Real ID, anyone?

Raise your hand if you haven’t seen your Social Security card in a while. It’d been decades for me and it never mattered. Until now.

Bday coming — license renewal year. The law’s changed. I could renew the standard way or provide additional proofs of identity to obtain a “Real ID.” The Real ID would allow me to continue to travel without a passport domestically.

None of the alternative proofs of my Social Security number were available to me. My last W-2 dates back a few years (they want a recent one). Our 1099’s are in K’s name and by the way, only reveal the last four digits of his SSN. Correspondence from SSA only reveals last four digits of my SSN, too.

So, off I went to the Social Security Administration in Waltham last week to apply for a new card. A bundle of papers culled from all over the house. My passport.

There was just one wrinkle. Passport was not enough. A birth certificate would be convincing, but when I was eight, she whispered, my mother changed my name. She threw an additional “r” into ‘Deidre,’ making me ever after ‘Deirdre.’ My birth certificate is wrong.

Notice how I buried that? After holding for 25 minutes the day before and then talking to a super nice guy for 25 minutes, I was counseled to characterize the discrepancy as a misspelling. Tired parents. Careless clerk. Avoid the words, ‘name change.’ The truth is, my mother misspelled my name repeatedly throughout my life, so it wasn’t a stretch to assert (which matters only because I’m a terrible liar). Did she make the change officially? This would’ve been the year JFK was killed. Schenectady County. I have no idea, but somehow I doubted it and clearly there wasn’t time to find out. I certainly didn’t have time to petition a court myself in the event she hadn’t bothered.

I brought an electric bill addressed to ‘Deidre’ to show that it was a common mistake.

Meanwhile, I was fairly certain that I’d applied for my SSN at the time of my first real job — age 15, mother’s helper. If so, no problem.

I arrived at 10:00 to a room full of fellow applicants. I counted a dozen. I hadn’t realized until arriving that the office closed at noon on Wednesdays. Would I make it?

A barrel chested man in uniform, 6’3″ at least, assured me that my queue number would be preserved if I had to return the next day. Okay, that let me relax.

So did recognizing how low the stakes were for me. This is only about being able to leave my passport home when I fly to Boulder or LA. I wasn’t wrestling with immigration or disability payments or Medicare.

Many windows were closed — whether because of the government shutdown or as a matter of course, I didn’t know. People kept flowing in, including an elderly Chinese couple. She could barely walk and relied heavily on her husband for stability.

I kept a head count going. Two people were accompanying other people. Good! One was a no-show. Good! I was beginning to think I’d make it.

Meanwhile, the officer was tracking everything, too. When a number was called out to no response, he repeated the number in Spanish and sure enough up popped two Hispanic men. The officer added a greeting and more information. Fluently.

Time ticked by. I sunk into the vacancy of waiting mind, which is a lot like resting. Phone untouched. The elderly Chinese man walked his wife to the restroom, then waited outside. His number was called before she finished, so the officer took up waiting in his place. When she emerged, he offered his arm and spoke a few syllables to her in Chinese. Bending down. Speaking softly.

I was blown away.

My number came up! I had a 20 dollar bill in my pocket (lunch money?) to offer the guy at window eight in case he was working without pay (he wasn’t). He was affable. Efficient. I couldn’t believe my luck. He predicted the new card would come well in advance of the officially stated two weeks.

It arrived in three business days.

And so, I trundled off to the RMV in Watertown this morning. It was the usual hive of activity but unlike other years they had a cadre of women previewing applications, scribbling approvals, expediting the line. I was out of there in a half an hour.

Blown away. Again.

And in case that isn’t enough: I sold a quilt on etsy last night! And at midnight I padded downstairs for the ninth search for the missing checkbook (think: recent robberies and a well-meaning attempt to protect our assets) AND FOUND IT! And in case all that isn’t enough: after the aide who was FINALLY going to start up in Salem yesterday bailed and I was starting to feel like the matter would never be resolved for my poor sister, a new one was hired on this morning! Just like that!

Whew. I need to look at astrology and see what’s happening up there.