No, no, no. No phishing scams or stolen documents. Nothing like that. But definitely a realization that we are what we carry in our wallets or keep in our file cabinets or home safes. Or don’t.
My move to NYC from Minneapolis coincided with the expiration of my MN driver license. I don’t know about you, but the thought of taking a written — or worse, ROAD — test at the DMV puts the fear of god through me. Twice over. Luckily, I discovered that I could swap out my MN driver license within a year of expiration with NO test, as long as I had two forms of ID: passport and social security card. No problem. Wait. Problem.
Frantic searching of the apartment revealed that somewhere in the 6 moves over the last 5 years, my social security card went missing. Crap. How do you even replace a social security card? Thank god for Google. A little research confirmed that I could head to my local social security office with passport in tow, and apply for a duplicate social security card at no cost. Except, of course, the cost of my sanity. Have you BEEN to a social security office? Think the DMV for people over 65 with little or no English skills. I kid you not.
Two rent-a-cops greet (?) you at the elevator, point and grunt you toward an electonic kiosk (looks like a voting machine with a motor) that spits out 4 different categories of numbers. You hope and pray the monsyllabic sound coming from their mouths was accurate. I punched “A” for card replacement (don’t ask… A = card replacement) and received A7. Nice, I’m at the head of the line. Looking up at the “number being served” read-out, I noticed it read: A87… hmmm, I guess that means I am nearly number 30 in line. Break out the iPhone and the NY Times app.
I looked around the room taking in the 1960’s aluminum folding chairs (tied together with plastic police handcuffs at the legs to prevent theft… really?), the wall-mounted TV brackets (TV was gone… guess they couldn’t tie that down), the life-sized posters placed strategically around the room targeting the “Golden Girls crowd” — and subsequently busted a gut.
“When cousins are two of a kind, they file online!” Yes, two geriatric Patty Dukes (one hip and one conservative, you MUST click on the link) smiled and encouraged me as they stood in front of a computer registering online for their social security. I immediatly wondered what they paid Ms. Duke to come out of retirement to popularize retirement.
At the plexiglass window (I had a choice of 5 — all staffed by individuals who were a complete study in random chaos), I conversed through microphones and hand signals, similar to what I’ve seen on the TV show “Oz.” While my request was processed, I turned to my right where another poster greeted me: “A new twist in the law makes it easier than ever to save on your MediCare presecriptions!” Come on, guess… Chubby Checker! (Another link you MUST enjoy) I wasn’t doing the Twist, I was doing a serious Time Warp! I took out my iPhone to snap a photo, but was glared down by the rent-a-cops, so switched features and logged the ad copy in my iNotes.
Then I heard Barry White. Clear as day. Deep as the Grand Canyon. I kid you not: “Sure baby. Yeah. I’d like that. (booming chuckle) I’ll see you there. And look forward to it.” Where WAS I? I looked up and around for bathroom stalls, Calista Flockhart or Jane Kerkowski, certain I was in an episode of “Ally MacBeal”… I finally found Barry. Some guy sitting against the wall, on his cell phone, chatting up a lady friend. That voice was a dead ringer.
At that point in my visit, I was free to go. I had my receipt, my passport, and my assurance that I would receive my new identity via a social security card in two weeks. And just in time, too… I swear I saw Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin stroll by.
Next stop, the local Manhattan DMV… circa 70’s or 80’s? Can’t wait. Just can’t wait.