I had to take my parents to the SSI office a while back. They have reached a stage of life that requires a lot more attention from me and I think I’m handling it well. At least I thought I was, until that day.
We got to the SSI office at a decent time and the waiting room was mostly empty. The friendly security guard smiled as he asked for my purse. “Any knives or weapons?” he asked.
“Uh, I don’t think so,” I said, mentally wondering if nail clippers were considered weapons. Of course, my entire purse is a rather formidable weapon due to its size and weight.
I cringed as he opened each zipper compartment, digging through months of grocery and gas receipts, loose change, pens, and the rest of the crap always finds its way into the depths of my purse. Including the tiny key ring knife I’d forgotten about.
“You can’t have that in here,” he said, smiling and handing me my bag. I watched as my parents tottered off to find a place to sit.
“Uh, ok. I’ll take it to the car.”
“They’ll be fine. I’ll keep an eye on them,” he said with a smile.
“It’s not them I’m worried about,” I muttered.
When I got back, he told me I needed to check in at the computer. “You just need to enter a social security number.”
“Does it matter which one?” I asked, “We’re here for both of them.”
He shook his head. “No, they just need to know you’re here. Then you’ll answer a few questions on the computer so they know how to help you.”
I got the ticket with our number: A239. I won’t forget that number. Ever. My folks had saved me a seat, right between them, which was good since they can’t sit next to each other without fighting. As soon as I sat down, the interrogation began.
“What’s our number?” Pop asked.
“A239,” I said, showing him the ticket.
“Oh, that’s good, we’re almost next.”
I looked at the list of numbers on the display screen. A236 was being helped, as well as B327, C483, D519, and E611. Yeah, almost next. The room wasn’t full, but there were several other people.
My mom leaned over. “What’s our number?”
“Does that mean we’re almost next?”
They called A237. My parents’ excitement was palpable until they called C484 and my father’s head nearly exploded.
“Why didn’t they call A238?” he demanded. “Why did they call a C number?”
“Because those people were next in line. The alpha part of the system is for auditing purposes so they can figure out what people came in for the most. We still go in the order of arrival.
“Oh,” he said, and resumed staring into space.
My mom leaned over. “What number did they call? Did they call a C number? Why didn’t they call A238?”
I decided to forgo the explanation I’d given to Pop. “Because they want me to cry.”
A few minutes passed and they cast the net for someone in the B section. My mother leaned over. “Ask your father if he knows where the bathroom is.”
“Pop, do you know where the bathroom is?”
“He knows,” I whispered to my mother. “It’s right around the corner.”
She looked annoyed. “I know that, I just want to know if he knows where it is.”
“It’s right around that corner,” I told my dad, pointing at the sign.
“I know that!” He said it so loudly, a few people, including the security guard, looked over.
I just smiled and turned to my mom. “He knows.”
“Ask him if he needs to go.”
I debated for a split second then threw caution to the wind. “Do you need to g-”
“He’s good,” I assured her.
They called another number that wasn’t ours.
“What’s our number?” Pop growled.
“What’s our number?” Mom whispered.
I bit back the urge to scream. “A239.”
My mother looked puzzled. “Is that the number they just called?”
When they finally called us up, I turned to my parents and said, “I’ll go over and get things started and let them know we’re here. You follow me there, ok?” They nodded.
The lady at the window was very polite as I explained what we needed. “But this isn’t you,” she said, pointing to the social security number I’d given her.
“No, that’s my dad.”
“Is he here?”
“Yes, he’s right…” I turned to see two empty chairs next to me at the counter. Looking into the waiting area, I saw my wayward parents, all the way across the room, sitting primly in their seats, looking angelic as they stared into space. “I’ll be right back,” I muttered, hurrying over to my parents. “What are you doing?”
“We’re waiting for you to finish up so we can go to lunch,” Mom said.
“No. I need you at the window. I can’t do this without you.”
“Well, I was told to stay right here,” Mom said, looking smug.
“Not by me, you weren’t,” I glared at Pop, who was busy ignoring me. “Let’s go to window 3.”
Mom stood up handed her purse to Pop and started over to the window. “He’s going to wait here,” she said
“No he’s not,” I said, trying to keep my voice even. Turning to my dad I said, “Come on we’re at window 3.”
“Naw, that’s a long way over there. I’ll just wait here.”
“Well, that won’t work because you’re one of the reasons we’re here in the first place. I need you to come with me.” He didn’t budge. “Now.”
“Oh. Well, ok then.”
A few moments later, we sat down at Window 3 and the nice lady asked for social security cards and photo ID. Pop had his out in a heartbeat and plopped it on the desk. Mom began digging through her wallet. She pulled out a library card.
“Nope,” the lady said.
AARP card was next.
“Nope,” the lady said.
“What about this one?”
“Nope. That’s car insurance. I’m with that same company,” she added with a smile.
The pile grew before Mom came up with her Medicare card and the lady pounced on it.
“I can use this; it has your social on it. Now I just need a driver’s license or state ID card.”
And that’s when my mother pulled THREE driver’s licenses out of her wallet and put them on the counter. The clerk and I looked at the pile then at each other.
“Oh,” I said, “That’s not good.”
“Nope,” the lady said.
I picked up the expired license and both valid ones. “Why do you have two of these?”
Mom thought hard. “Well, I think I lost one a while back. So I got a new one.”
“Then you found the other one?” I asked.
Her face brightened. “Yes! That’s what happened.”
I turned to the patient woman behind the counter and smiled. “I’m driving,” I said.
“I’m relieved,” she replied.