit’s legal circumstances],’  said Arthur Clennam…

Oh! [said the clerk] ‘you had better not bother yourself about it, I think.’

‘Not bother myself about it?’ [said Arthur.]

‘No! I recommend you not to bother yourself about it.’ 

This was such a new point of view that Arthur Clennam found himself
at a loss how to receive it. 

‘You can if you like. I can give you plenty of forms to fill up. 
Lots of ’em here. You can have a dozen if you like. But you’ll 
never go on with it,’ said [the clerk]

‘Would it be such hopeless work?…’ [asked Arthur]. 

‘I don’t say it would be hopeless,’ returned [the clerk], with a 
frank smile. ‘I don’t express an opinion about that; I only 
express an opinion about you. I don’t think you’d go on with it. 
However, of course, you can do as you like. I suppose there was a 
failure in the performance of a contract, or something of that 
kind, was there?’

‘I really don’t know.’ 

‘Well! That you can find out. Then you’ll find out what 
Department the contract was in, and then you’ll find out all about 
it there.’ 

‘I beg your pardon. How shall I find out?’ 

‘Why, you’ll–you’ll ask till they tell you. Then you’ll 
memorialise that Department (according to regular forms which 
you’ll find out) for leave to memorialise this Department. If you 
get it (which you may after a time), that memorial must be entered 
in that Department, sent to be registered in this Department, sent 
back to be signed by that Department, sent back to be countersigned 
by this Department, and then it will begin to be regularly before 
that Department. You’ll find out when the business passes through 
each of these stages by asking at both Departments till they tell 
you.’ …

Arthur Clennam looked very doubtful indeed. ‘… I am obliged to you at any rate,’ said he, ‘for your politeness.’ 

‘Not at all,’ replied this engaging young [clerk]. ‘Try the thing, and see how you like it. It will be in your power to give  it up at any time, if you don’t like it. You had better take a lot of forms away with you. Give him a lot of forms!’

With which  instruction [the clerk] took a fresh handful of papers…and carried them [off into] the Circumlocution Office…

I guess things haven’t changed to much in the business world.