Thursday, April 06, 2006

It Takes an Angel—or a Saint

L et’s celebrate! My friend got her picture ID today.

The red tape has finally been cut and she has the picture ID she needs. Of course, she complained about how she looks in the picture, but most people do.

What I find interesting—and what I want to share—is what I learned from her story. If you remember my Tuesday evening blog post, Red & Extremely Sticky, my friend had all of her identification stolen. She needed to replace it, but to do that, she first needed to obtain a picture ID. She didn’t need a driver’s license, just an ID with her picture on it.

At the state office that provides them, she was told she needed her original Social Security card in order to get a picture ID. She went to the Social Security Administration office to get a replacement card (which had also been stolen) and was told that she needed a picture ID in order to have her card replaced.

Over the past several weeks she has made numerous trips between the offices without success. At the instructions of various bureaucrats, she has obtained a certified copy of her birth certificate, her divorce decree, letters addressed to her at her current residence, and I don’t know what else. It seemed that whatever she produced at the Social Security office was not enough.

Yesterday found her back at the state department that produces IDs. This office was at a different location than the one she had previously gone to and the only reason she went there was because of the crowds at the one to which she had been going. At this office the clerk expressed genuine interest in her predicament and gave her advice on how to solve it. She told her that she really did not need an original Social Security card: a statement from the Social Security Administration confirming that she had a Social Security number would do. The clerk also recommended that she go to the primary Social Security Administration office in downtown Louisville rather than the east end branch to which she had been going.

Armed with this information, she made a mad dash into the city traffic of downtown Louisville and arrived at the Federal Building just after the office closed for the day. However, she was back there bright and early the next day and again encountered an obliging bureaucrat. This kindly gentleman looked at all of the documents she had and compared them with a plastic encased sheet provided by the Homeland Security ant-spook folks detailing the documents the Social Security Administration could accept as proof of identity. He informed her that she needed one more item that was on the list and enumerated what the other item could be. One of those items (that no one had previously mentioned) was medical records. He also warned her that she might want to go to another Social Security office other than that one in the Federal Building. He said that he did not know why the guards let her into the building with only a photocopy of her last picture ID because that was not on the "approved list" of identification items the guards had. She might not be allowed in the next time she came.

(I rather suspect the guards at the Federal Building let her in because she is a very beautiful woman. But that is only a surmise on my part).

Thus our beleaguered heroine contacted her doctor and obtained copies of her medical records. Then she went to the west end branch of the Social Security Administration and, within ten minutes, came out with the statement from the Social Security Administration confirming that she had a Social Security number that the woman at the ID card branch had told her she could use in place of a Social Security card.

She returned to the ID office of that angel of a clerk and, after showing all of the documents she had accumulated, filling out a form, and paying $12.50, she now has her picture ID!

Here is what I learned: red tape can be cut, but one needs to lucky enough to come upon one of those few bureaucrats who are willing to listen to your needs and provide you with appropriate information. In theological language, we call them “angels”—or, maybe, “saints.”


  1. Are they paid to not give out information? Is it a passive-aggressive thing? I don't see much compassion or empathy in some of these government workers. You know, a little of the "walk a mile in that person's shoes" kind of thing.

    So glad she found a few who did help her. Otherwise it sounds kind Kafka-esque.

  2. Wow, what an ordeal - if she hadn't found the only two good ones in the whole government, she would still be gummed up with the sticky red stuff! ec

  3. Finally she found a sympathetic ear, hooray! No wonder Joe public loathes govt beauractic red tape.

  4. I’m glad your friend’s nightmare with the government is finished and she has what she needed. In my own life I have encountered quite a few inept bureaucrats. I have also found a few who went well beyond what their jobs called for to help people—including me. I think you know one of them, Rev. Nick! (It’s too bad you no longer work for the government; they could certainly use you now).

  5. Wow those are hard to find. That is alot of work to prove who you that is kinda scary.

  6. Nick, in these previous posts of yours i find the oneness we so ofter speak of. The whole world is one and united as far as red tape shit goes. And it's gonna remain like that for quite some time.

  7. Squirl—I wish I had an answer. Having been a bureaucrat/social worker supervisor, I think a big part of it is lack of knowledge and information on the part of bureaucrats. Maybe it is also poor supervision.

    Mreddie—Yes, she had quite an ordeal. I had problems with the Social Security Administration getting my own replacement card, but I learned from that experience that those problems were caused by the requirements Homeland Security placed on the Social Security Administration to make sure they didn’t provide a card to a possible Arab terrorist.

    Michelle—I, for one, join with Joe Public and cringe each time I have to deal with a government agency.

    Azsonofagun—Uh, thank you, Rex. But I don’t think I want to be a bureaucrat again.

    Kylee—Yes, it is scary, especially in a United States that is now being governed by a bunch of control freaks.

    Vishwa—I am afraid you are so right! The red tape is increasing everywhere. I am so glad there are a few people with the humanity and compassion to be willing to at least attempt to cut some of it for their fellow human beings.