Wednesday, March 11, 2015


When your spouse/ partner dies, the world sees it generally fit to give you a little bit of time to process that information.  It's never enough time, of course, but at least a token three days bereavement leave is granted, because you know, three days is PLENTY of time to heal right up.  Hell, I was ready to go unicorn riding with Ronald McDonald in Madagascar by day 4!  Thanks, world, for giving me SO much time to find inner peace!

Honestly though, I have to find humor in all of the bullshit tasks you have to go through after the fact.   From paperwork, to calling banks, to verifying it was Megan's body in her casket before they cremated her (really?  that's a law now?  I don't even want to know why, but I unfortunately think I do know why) It really is my "coping" mechanism, and it's served me well for years.  

On March 5th, I had an appointment at the Social Security office to set up Shelby's survivor's benefits.  (Quick back story, Megan was on disability, and when she died, Shelby became entitled to receive a portion of her benefits until she is 18.)  This turned out to be an exercise in ineptitude.

First, I called to set up the appointment back in January.  They had no openings until March.  Really?  You're telling me this will take only 45 minutes, but I have to wait until March to sit down and answer a few questions and show a few documents to you?  Alright, at least I'm penciled in.

So I show up about 20 minutes early to the federal building, because I'm a responsible adult, and I'm not late to appointments. Of course, this being a federal building, I have to go through the x-rays and body wanding, and tell them what I was there for so they can be sure I'm not there to attack the place.  It's a good system they have, but it's a weel known fact that terrorists are incapable of lying about their true intentions.  Since the SS office didn't open until 9:00 AM, I was told to go wait in the main lobby on the big cold granite bench with all of the other responsible adults.

That's when I learned that there's a "system" to this.  About 4 or 5 people were there early, waiting with me and getting the stinkeye from security like we were a huge inconvenience.  At about 5 until 9:00, a wave of people came flooding into the lobby, somehow breezed past the secret service wannabes, and hopped right on the elevator to go up to the dingy little social security office.  Turns out that it's MUCH more efficient to be almost late.  Paul Blart informed the rest of us punctual dumbasses on the stone monolith that we were free to go upstairs after the first load of 10 people crammed in and rode up.

Now, this being 'murica, of course there was a "check-in" kiosk as soon as you walked in, and of course the damn thing wasn't working, and of course there was no sign of anyone that could even POSSIBLY work there anywhere within a two mile radius.  It was only 8:57 AM you see.  They open at 9:00.

Picture a scene of what is now 17 people, waiting patiently in a somehow organized line behind this kiosk (seriously, I don't even know how some of these people could stand up...I almost got drunk from the fumes), and stretching back to the elevator doors. The man at the front of the line (we shall call him "Dunkin") is feverishly tapping on the screen of this kiosk, because he somehow knows that if he hits it hard enough multiple times it will suddenly come to life and bend to his will.  The woman behind him (eh, let's call her "Sniffles") is watching over his shoulder....probably taking notes so she knows how to operate the damn thing the next time she's there.  I swear she should could have given Dunkin a hickey as close as she was.

Finally, at 9:00 AM, the Kiosk magically comes to life, because, you see, it gets paid hourly wages, and it'll be damned if it works one second before it's on the clock.  Dunkin finds that his finger mashing has worked to awaken the infernal machine, and promptly forgets the last 4 of his social security number.  Sniffles is getting impatient while he flounders around for his wallet (his back pocket was pretty well out of reach for his t-rex arms), and asks if she can go ahead and put her info in so she can get her ticket (that's right, you get tickets here, like the worlds worst amusement park).  "One second" is the response.  It is now 9:04, it is approaching 20 people waiting, and not a single person has checked in yet.

Dunkin realizes that Ohio driver's licenses don't put the social security number on there any more, so he finally decides to let sniffles in front of him while he calls...someone.  Sniffles remembers the last 4 of her SSN, but her appointment isn't until 10:00, and there's no way to change it from the magical kiosk.  Evidently, she thought she was at an airline check-in, and could change her seat right, Sniffles is pissed.

After 5 more comedic performances, I walk up to the kiosk, put my last 4 in, a ticket spits out, and I wait for an appointment that was supposed to start 15 minutes ago.  I'm finally called into the back.

I take a seat in front of "Diane" and pull out all of my paperwork...Shelby's birth certificate, Megan's social security card, our marriage license, etc.  Diane starts asking boilerplate questions about my income, if Megan worked, my military service, if Shelby had disabilities, and the like.  She never makes eye contact with me, as she's too busy doing the one finger shuffle across her keyboard.  Take a look at your keyboard, and try to figure out why it would take 15 seconds to type the name "Welker".

These questions go on for at least 25 minutes, and finally, she says we're done, and she just has to go grab the paperwork off of the printer and have me sign it.  Ok.  "Not bad" I think, "I'll be out of here before 10:00, when Sniffles out in the waiting room can come back for her appointment"

She returns with a stack of paper, and asks me to review it for accuracy and sign off on it.  Here is what I have now determined about my's probably news to you, because it sure was to me:
  • I was born in February 2007
  • Shelby, my 8 year old daughter, was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2002 
  •  Megan lived in Canton, and I lived in Akron
  • We were married in 1981, magically, 26 years before I was born (Megan was a cradle robber)
After pointing out that I am not an 8 year old to Diane, she gets flustered, and spends another 15 minutes trying to determine where her life went so wrong.  Three more trips to the printer, and we finally have a coherent document that doesn't somehow bend the space-time continuum.  

I sign off on the application, and then I'm informed of the "benefits".  Shelby will be getting a direct deposit of a portion of Megan's disability until she graduates high school.  Well, at least she'll have some extra savings by that point.  

Then the best news of the day!  I am entitled to a "survivor's" benefit!  Only I'm not.  Because I have a good paying job, my wife was apparently worthless to the gubmint.  If only I made less or was unemployed, then I could get the whole $250 that Megan was worth.  That's right, after years of paying into social security, Megan was worth $250.  I'm not saying I SHOULD be entitled any benefits, but if you're going to dole out government cheese based on someone losing their goddamned WIFE, at least make it a little more than a token $250.

At this point, we're 5 minutes from being done, and "Schteve" comes over to Diane's desk and tells her to vacate, because he has an appointment at 10.  Really?  There are literally 3 other empty desks within my field of view.  This sets off an argument between them about how it's not anyone's desk, and they need to share.  The dad in me almost stepped in and told them to play nice or I would be turning this car around.  Schteve relents and finds another desk.

Finally, this whole clusterfuck is over with, and I get the hell out of the office, with 9 copies of the paperwork in hand, because they are not allowed to keep or toss the incorrect applications themselves, because they have identifying personal information on them (I would LOVE to see someone try to steal my identity using this information)

I'm actually in a good mood as I walk out, not only because it's finally over, and one more task was accomplished, but also because I realize that the Federal government is helping the make-a-wish foundation give Diane her special day that she always dreamed about.

This being downtown Akron, I had to pay for parking.  There aren't any attendants in this lot though.  There is one "pay station" on the 3rd floor of the garage that you pop your ticket into, pay your fee, and it spits the ticket back out and you're on your way.

Hey, only $2!  Damn, I only have a twenty.  "Oh well," I think, "it gives change."

Yeah, the whole $18 change was in the form of Sacajawea Golden dollars.  It felt like I had just won the jackpot at the worlds most "value-oriented" Casino!  Clink after clink after clink!  I half expected an employee to come running out and tell me I had just won a 1995 Buick Skylark along with my now 3 pounds of gold doubloons.  

Thing is, for some people, this would just be a shitty, shitty day, and cause endless amounts of frustration and possibly even trigger some anxiety.  My response is almost always the opposite...I have to laugh at this kind of stuff, and I immediately want to share it and laugh some more.  I look at these "follow-on" tasks with an outsider's eye (generally, I try to channel Megan, because she would be laughing her ass off) and treat them as just another thing I have to do.

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