bureaucracy will make you crazy

My out-of-state driver's license, onto which I have held like a security blanket, is due to expire on my birthday. Meanwhile, when my wallet was stolen last fall my social security card was in it, and I've been postponing dealing with that.

Unfortunately by the time I realized that the State of Illinois now requires proof of social security number in order to get a driver's license, I only had three weeks to go before my other license was going to expire. Further, from what I read on the website, it seemed that Social Security would hold onto my passport when I brought it in to get a new card, and that it would take two to four weeks to get the card -- and I needed the passport too to get the driver's license. So I thought -- well, I have plenty of pay stubs and tax forms that have my social security number on them. Why not try that? On the secretary of state's list of necessary documents, some of the categories seem flexible -- like in the proof of address column where they list three things and then say that some other unspecified things are OK and some other unspecified things are not. I emailed the state to ask if a pay stub was OK as proof of SSN; they didn't write back. So I went in. Well, no go. You have to have an actual social security card with you in order to get a license. So I trekked down to the social security office and as it turned out they only needed to look at my passport, not to actually keep it, and they claim I'll get the card within two weeks. If I had only done this first, I might have the license in time to drive by the time my car is actually working. Maybe my colleague is right--I would have saved myself 80 IQ points by not getting a PhD. I had a hell of a time keeping track of all those documents.

So, in the social security office there was a man keeping up a steady stream of loud, unintelligible mumbling. Everyone in the waiting area was avoiding looking at him or each other. I caught a few words that included "get a job" and "two fingers" and "knees" and "money." When the security officer came in to check on things, the mumbling suddenly got a lot quieter. At the window, he was positively lucid--he gave his name and address, said his check hadn't come, asked if he could get a new check, asked if he could get a copy of a document. Well, um, mostly lucid--what he wanted was a carbon copy. Apparently he was not fully satisfied with the outcome of his request, because he then wouldn't leave the window and had to be escorted out by the same security guard.

Sometimes it seems like if you could skip the misery and poverty and illness and bureaucratic craziness that seem to have frayed away his sanity, it wouldn't be such a bad thing to feel so uninhibited.


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