My driver’s license was up for renewal this year, and now that I need to have a “New Mexico Real ID” license, I decided to get the complicated process moving early so I would not miss the appropriate deadline. Enter the Social Security Administration to waylay my plan.
When I was 11 or 12 years old, I proudly got my Social Security card, dipping my toe into the rising waters of adulthood and enthusiastically embracing my first civic duty. My full name is Glenn Patrick Lamb, but at the time, everyone just called me Pat Lamb, so that’s what I put on my application. It served me well until in recent years, the spelling of your full legal name must match various documents perfectly or you won’t get boarded on an airplane, get a driver’s license, be able to use a credit card or maybe even get into heaven (although in my case that’s certainly not assured.)
I first went to the Motor Vehicle Department to see if my existing Social Security card with the name “Pat Lamb” would pass muster as a required document for a New Mexico Real ID license. Of course no one at that office could use common sense and good judgement to allow my plan for driver’s license renewal to proceed. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that only the Social Security Administration could resolve the problem by issuing a new Social Security card with my full legal name.
I first drove to the local Social Security office for help. Oops, it’s closed because of COVID-19. After suffering through multiple pages of completely useless information on the Social Security website, I finally discovered a phone number where I might be able to discover how to get a new card. After a hold of about 40 minutes while a repetitive elevator music loop planted a permanent ear-worm in my brain, a human answered. I was told to fill out a form SS5, directed where to find and send it and was assured my problem would be resolved in time for me to meet my driver’s license expiration date. I needed to have at least two documents showing my full legal name accompanying the SS5 form. Thanks to my wife’s always reliable librarian brain for keeping track of things, I was able to submit an original and photo copy of my birth certificate and my current passport. I also included my old Social Security card showing my current number and what I felt was a well composed letter pleading my case. All of these documents contained the correct spelling of my full legal name.
On Monday, well within the promised time frame, I received my new card — only to discover my first name was misspelled. On the card, it proclaimed my name as Glen (not Glenn) Patrick Lamb. Remember, the only reason the Social Security Administration got this application was to correct my name. You’d think they could have successfully accomplished that one simple task.
So I called Social Security back. After another 40 minutes of waiting on the phone — a new ear worm infection from another grating loop song– I was finally told that they were sorry about the mistake, but I would have to resubmit everything again. I could try to plead my case with the local office, they said. I was told that even though the office is closed to the public, I might be able to get in for an urgent matter because the staff was still working behind closed doors. Um, well, if that was the case, why were there no cars in the employee parking lot when I went to the local office the first time? I was given a “secret” local phone number to try to arrange an “urgent” meeting, but when I called, I learned, again by recording, that the local office was closed due to COVID-19 (duh). The woman who finally answered confirmed no one was actually working inside the building and there wasn’t anything they could do to expedite my application.
I dropped another $4.50 certified letter in the mail, containing the only documents that may prove I exist, and for a second time, continue to hold my breath for a good outcome.
If all this goes badly, I guess I will just go rogue, not having any identification of my existence and no legal right to operate a motor vehicle as I travel the state’s highways. As far as I know, I’m still certified to fly a hot air balloon, so I guess in a pinch, I could use that mode of transportation — if the wind is blowing in the right direction to where I need to go.