Friday, July 11, 2008

BMV & Social Security: Part 2

Here's the razzmatazz, smash-em-up follow up to the riveting story involving flying apes and curtailed plans of world vengeance...

Take Two… Each Bureaucracy, even if in service of the same organization, is too complex to be exactly the same as other branches…
            "We're heading to the other BMV office now." We sped away diligently to the other local BMV branch. I know what had failed at one would pass at the other. It had to. Organizations are too disorganized to have it be otherwise. I just hoped they would accept my notarized proof of residency. They did. This BMV was a little different than the last; I had to wait 5 minutes before seeing someone.
            The first woman, the triage nurse of state licensure and paperwork, looked over my forms, looked directly at my social security card and proof of residency, looked at the other forms. My heart was POUNDING. I know it's not literarily acceptable to use all caps when retelling the story but how else can I convey the panic slowly peeling away my inner calm leaving raw nerves of anxious bedlam leaking into the hollow shell of my face? The Triage Nurse of Paperwork looked over everything and put it in a file. She handed me some papers and told me I had take a driver's test. ("A What? Oh crap...") Not the driving portion of course, but I did have to take the paper test. Whew! That means it's not an immediate no.

I'm sorry ma'am, but I think you misspelled my middle name…
            I took the test and was duly sweating bullets. I was in HS the last time I studied for this test. I tested me on things like stopping distances and street sign shapes without colors or words. Uhhh… Guess! Guess! Well, it worked. I passed, incorrectly guessing half of the amount I was allowed to miss. I was ushered off to the next Agent of Bureaucracy. This woman would scour my papers and look for any errors. We sat down. She took time. This is not good. Time passed. I suffered. She asked for all my necessary paperwork, reading through each piece carefully. She created a printed page with my information on it and asked me to check it. Across the desk she slid an innocuous page with black letters. The black letters formed words of data type and detailed response: my name, age, birth, etc. Specifically of interest to me was the data entered as my name:
            Andrew Dulan Britton.
            Oh hell no. Not only did she get my name from the social security card but she spelled that incorrectly too! What do I do? Do I let this slide and correct it at a later date? Do I say something now and possibly forsake all chances at getting my vehicle registration and driver's license? I decided to go for it now.
            "Excuse me ma'am, but I think you misspelled my middle name." Please don't look at the soc. card. Please Don't Look At The Soc. Card! She glossed over it preferring to check the spelling against my birth certificate instead. Crisis averted.
            Two other people looked over my paperwork to double and triple check. I watched in fright. Shear fright. So thinly veiled that I'm sure had the nurses of bureaucracy been less fastidious about paperwork they would have noticed something a little troubling with my expressions. It would appear as a face too vapid, too empty, too wide eyed.

The house doesn't always win…
            Upon leaving, I told my girlfriend a few more interesting details of the paperwork transaction. First… the woman who read my odometer read it incorrectly. My odometer at the time read 137,500 miles. She recorded it as 129,000. I said nothing. Second, when reviewing my proof of insurance, I noticed another possibly deal-breaking error. The printed policy I had was dated from 2006 to 2007. One year too late. She simply recorded the policy number and insurer's name and said nothing of the policy dates. I saw the date discrepancy as I was handing the page over to the BMV agent. I may have pooped a little in fear.
            Oddly enough… the name of one of the women waiting in line at the BMV was: Amber Stout.

Maybe the house does win…
            The woman taking my picture didn't bother to move the camera up or down. It was at the height of my belly when she took the picture. I even asked if perhaps it was too low. She assured me it wasn't. Now, my teeth look GIGANTIC because the camera is looking up at me from the point of view of a baby crying at the sight of a behemoth or a yeti!

            At the time of this writing… my transmission has started slipping gears.
Andrew Dunlan Dulan Britton

Monday, July 7, 2008

BMV & Social Security: Part 1

For your convenience... I have split this entry into two e-mails. The story of BMV and Social security is lengthy. Also, you may opt out of these e-mails at any time. Just let me know.

I needed to find a state that would pay me to go to school and allow my broken old vehicle to be easily labeled as street legal. Thank You Indiana. My mission, should I choose to accept it:
1) Establish residency in Indiana (without living there a single day)
2) Get an Indiana Driver's License
3) Register my vehicle to make it street legal

BMV & Social Security…
            I love the smell of Social Security in the Morning. It makes me feel safe, like the fresh breeze of a New Deal is coming to make my Life easier now. Thanks Social Security.
            Or… is it?!?!?!?!?!?
             So I roll into my local neighborhood BMV in Lafayette, IN (Bureau of Motor Vehicles, for those NOT in Indiana) with a quest, a purpose, a point to my visit (a purpose greater than the free public bathrooms which I guess are in all BMVs in Lafeyette and I'm assuming in Indiana. So… just in case you're in Indiana really jonesin' for a restroom…). The point, purpose and veritable plan for my visit was as follows:
  • Get Indiana Driver's License
  • Get Street Illegal Jeep, Legally registered in Indiana
 US States like paperwork and furthermore require some 'proof' that you reside in that state before handing out government issued identification. Damned Socialists!!! (I know that's not actually a mean thing to say… but you gotta work with me. I grew up in Texas and just moved out of Massachusetts. I'm a little politically confused.)

Establishing Residency…
I did a little research and found out that one can legally assert residency in Indiana through a notarized affidavit. This affidavit is found on the Indiana State Government Website. The bottom of the affidavit warns fiscal tricksters that should this form be used to incorrectly assert residency and claim as such on University Tuition Assessment Forms then all money owed due to incorrect residency status must be paid to the school. Of course… but why would anyone else seek to claim residency in Indiana if not for lowered tuition? Vehicle Registration.
Of all tasks on my trip… the easiest thing to do was establish valid residency in Indiana. With a copy of a signed lease it took less than 5 minutes
 My Jeep Cherokee ('96, straight 6, 4.0 liter, 4WD, all badass) fell from the good graces of Massachusetts (the Commonwealth that punishes you for owning a vehicle). At some point in the life of all Jeep Cherokees a few things happen: The front brakes die 85,000 times in 10 years and your exhaust manifold gets a hole in it. Massachusetts vehicle inspection doesn't like this. Indiana Vehicle Inspection exists? It does, but only around the smokey, chemical pits of Gary, Indiana. In fact… the Indiana BMV motto clearly reads: "Register with us your tired, your poor, and your broken exhausts yearning to breathe free." Because this exhaust manifold problem on the Jeep was so costly… I let it slide a little bit.
It is still sliding this very moment.

 Social Security Saves the Day…
It's against the law to alter, modify or destroy your social security card. You can't even laminate them. So you try to keep these cards safe from harm while remembering where you've put them so long ago. In the many times I've told this story to others they often reply that they can't even remember where their Social Security cards are. Do you know where yours is? I needed the card because the state asks for it in order to register vehicle and get license.After some quick research on I found exactly what I need to get a driver's license and vehicle registration.
-         Social Security Card (or similar letter from Social Security)
-         State Issued Identification (Passport or Driver's License)
-         Birth Certificate
-         Proof of Residency (see above)
-         Title of Vehicle (vehicle registration only)
-         Proof of Insurance (vehicle registration only)
I find a BMV office conveniently located next to City Hall and stroll in. I make my first attempt and am immediately shooed away for having no Social Security card. Fine. But let me tell you about these BMV offices in Lafayette and West Lafayette. Walking into the BMV here is a civilian's dream. I walked in and before I reached the end of my walk to the front desk, a public servant at one of the desks waved me over to her area and asked how she may help me… Did you get that?!? I was in the BMV office for about 60 seconds when someone waved me down and asked if they could help me. OMG… if only the story ended there. I did encounter a rough patch on my first visit to the BMV. I suspected the signed affidavit of residency might prove to be a little tricky. The first woman to see me looked through my paperwork and said that they can't take this as proof. I told her I printed it from the state's website. She said they can take no papers with handwriting on them. I showed her the notary's signature and the raised seal… from right across the street. She balked. I persisted. She balked more. I persisted more. She then went to ask her supervisors just to make sure she couldn't take it. They all, three of them at once, said "of course we can. It's been notarized." "But it has handwriting. We can't take handwritten documents." C'mon lady… are you trying to impede my legal claim of residency and thereby impeding a legal resident of your state from obtaining required legal documents? "Of course we can take it. It's been notarized." Victory was mine! Take That lowly minion!!! I'll return with my social security card and get all that I want!!!
            Of course… this is a story about bureaucracies and the house always wins. I strolled in for my second visit… WITH my social security card. And as happened the next woman to see me (also in record time upon my arrival. I see now a trick of false hope this speedy assistance creates) balked immediately at my rightful claim to residency in the state of Indiana. We informed her it was legal and that just the day before it had been approved. "By who?" "By those three!" Ms. Farrell was standing, near falling over the counter, pointing at the very trifecta that approved the same form yesterday. Good. Approval arrives and the paperwork making may continue.
            "What's your middle name sir?"
            "Duncan." Odd… it's right there on my social security card.
            "That's not what it says on your social security card."
             BAM!!! There in plain view is my social security card. "Andrew Dunlan Britton." ?!?!?! I looked closely and said, inwardly panicked and outwardly cool. "It must have scratched off."
            "It doesn't look like it."
            "Then it must be a typo."
            "Well sir, either way I can't accept it."
BAM!!!!! Another boulder of bureaucratic fists hits me in the spiritual solar plexus of Fate and Time. I am Andrew's baffled sensibilities and crumbling hopes. Of course, the next logical argument to further my cause is born from my mouth canal…
            "I'm sorry. Are you serious?" Yes! Logic prevails. Debate at its highest form. Question the seriousness of the opposition and doors open like seas to Moses.
            "Yes. I'm serious." Damn. Her Kung-Fu is strong. I take my papers and walk out leaving a wake of quiet fury and a singular expletive: "Yay! I'm so happy!"
I couldn't believe it. 15 – 20 years of owning my Social Security card and this is the First time I've ever seen: Andrew Dunlan Britton. It used to read Andrew Duncan Britton. I guess the sharp corners of the 'C' faded out over time and became an 'L.' It was recommended to me that I visit the local Social Security office where I can file the appropriate paperwork and return with proof.
            "But you'll have to do it tomorrow, the Social Security office may be closed already."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Arrival at Purdue with a Level 4 Haircut

Good Morning Everyone...
I'm writing from the Memorial Union on the Purdue Campus. Purdue is a fine institution, thought by some not in the midwest to be a private university; I've been told this has partly to due with our very strong alumni association / support and perhaps a few other factors as well. My most current dilemma is how on Earth am I going to type a well formatted e-mail without the use of basic keyboard functions, like: the enter key, right mouse button clicking, mouse-wheel scrolling, or copying and pasting. In this message you'll find I have very few carriage returns. The brings to mind the ever emerging style of Purdue University's information technology services. A word to describe the policies of security here at the university could be: dedicated. Of course, you might choose a different word like: zealous. I'm going with: 'Can't you even give me a carriage return?' It makes me wonder if the Purdue Constabulatory IT Dept would treat Chuck Norris this way. Clearly the fear of a roundhouse kick from tomorrow, crushing them today, and sending them into yesterday would make them think twice. (Dear Chuck Norris... Please avail us of your cure for IT Depts lost in zealoutry... The Jumping Roundhouse Kick of Fate) With regards to missing keyboard functionality and its effect on readable message formatting... It's in moments like this I need my friend Liz. She is a great editor. The best. She can out edit Mike Tyson in a cage match with ground glass boxing gloves in under three 3 minutes. K. O. Now... the meat of the message.

Purdue or Carnegie-Mellon...
The decision to attend Purdue University over Carnegie-Mellon was truly a tough one to make. During my visit to the campus I had the great fortune of meeting some of the professors with whom I will be working. The more I spoke with each professor, the more I realized that Purdue was like a home just waiting for me, filled with warm people and opportunity. My visit here has helped me realize I made a very good decision coming to school here. I met with professors, students and department staff. I have a school ID. I know which class I'll be assisting as a teaching assistant; CGT 211, Photoshop. I'll be teaching students how to use Photoshop. It's like I created a Photoshop tutorial DVD or something that 9.5 hours long and is available for purchase on Advanced Photoshop Texturing. Though why they didn't place me in a Maya animation class, I don't know. Hmmm.... I've registered for classes, shook hands with people, kissed babies and generally campaigned for re-election on various hallow platforms which will be forgotten as soon as I'm elected the crowned ruler and awesomest graduate student. Please send in your absentee ballots. Extras can be sent upon request.

The Greatest Haircut on the Planet...
Living in Chicago has helped me understand Life in the urban fast lane. I've been putting my literal ear to the metaphorical railroad track of fast-paced urban living and taking notes on the sometimes minute and sometimes shocking tremors coming down the truly complicated metaphor of: fast-paced life as a railroad track upon which I lay my ear to listen and take notes. Of course... to truly understand the Life of the Fast-Paced Metaphor of Railroad tracks as Urban Living, I had to jump right into the deep end and experience Life as an urbanite (yuppy). I went for a hair cut!!! (I also went to see Sex in the City... but that's a relatively straight-forward story. I bought a ticket to a movie. I saw the same movie for which I purchased the ticket. I walked out when it ended. It was a pretty good movie but long and arduous in the middle. I think it was something referred to as a 'chick-flick.'). Read now this Shocking expose on haircuts in Chicago....
[Enter a mild, mannered young man of about 30. He wears glasses which leaves people to wonder if he's a super-hero when not hidden behind those groovetastic spectacles. The Setting: Fringe (the place of haircuttery). The mood: Metrosexual]
So I amble in, give my name, and get ready. I have a sit. They bring water. It's all good... for now. They call my name. I'm all like 'Cool man. I'll gets my hair cut now.' The barber, I mean hair stylist, introduces himself and offers a name I couldn't pronounce then nor can I remember now. Trust me though, it's trendy. It must've cost him a few crisp benjamins to procure that name, He's a jovial fellow, gravelly voice, older, sardonically hip, but only mildly. Before sitting me down he introduces the next gentleman, whose job it is to wash my hair. "I'm sorry... what? So your the guy that washes my hair?" Yes... it is. By the end of this story, not one but Two men will have touched my hair. I'm reporting this to Cost-Cutters. Let them feast on That tidbit. The hairwasher-gentleman is very friendly and very affected with a stereotyped personage of gay men, especially as portrayed in Sex in the City. He asked about my tattoos and inquired further if they had romantic implications ("Sir... you've been implicated in a romance. Don't try to deny it. Your tattoos gave it away. Just come out quietly with your hands up." "DAMN YOU TATTOOS!!! Say Hello to my little friend!"). I assured him that my tattoos had many meanings. This mollified and spiritually surprised him. Then the hairwashing ends and I am brought over to Mr Haircutter himself... aloofishly, mildly-sardonically hip man. He gets to business. He cuts my hair. We chat. I'm tired from moving. I'm drifting in and out of sleep. Then I make the biggest mistake ever. I tell of the time I went to a beauty school to have my hair cut... ONCE; and in this time described how my ear was nicked by the hair cutter person. Throughout the rest of our conversation and the rest of my haircut, he tells stories about how he accidentally did that... about how he accidentally cut someone's throat open who dumped on beauty school students and how he accidentally dumped that body in the foreign country of his aloofishly, mildly-sardonic hipsterism birth. I got the hint. I tried to change the subject. We got through it together; the haircut ended. At the end of business people like to transact money from person to person. This was no different. We walked to the front counter. He mumbled and whispered in the woman's ear (this woman will soon take my money... that's why they were talking). He whispered "61" to her. I though he must've been talking about another client. He walks away. She then asks how my cut went and says it looks nice. I say thanks. She says that'll be $61. I say okay. Here's my card. At this point Ms. Farrell says "How much was that?" To which I then replay in my mind what the woman behind the counter had just said. Shock finally awakens at the transaction. "I'm sorry... did you say $61?" "Yes." "For a hair cut?" "Yes." "For me?" "Yes." "I'm sorry ma'am. You'll have to excuse me. I wasn't expecting to pay that much money for a haircut." "You weren't?" Was she serious? "No ma'am. I wasn't." Well... she looks worried by this point and starts looking through paperwork. And here it comes the truth... "Well, he is a level 4 stylist." "A What?" "A Level 4 stylist. You see we have different levels of stylists. One, two, three and four. He's a level 4." Ahhh... it all makes sense now. A Level 4 stylist. Why didn't anyone tell me?

Level 4 Haircut...
I now have a level 4 haircut from a level 4 stylist. And I was left wondering... why didn't he like me. Surely he didn't if he was charging me that much. He must not have wanted me to return. But I didn't let this go without causing a fuss I'll have you know. I showed him something proper. He'll never forget the day he messed with me... let me tell you what. I only tipped him 10%. That'll show him. Yeah.... I'm too nice to people. So please... compliment my haircut. I don't care if you haven't seen it in a month or a year. Lie to me if you have to. After quitting my job and moving... a $67 haircut smarts.