The First Challenge….getting my social security number

Friday 7th May 2010

People have told me many many stories of how busy and ‘interesting the social security office is, that you have to wait for hours, the strange and colourful characters that you encounter, the challenging attitudes of the staff and that as a precaution you should make sure you have every little bit of paperwork that could possibly have anything to do with your visa application.

So today was my turn

I headed to the downtown federal building by city hall, enjoying the experience of the street market that was happening to get lunch – I figured sustenance would be required. You’re id’d into the building, bags are scanned and detector screening leaves you squaring your shoulders in preparation for fighting the hoardes that you are about to encounter. So far so good.

Up to the 31st floor and room 130, hmm must be that big room off the lobby. The big almost completely empty room. The guard gives me a form and tells me to “press the blue button” after a moment of incomprehension – where Matrix like scenarios are racing through my head – he adds “on the screen” waving at a monitor sticking out of the wall behind me. I press the indicated button and out spits my ticket. A53, check the board currently seeing A50. Things are looking good.

Then I start work on the form, realising I should probably have read the paper work requirements before coming, but as I’ve brought my file I have I’m feeling fairly confident. I’m ready to face the form.

I take a deep breathe it’s only a form after all. And less than one page with tricky questions like what’s your name, parents names, address, the daytime number causes me a moment of panic and I dig for my blackberry to find my new office number. Sign,  now done! That’s it?

And they’ve just call A51 who appears to have gone into hiding, so A52 and her mom have just gone in. Her mom giving her a hard time because she hadn’t told her she was A52 she had just told her she was 52….. I check the paperwork requirements as a guy who has just sat down to my left is sifting through his piles of paperwork.

Proof of age – passport. Proof of id if US don’t need to worry, passport and visa for non citizens. Check, so far so good, all I need is my passport. Non-citizen requires proof of Visa, check the I-94 is stapled to my passport. I’m now feeling smug. All I need is my passport.

A53 is called and 15 mins later I walk out of the federal building wondering what all the fuss is about.

I have my letter to show I’ve applied to send to HR so they will actually pay me.

As for all those stories about hours spent in queues, dodging weirdos and freaks, negotiating the potential minefield of the federal employee having a bad day …..Bah, what are people talking about! I was done and back in the office emailing HR in less than 1.5 hours!


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