October 28, 2009

The Unknown Correspondent

As a freelance writer, I work on a project basis for different clients. I like to get paid. And then I render to Caesar the things that are Caesars on each project. Each client requires that I complete tax documents as well as information special to each organization.

Recently one organization asked me for my Social Security card. I went to our lock box at the bank. No card. The lock box has all my other forms of ID, including passport and all the usual suspects.

I haven’t been asked for the actual card in years.

I spoke with the business manager of this organization in person, and asked if my passport would suffice. Even the TSA takes a passport above a SS card.

She said no, and suggested to me that seeing my real card and making a paper copy of it “was for my protection.” I fail to see how this organization (whose customer service department is in India) having a paper copy of this document is “for my protection.”

I offered several other sources of identification which I thought proved I am who I say I am:

-My kindergarten report card on which Mrs. Reed wrote “talks too much.”
-Handwritten love letters from my husband.
-Four years worth of my high school newspaper featuring my hard-hitting adolescent, journalistic fervor including the senior-year expose, “Do Cheerleaders Exploit Stereotypes?”
-An RX for the calming pills I needed to get through this virtual identity crisis.
-Various autographed pictures of me with minor celebrities, including Jeane Dixon, Jack LaLaine, The Amazing Kreskin and others. (Jeane and The Amazing both sensed my identity.)
-My Boonville Dairy Queen Frequent Blizzard card. Those people know me! Reese Cup (Hoosiers say Reesie) Blizzard medium.

None met their criteria. So with official documents in hand, I went to the Social Security office.

Near the door a touch screen computer asks you to put in your request. It spits out a number for you. Mine was B281. There’s a LED sign called “Turn O Matic” and numbers reel off but not in any sequence I could understand. First, 16, then 143, and then B275. Apparently there is a different system for each request, like the notes coming from the spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

A helpful printed sign explained, “Some clients have appointments with our interviewers at specified times. Therefore, someone who comes in after you may be seen before you.” What?

So I waited. And waited. I should have known it was going to be a long time when I noticed a woman knitting a rather lengthy scarf. Eventually my number came up. I presented my little pile of identification documents including a picture of Sally Jesse Raphael and me, and sure enough, in three to four weeks I’ll have another card to put in the lock box. Quoth the raven.