Until yesterday the most difficult thing I have had to do in America since our arrival was try to get anything at all done without a social security number.
This was a debilitating and frustrating process which I eventually overcame despite the enormous odds and the inflexibility of the systems and the people in this great country.
Yesterday my wallet was stolen by some bounder in the Marsh supermarket downtown. Actually it may have fallen out of my pocket onto the floor – and then been stolen by a someone – who certainly did not turn it in so from my point of view is a thief – and an asshat.
No big deal. Just report the cards stolen and get new ones.
I recommend that you avoid calling anyone in America who is not likely to answer the phone personally. That is – do not call anyone except your spouse – and only then on their cell phone.
Do not under any circumstances try to call credit card companies, insurance companies, health insurance companies, banks and the myriad other people who will do absolutely anything not to talk to you – and who have turned this into an art form – using systems designed by Franz Kafka.
If you do call them expect it to take a long time and be immensely frustrating. At some time during the call – which will be interminable – you will cry – or sob if you are not strong willed.
This is not productive and will do you no good at all. You will be better off sucking on a glass or two of Jameson Irish Whiskey. This will also eventually make you cry – but for the right reasons - while you sing ‘Danny Boy’ and slur in what you imagine is Irish dialect – channeling Brendan Behan.
It is always a bad start when you ring the ‘lost or stolen’ card number for a credit card and the menu voice says ‘if you are reporting a card lost or stolen press 1’
And when you press 1 it says ‘I’m sorry – I don’t recognize that number – if you are reporting a card lost or stolen press 1’.
And it gets no better.
‘If you are reporting a card lost or stolen please enter the 16 digit card number’
But….I have lost my card….
In one company I spoke to three separate people – each of whom asked for my name, social security number, date of birth, address and telephone number.
Another company told me they could not help me because their system was down. If I wanted to I could call back later. These same people have separate numbers for reporting a card lost and then applying for a new one – each with the same sort of excruciating menus.
I have only three credit cards and one debit card. The process took more than three hours.
My new cards are going straight into a safe deposit box at the Fifth Third Bank (this is a real bank and is a merger of the fifth bank and the third bank and its name demonstrates such poverty of imagination that it almost makes me weep).
Of course the credit card thing pales into insignificance when compared to applying for a new license. I will tell you about this delightful experience tomorrow.