Even the escalators were interminably slow … I finally went to the Social Security Administration‘s local office this afternoon to prove to them that I was born on June 26. It was a mind-numbing experience.
The SSA thinks that I was born on June 23. Trying to convince them otherwise was painful.
I realized I was entering a zone of inefficiency as soon as I pulled into the parking lot. The freaking parking lot was designed badly. The SSA office in my corner of California is inexplicably located in the middle of an upper-floor of a strip mall, between a “Computer Resource Center!” (“We are Microsoft Certified!”) and a Tuesday Morning store. There are two or three levels of parking below the mini-mall, each named inappropriately after a soothing feeling.
Level One: Desert Sun
Level Two: Ocean Breeze
To enter the parking garage you are forced to circle two aisles of cars parked so that if anyone stops – for pedestrians, for cars trying to park, for pieces of paper floating through the air – it creates a traffic jam all the way out of the parking lot and into the street for a block in each direction. I managed to park after – I’m not kidding! – a half-hour wait while someone in a Mercedes was confused into thinking that the parked car blocking his path was about to move any second. I was comically trapped between a row of cars and a retaining wall, three cars behind the Mercedes with two cars behind me. The car behind the car behind me was half in the parking lot and half in the street. Traffic snarled and honked behind that poor fellow for as far as I could see.
I parked on Level One: Desert Sun. The walls in the below-ground cavern were painted sunshiny orange and yellow. On one was writ in ten-foot letters, “ESCALATOR ->” I followed the arrow around a corner and to the escalators. (There was an elevator adjacent to them, but I guess “ELEVATOR ->” wouldn’t fit on the wall, too.)
When I entered the SSA office I could feel the life-force slowly draining from my soul. A small sign welcomed me to “Take a Number”. I pulled an 81 from the deli-reel and looked to see that they were “Now Serving” number 77. There were three windows, but only one was being manned. (Womanned, actually.) There were at least ten people sitting in elementary-school cafeteria chairs. One man was asleep. A security officer was explaining, in Spanish, how to complete a form to a pregnant woman carrying a baby and holding another child by the hand.
Behind the woman at the counter I could see a maze of desks and cubicles. There were at least a dozen employees wandering the office, carrying printouts of green-and-white striped paper and manila files and coffee and talking about the Lakers. No one seemed to be doing anything related to helping the lone counterwoman.
Hopefully I’ll write more about this later. For now just know that it took over an hour and a half – not including parking and driving – to fix my birthday in their database.
Their database, they were quick to note, is not “connected” to the IRS database. It will take at least a week for the information to get to the IRS.
And, no, they aren’t interested in hiring a computer programmer / database professional to help with their problems. I asked. Vehemently.