a visit to Social Security

Continuing on my summer tour of government buildings, I visited the Social Security building on Kingston Pike today. I mailed in my old card YEARS ago with paperwork to get my name changed and apparently it disappeared into space. I didn’t know there was a problem until Tommy’s college paperwork claimed that our e-filed taxes for the past 2 years were denied because my name was wrong on the tax forms. Wouldn’t you think the IRS would have sent us a late penalty notice or something? So, since I have moved from denial that Tommy is going to college to frantic activity, I am trying to fix all of the problems simultaneously.

I was very pleased that the Social Security building is in my neck of the woods. It must really chafe the everything and everyone should be downtown Grumplestiltskins that the Social Security building is halfway between one end of town and the other. Actually, they don’t want everyone downtown. They think that the homeless population should be bused down to the wealthy part of town daily. Anyway, I parked right in front of the building which has been everything from a grocery store to an indoor skate park. It has a new, professional facade to hide the building’s eclectic history. At that point, the experience became the opposite of the DHS building visit. There were no people smoking outside and there was no giant ashtray instead of a flower bed. This place is Disney-clean. When you enter the building, the chairs are lined up in an aesthetically pleasing angle with wide rows around the sides and through the middle to easily traverse the room. There are no employees anywhere to be seen. Everyone checks in with a computer and sits silently until a disembodied voice calls their name and/or number with directions to follow. “Number 67, go to room 15.” “Number 68, go to window D.” Did I mention the unnatural silence? The people looked like zombies, staring at a television that was playing a looped recording of a woman telling everyone they could avoid the wait if they handled their needs online. The recording played over and over, but nobody left to go find a computer. Social Security might want to rethink their plan to get less people in the building.

I quickly figured out the reason for the silence. If anyone tried to use their phone or spoke in a normal voice, a guard appeared out of thin air and barked at them to go outside. “Not allowed. Outside.” You know the experience of getting through the security gate to enter a military base? The guard who is incapable of saying anything outside of his script or thinking independently? That was this guard. A senior quietly asked the guard if he knew where you get birth certificates. “We don’t do that.” “But, could you tell me who to ask?” “We don’t do that.” Dude. It’s the Social Security building, not Buckingham Palace. The computerized voice gave me directions and the clerk corrected my name in the system. I was in the building for less than 20 minutes. On the way out of the building, I pushed a button on my phone and held it up to my ear while waiting for the person I dialed to answer. The guard appeared in a poof of blue smoke and stared at me, waiting for me to speak out loud into the forbidden device. I felt like we were passing each other on a dusty saloon lined street. I spoke as I opened the door to exit. The guard smirked and vanished.

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