The Government Experience

Somewhat recently I had the pleasure to go get a new social security card.  As this involved going to a government run facility, I thought it would be interesting to dissect the experience.

Upon entering there is an overwhelming feeling of sadness from the throng of people spread out in the dilapidated waiting area.  It feels old and run down but in the corner are two kiosks.  This is how you check in.  They are right next to each other and have no privacy screens or ways to hide the fact that you are entering your Social Security number.  Anyone can probably just stand there and become me!

One of the screens asked if I was hard of hearing OR had trouble with seeing or without issues.  I guess you have to choose which is your weaker sense if you have both?

Upon completing this task, a small slip of paper is printed with a letter/number combo: E145.  Now begins the waiting.  There are some television screens that scroll between information that is only rarely useful and the bottom has a ticker with the currently ‘being seen’ numbers.  Sadly the screen doesn’t inform a person where they should go to be seen.  After listening to many announcements, I realized that there were other rooms somewhere in this building that were seeing people.  The numbers seem to be randomly placed on the ticker.  They do announce on the PA your number and where to go but it feels like it could be easily missed.  I was really worried I would miss my call and be trapped in that building until I died, which I am sure was a leading cause of death in that town.

The wait to be called wasn’t too bad, perhaps 15 minutes.  There was about 40 or 50 people in the waiting room but not all of them had the problem I had.  The service agent checks my paperwork, looks at my license, verifies a question, and tells me I should sit down and wait to be called.  So I went back to my seat and began the real wait.

Now, the previous employee had taken my number.  I would now be called by my name.  But why?  What purpose did this serve?  I have to guess it was to not confuse the tellers?  I honestly don’t know.  The wait was made worse by a sign prohibiting cell phone use.

But then there is hope, I am called to talk to the next teller which I am led to believe is the final stop in my journey.  This person takes the exact same information as the previous person.  Asks me no different questions and is then prepared to send me on my way.  She informs me the card will be mailed in 7-10 business days – got it in 5 days, so there’s that.  But before I can be dismissed, her system crashes.  Now she’s trying to see if it will come back soon or not, so I ask her about the different people who do the same thing and the different method to call the customers.

I explained that I am a fan of processes and just found it curious.  I smile, disarmingly, and to success.  She tells me that she doesn’t know why but the first person was for verification, to make sure everything was in order.   Haha.  Why couldn’t he just give me a card?  So much waste, such a draining experience.

At no point was the process ever explained or a timeframe given.  The whole thing was very ambiguous which just leads to frustrations on the user’s part.  Am I doing the right thing?  Am I wasting my time?  I should go ask someone but everyone else seems fine, perhaps it is just me who feels this way.  Social cues form a fence to keep us in our spot.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Afterwards I went to IHOP.

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