Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Government

I went to the Social Security Administration today so I could file the paperwork to change my name. Somewhat surprisingly to even me, I'm adding Lynch to the end -- I mainly think Lynch is a lot easier to spell and say than my current last name. I am still going to use both indefinitely for work purposes, but how often do you get the option to have a new name for the second half of your life? Sure. Let's change it.

I wait in line for about 45 minutes downstairs, surrounded on all sides by tons of families of every color speaking a million different languages. I get upstairs to a surprisingly calm and spacious office and hand the lady at Window 14 my form. She looks me up on the computer, and then asks "When did you get your passport?" Uh, 15 years ago?? "When did you become a citizen?" Since the day I was born in Ohio. "Well, they have you here as a resident alien who is ineligible to work in the US." Uh...WHAT?? I've been working in the United States, legally as far as I know, since I was about 14.

"I need your birth certificate as proof you were born here. You have to go get it and come back." I protest, saying that this has never come up before, even when issued a Driver's License, Passport, etc. so how can this be possible. I'm also finding it somewhat ironic that nearly every other person in the SSA today seems to be from another country, at least based on their language skills, but the white girl from the Midwest who was born in the good ol' USofA gets called on the carpet for being an illegal. WTF. She calls over her supervisor. Somehow, they get it sorted it out, by selecting a different pull down box, or changing the spelling. Or something.

She hands me the form to sign saying "You're going to see something that you won't think is right." Yep. My Dad's name is listed as Chester Kowelczyk. That's not even what it was before my parents changed it from Kowalczyk in 1960. I point it out. "Yes, I told you you'd see something that was wrong. Just ignore it." I guess the lady fudged it for me by changing my Dad's original name by one letter, even though I don't know how they pulled that up, as his name had been changed legally to the shortened by the time I was born. Okay, whatever. I'm cool with that. Just so I don't have to come back again. I pick up the pen.

I sign my name. My OLD name, that is. 30+ years of signing the same name, what can you do? It's a hard habit to break. The SSA lady is cracking up. "Didn't you JUST CHANGE YOUR NAME??" Oh yeah. I'm laughing too. THAT'S what I'm here doing. But wait! I haven't even practiced signing my new name on the cover of my sunset-patterned Trapper Keeper in loopy cursive writing! I can picture it: loads of arrow-punctured hearts saying Mrs. Steve...Mr. and Mrs. Steve...Mrs. Susan ....Cripes. I forgot to ever try writing it out. She prints out a new form. I sign and hand it back to her. She looks at the signature and observes "You need to practice this more. You'll get your card in 6-8 weeks."

I came home and signed my new name about 30 times. I still need practice.