in trying to file some final paperwork following my mother’s death, i found myself time and again in the local social security office. for some reason, (as in, i was dealing with a bureaucracy), it took me forever to complete what i had assumed was an easy task.
the office was only open during my working hours, so i had to wait for a day off to come around before i could get everything filed with them. in the meantime, i got tired of looking at all of these papers and tried to call in sick one day but that didn’t work out as planned, had a snow day at home and drove there through the icy roads only to be told, ‘of course, we’re not open, we close every wednesday at noon’, went during my winter break only to find i didn’t have the right forms, i was missing some obscure piece of original paperwork, and on and on….
well the day finally came when all the stars were aligned, the office was open, i had the day off, and i was armed with every possible form of documentation they could potentially need. i walked through the door, signed in and was handed a number. when i finally heard my lucky #488 called, i went to ‘window z’ to file the papers at last.
upon looking at my form, window z woman said, ‘i’m not sure what this is, i don’t understand.’ her reaction kind of surprised me as it seemed to be a standard form, one provided by their office in the first place, and they are the ones who had insisted that it needed to be completed and brought back to them. with all original, obscure documentation of course. i suggested that she talk to the last guy i had dealt with there, (window x), as he seemed to have had a pretty good handle on it during my last visit. after a quick stop at window x, she returned, said everything was in order, and let me know that i should hear back from them in 6 months or so, as they “usually work very slowly.” i easily agreed with her on this one –
as an afterthought, while there, i thought i’d mention that i’d noticed someone in their office had mistyped my address when sending out my last notice from them, and it was now off by one digit. i explained that only reason i actually got the letter was that my postman saw it, figured it out, and brought it to me. i asked if they could change it back from ‘123 to 124’ so that in the future, i would actually get mailings from them and wouldn’t have to rely on good luck, timing, and a nice postman.
she delivered her quiet response with a straight face and a certainty that only the truest bureaucrat can possess. ‘we cannot change your address once you are dead.’ even though i tried to point out that i was actually alive and sitting in front of her, requesting that my address be changed back to the correct one, and that i was simply representing the dead person, and trying to make sure that i received mail from them that they insisted i respond to, under penalty of federal offense.
she simply looked me in the eye and repeated, ‘we cannot change your address once you are dead.’ i thanked her for her time and her help, and mentioned that i hoped i would actually receive the letter from them when it arrived in 6 months or so, or perhaps my neighbor would get it. with a mutual nod, and new level of understanding, we parted ways.