Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Adventures in SSA-Land

Generic American Social Security Card

So today I experience the surreal world of the local Social Security Administration office, in Berkeley.

I know my Social Security card is somewhere in my room. i just don't know where. Since a replacement is free, it would be easier to get a replacement than to try and tear my bedroom apart!

Till now, I'd been used to the going to the office in downtown Richmond. However, when I checked online, it seemed to be sending me towards the Berkeley office as my only option.

I hopped on the AC Transit 25 bus, yet another first time event for me. It picks up across the street from my house, but it was soooooo slow compared to the ACTransit 18 route.

As I walked to the office I wondered exactly where it was. Turns out, I nearly walked past the front door. It reminded me more of the door to a morning deli/sandwich shop, than a SSA office.

Inside there was a self-serve kiosk where a person would select what they were in the office for today, and then it spits out a ticket with a number on it. Mine was D2. Then I saw the indicator on the TV screen…D98!!!

The waiting room is probably 20' x 30' in size, with three wows of chairs tied closely together. As people sat down, they tried to keep one empty seat between themselves, and their neighbor.

I'm sitting there, watching the only entertainment…George Takei on a large TV promoting the benefits of Social Security, and checking Twitter on my smartphone, when the guy that's sitting behind me arbitrarily blurts out, "Equalized Trigger!"

I have no idea what this meant, though it certainly got my attention.

About 10 minutes later my number is called. I'm thinking that wasn't too bad of a wait as I head towards the window.

As I try and hand the woman the form which I'd downloaded off the Internet, she stops me dead in my tracks to tell me she's only checking me in. I'll have my name called later!!

Mind you my form is completely filled out, and all I'm wanting is to get a replacement card!

Returning to my seat Mr. Equalized Trigger exclaims "Jesus is coming back!" I don't know if this was in reference to my overly long hair and beard, or what, so I don't say anything. Someone sitting behind him said, "Man, I want some of whatever they gave you!!" Others chuckle a little. Mr. E.T is oblivious to the humor at his expense.

One by one, they are continued calling numbers. I had an incredible urge to yell, "You sunk my battleship" each time they called a new number. However, I refrain, figuring they wouldn't appreciate the humor. Over 20 minutes passed before I finally heard my name called.

I handed my form to the girl who called me. She informed me that she'd be asking me questions (actually called it an interview) and also mentioned the whole penalty of perjury thing. (But, she did it with a smile!).

After asking me about three basic questions, which were filled out on the form, she printed off a receipt, handing it to me. She then tossed my neatly filled out form into a shred bin!! At no time did she actually look at it.

And with that we were done. I made a hasty retreat from the building towards the bus stop.

* * *

We've all heard the comments about the government being so inefficient, especially the Social Security Administration and Medicare.

Without getting into a nasty political debate on the whole situation, I do have to ask just WHY couldn't the first person that called me to "check me in" ask me the three or four simple questions the second person did, thereby sending me on my way after a  short wait?

After all, both women were in the same position - first calling people to check them in, later calling names to deal with whatever brought them into the office that day.

I also have to wonder why, in this day and age of small desktop printers  and plastic card imprinters, couldn't they have got me a card on the spot, rather than having to wait ten days for a small piece of paper printed in Sacramento?

And on an even more basic level, why couldn't the self-serve kiosk have been my "check-in" point for services? Why didn't it take three points of contact to turn in a simple application for a replacement card?

Just one of the things with the government that makes you go "Hmmmmm."

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