A little bit more American

Today we experienced an hour of American government department to get our Social Security numbers. After the brief visit a couple of weeks ago where there was barely any wait and a lovely lady who explained we were too early, that our immigration status hadn’t flowed through to their system yet, we arrived just after 9am this morning (Monday) hoping for the same. Not so.

  • the line was outside the building to go into the foyer for security checking and they were only taking 2 people at a time through the bag scan and metal detector, several ahead of us didn’t seem to speak English so lots of short-tempered mad hand waving and strip-off motioning by the 2 guards to get them to put their stuff on the belt and walk around through the metal detector. One at a time.
  • the security guards processing the bag scan and metal detector were worse than TSA – even I had to take my jacket and watch off, I felt completely naked. I wear more through airport screening. They turned away some people in front of us – not sure why but I could lip read “you can’t bring that in here” – perhaps they had guns in their bags. We had to open our laptops and turn them on until they booted. Heart missed a beat when Craig tried to explain his battery was flat. They scanned the laptops twice.
  • the room we waited in last time probably had 50 people waiting in it, instead of the 20 that were there last time. We went to the monitor, checked in and grabbed our number, we knew the system. Now, to choose a seat – after a homeless man made the most disgusting gravelly wrenching liquid cough and (eeeeuw I feel nauseous typing this) spat up something brown on the floor then went into the bathroom to carry on coughing for a couple of minutes (magnified by all that porcelain) our seat choice was clear – way the hell over the other side of the waiting room.
  • our number was 15 away from the next one being called, and stamped on our receipt, it said “expected wait time 90 minutes”. OMG, I looked around the waiting room, 90 minutes of coughing, elderly Chinese couples who kept dozing off and missing their number being called, several homeless people (educated guess based on their carts and sleeping mats), 4 wheel chairs, several middle-aged men in army fatigues/camoflage-themed sweats with authority attitudes muttering under their breath “what gives you the right to treat me like that” (obviously had a run in with the security guard), a couple from Russia who I could see were filling out the application form all wrong and had to look up in their passports whether they should tick box ‘male’ or ‘female’, was ahead of us – it was going to be a long morning. Pulled out our cell phones. No coverage.
  • finally, after half an hour our number was called. We handed the clerk all our papers through the glass window – passports, application forms, marriage certificates, work permit – everything we had. He said hello, nodded and tapped a couple of keys on his keyboard. Then for the next TEN minutes we sat in silence while he scrolled up and down, tapped a key here and there, and stared at his screen. I was desperately trying to see the reflection in his glasses of what was on screen – I was convinced he was reading a newspaper, checking out his horoscope, sports scores or something. While we waited, I listened to everyone else’s business … no-one seemed to be there to get a social security number …
    • someone was in a custody battle over their son and the mother seemed to be taking the child out of the States, he had a court order and was denying receiving something else from the court so was trying to win a he-said-she-said argument with the clerk
    • a guy had been hepatitis free for 12 years but had some problem with his disability/medical payments and was locked in a he-said-she-said argument about which agency was responsible with the clerk
    • a young guy hadn’t paid his taxes and they’d seized his car and his momma had sent him down there
    • an elderly Chinese woman was explaining loudly to a clerk that she had a bank account, had received a hundred dollars into it but the clerk wanted proof of it, but the woman was adamant she couldn’t have proof because she’d spent the money; the clerk explained that a bank statement would show the money going into the account, but the woman said she couldn’t show the money because she’d spent it … and on and on …
    • eventually one of the guys who’d earlier been turned away at security screening came into the waiting room – what did he do? Stash his gun in a bush on 7th street?
  • after 25 minutes and finally some typing action, our clerk printed out a couple of receipts for us and after earlier only saying ‘Hello’ we said ‘yes’ when he asked us to confirm our names and addresses were correct – none of the long discussions going on at all the other windows. He said our new social security numbers would be with us in about 2 weeks. We rushed out of there.

I felt so dirty – the creaking of the metal seats, in the waiting room and in front of the clerk windows (all bolted down by the way), the coughing and the smell will haunt me for a while. I was wondering out loud about all the people we knew who live here who’ve had to go through that but The Mister pointed out that if you’re born here you get your number then so perhaps I’ve experienced something special that most Americans don’t get to experience. I want to live and work here – this is part of it, part of becoming a little bit more American. God I hope we don’t have to renew these numbers like we have to for everything else official we’ve got – we didn’t hang around to ask!

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Sightglass Coffee — OrangeBlog on 08.24.11 at 10:34 am

[…] August 22nd: visited again today to recover from our second, more harrowing visit to get our social security numbers and had a much better cappuccino, nice flavour and a bit more ooomph – must’ve been […]

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