Social security

Some of you might remember my @#&*% !!! blog. When I called Mid-American Energy to set up natural gas service at our new home in Iowa, they informed me that their background check linked my social security number to a different birthdate. Thankfully they allowed me to fax a copy of my social security card and driver’s license to verify my identity. (Yes! This is just what I want floating around an office…) And being me, I called back on different occasions before sending the fax to start fresh and run the background check again (i.e., suspecting there was some sort of typo or human error). Each time I received the same notification. Social security # XXX-XX-XXXX does not match up with birthdate 04-01-1981. (Yes, now that you know my birthdate – April Fool’s Day – you can make fun of me. But now you’re also indebted to send me cards & gifts. I *am* turning 30 next year, you know). So this whole thing was weird. I changed my last name in 2005 and verified all information at that point. I monitor my credit report each month like a hawk (eye). What is going on?

Mid-American Energy started our service without a glitch (Thank God, because had we arrived to Iowa with 6 dogs to find NO AIR CONDITIONING I would have turned into Kate Gosselin). But the customer service representative did strongly urge me to contact social security. And then she was kind enough to tell me her experience. Oh boy.

When she had to complete a routine background check for something at the age of 18, as she started doing adult things (e.g., starting a professional job, starting utility service, securing a lease, etc), she was informed that her GENDER did not match up! “Uh, yeah Cindy. This is kind of awkward to discuss, but your records show that you are a man” This poor young woman had to prove that she never had a sex change – and that she was born with a vagina!!! Good grief. But she assured me that Social Security handled her case very well. “Yeah, right”, I’m thinking. “You probably walked into the local office and got yourself preferential treatment with your big boobs or something.” As if I could see her boobs through the phone.

My sister-in-law mentioned her POSITIVE experience with Social Security to deal with an error in the system. WHAT!? These cases must be, as we call them in social scientific research, “outliers” (i.e., exceptions to the usual statistical trend). And while we’re on the topic, I should clarify that this is one weakness of quantitative research, for example – it can easily disregard the “exceptions” to the norms. This is bad. And this is one of the many reasons why qualitative research is also necessary. Are your eyes glazing over? Sorry.

Not long after this, a friend and colleague also had to visit the Social Security office. And she ALSO had a positive experience. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? Great, so now I’m thinking that I’m bound to have a BAD experience, statistically speaking. But, this is an error of reasoning. Roll a dice and 1 in 6 times you’ll get a #1. Visit Social Security, and you have the same chance of having a good experience as your friend. Please quantitative research – prove your principal of reasoning!!!

I arrived with my driver’s license, social security card, and birth certificate in hand. Okay, so maybe this isn’t so impressive. But working with many students who seem to think that printing off a one-page paper BEFORE class is a sizable accomplishment, well, it’s lowered my expectations. I know, I know – the printer NEVER works in any f***ing computer lab on campus. But that is why you PLAN AHEAD, people. So anytime someone, myself included, does more than the minimum, I am both shocked and impressed.

After having the distinct displeasure of working with insanely large organizations like Boeing and Airbus, not to mention working at Walt Disney World with 50,000 cast members who drive on a 4-lane freeway *inside* the park to get to work, I was apprehensive about the whole fiasco.

I brought a full day’s worth of grading to do, prepared to sit for hours on end. I arrived at 8:55 am and sat in my car until the doors opened at 9:00. I took a number and sat down with everyone else.

Now get this: Social Security was kind, organized, and efficient. Who would have thought!? I was out the door at 9:15 am. This is the 4th case I now know of in which someone had to work with Social Security, and all 4 customers (myself included) rated their experience as positive. This is far too small of a sample to conclude or generalize anything, but I hope this is indicative of the experiences for the larger population.

Oh, and about my records? They are completely accurate. My social security number matches up with my last name, with my original last name (i.e., what some people call a “maiden name”), with my birthdate, with my parents’ names, with everything in the universe!

I’m am so psyched about this whole experience that I want to throw a toga party and parade the U.S. flag on my naked body while playing beer pong. Like Harold & Kumar, I feel partying with G Dub tonight.


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