I went to the Social Security Office today. It was time to sign up for Medicare. I hope death is this much fun.
In fact, I thought I might as well get fitted for a casket while I was out and about. Oh, wait. I forgot, I'm donating my body to medical science. Probably ought to take care of that paperwork one of these days.
I hate waiting in line. So I had put off doing this errand for a long time. Okay, just the last four days. Every day this week I managed to have to do something else. But this morning when I got up I just decided that I would spend the day getting this dreadful deed done.
But first I had to find the place. When I went to the web site there were directions that sounded like the office was located in a large mall. Turns out, it wasn't. I figured that out after putting ten miles on the car just driving around and around the mall's parking lot, looking for anything that said Social Security. But no luck.
I noticed a FedEx Kinko's across the street, so I went in to use one of their computers to check the directions which I would print out this time.
Turns out that's all FedEx Kinko's had -- one computer -- and some old geezer [probably younger than me] was reading the newspaper online. Unfortunately, no amount of lurking behind him seemed to make him feel inclined to budge from his appointed task, so I decided just to leave.
On the way out, I stopped a middle aged female clerk with a dyed black bouffant [Hello, the Sixties called -- they want their hair back] to find out if she knew where the Social Security Office was.
When I said Social Security, the words stuck in my throat. It felt like the first time I bought tampons. I was sure that any minute the cashier would lean into a microphone and shout, "Price check on feminine hygiene products! What are these? Extra Large?"
Instead, it turned out that the former Go Go Girl actually knew where the office was. "It's at the corner of Euclid and 83." That's all I needed. But then she tried to give me helpful directions. Go out here -- over here, not there, and turn left. Don't take route 45, See how it crosses over. Get on 83 and go South, no, wait, North on 83 and blah blah blah blah blah.
I figured it was only about a mile down the road so I just thanked her and eased on out the door. I think she was still talking as I left.
I found it. How could I have missed it? What is it about government buildings that sets them apart from others? Downtown they're all about dramatic columns, brass elevator doors and marble floors, especially if they wre built before the sixties. After that, they're all steel and glass with floor to ceiling windows and statues donated by Picasso out on a large pigeon cluttered plaza.
In the suburbs, giant buildings with soaring columns don't usually fit in with the local architecture. Instead you usually get a storefront operation at a strip mall. But for some reason, out here at the corner of Euclid and 83 the government tried to class up its act. They built a square glass box that looked like it was being held together from the top of the roof with bailing wire and string. There were large beams extending above the box with reinforced rods anchoring the beams to the top of the building. I shoulda took a picture.
As I drove into the parking lot I was mesmerized by how hideous this government attempt at modern architecture was. I kept thinking, "Someone got paid to design this place." Remarkably, this odd building was also stuck smack dab in the middle of a brick and clapboard neighborhood.
Kind of like building a castle with a turret in an area of Cape Cod homes. Oh wait, been there, done that.
But I digress.
I entered the building prepared for a long wait, since that's what Social Security means in English. I brought a fresh newspaper and a folder with reading material for a project I'm working on.
There was a large sign which gave instructions in three languages -- English, Spanish, and Polish. In case you still couldn't understand what it said there was a uniformed officer to read it for you. That's how he helped -- he read the sign out loud in the language you were most familiar with.
I was given a clipboard with a questionnaire to fill out. Then I had to wait until they called me. So I read the paper. There was a riveting article about all the different kinds of donuts you can eat. And the newspaper business can't imagine why they're losing money.
When my time came, I was directed to a window where a nice lady was sitting like a hooker in Amsterdam. She took my filled out questionnaire and then proceeded to ask me the exact same questions I had just answered on the questionnaire.
Oh, good I'm at the right place.
It didn't take very long. From the time I walked in to when I finished, I was there for about two hours at the most. Of course, even though it didn't take long, they made sure I had plenty of paper to keep myself busy trying to understand WTF everything means.
The bad news is that this process often takes all day.
The good news is that it only felt like it.