Frank Mulligan: A paper trail leading nowhere

Frank Mulligan

I suffer from a condition that I’ve never seen described in the medical literature.

This is not terribly surprising since I’ve never consulted the medical literature.

Nonetheless, I’d like to describe the symptomology in the hopes of helping others.

Simply put, I have an uncanny knack of misplacing paperwork I need while managing to compile paperwork over the course of decades that I will never, ever have any use for.

By way of example, I recently needed to find the bill to pay my home insurance.

A search amongst my personal belongings turned up a gas bill from 2006, a receipt for transmission work done on a car I owned in 2004, and a “Sixth Sense” ticket stub from 1999.

Part of the illness, it’s important to note, is that I put all of these items back.

This may not seem as serious as collecting 83 cats, or wearing an aluminum foil helmet to thwart the space aliens trying to control my choice of bathroom tile via satellite, but it very nearly had dire legal consequences for me.

I had been pulled over on a local roadway. It can happen to the best of us.

The officer made the standard opening request.

“Can I see your license and registration, sir?”

The license was no problem. I opened my wallet and forked it over.

But then the sickness manifested itself.

I unlatched the glove compartment, and it fell open with a heavy thud, weighted down by the paperwork accumulated during my seven months of ownership as well as the paperwork left from the car’s former owner that I had never discarded (see above reference to gas bill from 2006, receipt for transmission work done on a car I owned in 2004, and “Sixth Sense” ticket stub from 1999).

For what seemed like quite a lengthy period of time I pawed through paycheck stubs from 2009, mortgage receipts from January through March, old reporter’s notebooks, come-ons from my college alumni group for donations, car insurance receipts (ironically enough) and sundry other completely useless landmarks on a paper trail leading to nowhere – including three, yes three, of the former owner’s registrations.

I was getting more and more frantic, which wasn’t helping my retrieval skills. Paperwork was now lining the passenger’s seat, the passenger’s side floor, the backseat, and the backseat floor as I tossed example after example of my condition away in an effort find the one piece of paper that was of any actual consequence.

The officer finally retired back to his cruiser to call my license in over the radio and maybe look for his handcuffs.

With the inevitability of the tide, I located my registration right after the officer had determined that I was the legally registered owner of the car.

As he handed me back my license as well as a ticket for an offense for which I was clearly culpable, he remarked in a not unfriendly tone,

“You know, sir, you don’t need to keep the former owner’s registrations.”

I nodded in assent, but thought to myself,

“But I do, officer. I do.”

Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Raynham, Mass., office, and can be reached at