When I arrived at the SSO with my 4 children, I was greeted by a room with 40 chairs, all in rows facing each other. There were 2 empty seats, and they weren't together. I took a number and then turned 2 circles to try and locate some hidden chairs. Nope. We finally sat in front of a closed agent window in 2 seats and waited for a better spot to open up. No one offered to make a place for us.
After about 10 minutes, we got a spot with 3 chairs together. Close enough. I had instructed the big sisters to each help entertain a little brother since the wait might be long. I suggested whipping out the iPhones and playing games with said brothers. (NO, I did not buy iPhones for my 9 and 13 year olds, and YES they do have tight restrictions.) That plan went well for about 6 minutes. Then an armed security guard made a friendly announcement that "all cell phones, PDAs, and blackberries must be turned off. Not silent, not vibrate, but OFF. No gaming, no texting. Nothing." If we did not follow these rules, we would be escorted out of the building. Oh, and "no food or drinks. Not even bottled water."
Okay, so electronic entertainment and snacks were illegal. We went ahead and passed around gum. Take that.
After about 10 more minutes I remembered we had some activity books in the van, so I quickly went to retrieve them. This helped.
Our wait was long enough to hear the armed security guard repeat his half-hourly announcement. It was hard to know how long we waited because THERE ARE NO CLOCKS IN THE WAITING AREA and THEY OUTLAWED OUR CELL PHONES. Finally, my number was called. The agent waited approximately 4 seconds before impatiently repeating my number as I gathered up my 4 children and their activity books and pens from all over the floor.
I took my seat at the window and said, "I'm here to apply for an original number for my son." I handed her the necessary forms of identification. She did not look me in the eye. She just took the papers. After pecking away at her keyboard for a full minute, she asked, "Do you know his number?"
Is this thing on? I thought I explained that "I'm here to apply for an original number for my son."
She typed for several more minutes, never looking at us. She did ask, "What is the child's race?"
Ummm, if you'd raise your head and focus on me and my 4 blonde-haired, blue-eyed children it probably wouldn't be hard to figure out. I mean, it's not like we've got shiny black hair and a golden tan. Helloooooo?
After more typing and not looking at us, she finally said, "I'll have to verify this birth certificate with the State of Oklahoma."
"Isn't the birth certificate enough verification? I mean, it does have signatures, a fancy embossed stamp, and a notary stamp and everything. It's The Official Birth Certificate."
"Yes, ma'am, but we have to verify it."
"So how long does that take?"
"Well, ma'am, it depends on the State."
Oh, great. See first paragraph. I don't have a lot of faith in The State of Oklahoma.
"So how long do you think it will take?"
"I'm not sure, but when we get a verification, we'll mail you a receipt. That receipt will tell you that the card has been approved. Then we'll mail you the card."
"So, let me get this straight. You'll mail me the receipt and then mail the card?"
Wonder why they don't just mail them both in the same envelope, saving time, postage, and . . . oh, wait. It's the Federal Government.
Efficiency wouldn't make sense. Having a TV in the waiting area, or newspapers or magazines to read in the waiting area doesn't make sense. No clocks in the waiting area doesn't make sense.
While we endured this process, I realized that all government agencies are run this way. Long lines, unexplained delays, rules that don't make sense, impersonal employees, and no results are the norm.
So, if we get government health care, just imagine this scene next time you need to be approved for routine medical care. And then imagine if you have an emergency.
God help us all.
**UPDATE: I followed up after not hearing anything for MONTHS, only to find out that there is no application pending and no record that I actually came into the office. I will have to start the process over from scratch.
Labels: America, government35 36 37 38