Friday, June 29, 2007

Fun with the Feds

I suppose it is possible that I will come to regret writing this post. Perhaps I should wait until I have the actual CARDS in my hands, but, I was so surprised and shocked that I had to share.

I actually had a PLEASANT experience at the Social Security Administration. I encountered not one, but TWO, pleasant, knowledgeable federal bureaucratic types. (No offense to my friends H~ and M~, both of whom are biologists for the federal government. See, they are SCIENTISTS, not bureaucrats. Big difference. And also one of them is technically an employee of a contractor of the federal government, but, let's not split hairs here.)

Anyway, I have been married for twelve years and had not ever managed to convince the Social Security Administration that I was legitimately using my husband's last name. It's a long and stupid story that involves a passport and an amendment to said passport, and two trips to the SSA where I encountered unhelpful bureaucratic types who sniped at me that I should not have gotten my passport changed before my social security card, and that I hadn't brought the right paperwork, and didn't I have my baptismal record or something to prove who I had been before I took a name I've been using since 1995? (Yes, because a baptismal record from a now defunct Methodist Church in Detroit, Michigan is WAY more official than a passport issued by the UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE. But, whatever.)

I needed to apply for Lana's social security card, and, since I have been getting nasty grams from the IRS for the past three years about my name not matching the name I was being paid "wages" under, and finally, last year, an insistence from the IRS that I file my taxes under my maiden name since that is the only name the federal government recognizes (oh, yeah, except for that pesky PASSPORT from the State Dept and that LICENSE TO PRACTICE LAW IN THE FEDERAL COURT FOR THE NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN DISTRICTS OF OHIO.) (I'm not bitter about this or anything), I decided it was time to kill two birds with one stone. I took my passport, my driver's license, my Bar card, Lana's Vietnamese passport, Lana's Certificate of Citizenship, all the documents from our re-adoption hearing, all our documents from the dossier we sent to Vietnam (essentially, every single piece of identifying information about me that exists in public record form), and set off for Social Security.

I was prepared. I had a book (If you Lived Here by Dana Sachs (thanks Nicki for the recommendation) AND my pink Nintendo DS Lite, fully loaded with a murder mystery game, and I was prepared to sit for hours and offer lengthy and detailed explanations about my child's adoption and for my own pathetic failure to prove my true identity.

There were A LOT of people in the Social Security Administration office. I approached a computer screen that politely inquired why I was there. The computer gave me six options - and I chose, "Option 1 - to obtain a new social security number or a name change". The computer spit a piece of paper at me, with the number "582" at me.

I took my number and sat down. There were three open windows, behind which bureaucrats sat. "TWENTY-TWO" called the bureaucrat at window #2.

And I thought, "Wow. It's REALLY lucky I brought my book and my Nintendo, cause I'm gonna be here a WHILE." And then I thought some swear words that I won't repeat here.)

And THEN, less than a minute later, the bureaucrat at window #1 calls out, "582", as if he had not skipped fully 560 numbers between the last number called and my own. AND he had a very slight, very pleasant Russian accent, which made me inexplicably happy. (Because, for reasons I have NEVER understood, I really LIKE the sound of people speaking with Russian accents. Or people speaking Russian. Not that I speak any of it myself, because I don't. I just like the way it sounds.) (Yes, I'm a freak.)

So, "Boris" was a very plain and efficient looking man. (Let's call him Boris. Boris wasn't his actual name, but, his name tag had an equally stereotypically Russian name on it, so, let's just take Boris and run with it, shall we?)...anyway, Boris said, "Vat can I do for you, today, miss?" (Oh, and this makes me happy, too, because when people call me "ma'am" I get all bent out of shape, for no real reason I can explain.)

I said, "Well, I need to change my name on my social security card, and I need to apply for a new number for my daughter, who I adopted in Vietnam on January 8 of this year." And I handed him the paperwork I had filled out from having downloaded the forms on-line, and my passport, and my driver's license, AND my birth certificate AND my Bar card AND my certified copy of my marriage certificate, and he looked at them for about 2 minutes, typed some things into a computer, and it spit out a happy little receipt with my married name and my social security number. Boris said, "Here ees your receipt and you will be receeeeeeving your new card in the mail in seben to ten daiz." (See, imagine Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle saying this, imagine that inflection, exactly, cause I'm not getting it right with the mis-spellings.) Then, I handed him Lana's Certificate of Citizenship, and a certified copy of her re-adoption and name change decree, and her IR3 Visa from her Vietnamese passport, and her Ohio Record of Foreign Birth, and the official translation of the minutes of our G&R, and Boris said, "you come very very prepared, today, miss." And I said, "yes, it's better that way, I think. To be prepared." (Heck, not for nothing am I married to an eagle scout. I know "be prepared".)

Boris started to fill out some more things on his computer screen, and then, he said, "I think I need my supervisor." And my face fell, because I was sure it was all going to go to hell in a handbasket at that point. He directed me to sit down again and wait for his supervisor to call me.

I settled back into one of the plastic chairs and prepared to wait a LONG time.

I waited five minutes, and the supervisor called me over, and I gave him all of Lana's paperwork and my driver's license, and he looked at everything and typed, and looked at everything some more, and typed some more, and then he handed me a receipt with Lana's correct name on it, and said that her new number would be issued by Monday and the card mailed by ten days from now. And that he hoped I had a pleasant weekend. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes.

As I was leaving, I heard Boris sigh, and in a pained voice explained to his next customer that she could not get a social security card without any identification, and she asked, "what if my purse was stolen" and he said, "was it?" and she said that, no, she just didn't KNOW she had to bring it with her to come to social security...(why on earth would you come ALL THE WAY DOWNTOWN to visit a government office without your purse?? WHY? Why would anyone do that?? I mean, with the exception of social security, every other government office in this city is housed in a tall white "government center" where one has to show a photo id and sign in and out to even get past the front door.) (Because of the Oklahoma City bombing.) (It's been a high security building since 1995.) (WHO DOESN'T KNOW THIS??)

So, I'm feeling reasonably hopeful that, in 7 to 10 days, I'll have actual social security cards for both Lana and I, in the mail. Preferably with generally accepted monikers on them.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I read your blog all the time (and love it, BTW) but I have never commented before. However, this post made me really laugh, a lot, and I just thought I'd tell you thanks! :-)


Friday, June 29, 2007 7:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Dee said...

""she said that, no, she just didn't KNOW she had to bring it with her to come to social security"" I don't 'get' this either, but I have a 26 yo neice that never takes a purse or ID with her, including when she was opening a bank account and when she went to apply for a marriage liscense.

Saturday, June 30, 2007 5:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Christina said...

Hooray for helpful government workers!!! Love the Russian accent writing. My kids' (now former) piano teacher is from the Czech republic and I *LOVE* his accent too.. and the way he would say "Hello there, Poppy-boy" to my son... which of course, my 10 year old son hated but totally made me smile every time. :-)

Saturday, June 30, 2007 6:12:00 PM  
Blogger Nicole - Raising Animals said...

Whatever you do, keep those receipts! Their machine was down the first time I went to get Kinhly's SSN. So 6 weeks later, we didn't have a SScard and I went back....her file had been flagged by INS. Since I didn't have the receipt, it took hours to iron out. Such a hassle! :-)

Monday, July 02, 2007 6:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did my daughters social security name change last week too. As with your experience all went well. The only odd question they asked me was if she had medical insurance. I aleady got it in the mail.
The name change on the other hand took 2 years and most of the wait it spent sitting on the judges desk.
I guess all I need to do now is a new passport.
We entered on an IR 3 visa but they put her foreign orignal name on it and the same on the C of C. I am not going to buy a new C of C either.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007 9:28:00 AM  

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