Sunday, February 3, 2019

"A Long Bout of Social Insecurity"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Now that I have turned 65, which makes me old enough to know better but still less mature than my grandchildren, I am contemplating retirement because, according to the Social Security Administration, it doesn’t pay to be working posthumously.

So I went to my local Social Security office to sign up for Medicare and encountered so many people that I figured I’d still be there when I turn 66, at which time I can get full benefits.

“You can die of old age in this place,” I said to a nice couple named Janice and Andrew, who sat next to me in the back row.

“Medicare won’t cover it,” said Janice, who’s 69 and still works as a school secretary.

“And if you’re dead,” added Andrew, 66, who lost his job as a machinist at a company with offices in Connecticut and on Long Island, New York, “you can’t get Social Security anymore.”

“It pays to stay alive,” Janice said.

“If you can call this living,” added Andrew, noting that it was the third time he and and Janice had been in the Social Security office.

“This is my first time,” I told them.

“You always remember your first time,” Janice said with a wink.

I figured my visit would be unforgettable when I arrived at 10 a.m. and walked into what looked like a Cecil B. DeMille epic.

“I’ve been here since 8:41,” said Harry, 50, who sat on my other side. He used crutches because he had leg surgery and was on temporary disability.

“What’s your number?” I asked.

“D606,” he said.

“Mine is A228,” I told him.

“You’ll probably get called before I do,” said Harry. “They won’t take pity on me.”

“You’re just using that as a crutch,” I said.

Harry got up and limped away. He returned about five minutes later.

“Was it something I said?” I wondered.

Harry shook his head and replied, “I had to go to the bathroom.”

In less time than it would take a kindergartner to read “War and Peace,” my number was called.

“Bye, everybody!” I said and walked up to, appropriately, Window 0, behind which was a nice young woman who asked why I was there.

I told her I wanted to apply for Medicare, adding: “I would get COBRA, but I’d be covered only if I was bitten by a poisonous snake.”

“May I have your Social Security number?” the woman asked.

I didn’t want to yell it out in a place containing the approximate population of Luxembourg, so I wrote it on a piece of paper and slipped it under the window.

“You can sit down until you’re called again,” she said pleasantly.

When I returned to my seat, Janice, Andrew and Harry said in unison, “Welcome back, Jerry!”

I scanned the room. Some people were on their phones, others were chatting, one woman was reading a book (not one of mine, unfortunately) and a fellow geezer was snoozing.

Another guy was wearing a sweatshirt with the skull-and-horns logo of the heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch, which prompted Janice to say, “I’d like to give this place a one finger death punch.”

Actually, it wasn’t that bad. The Social Security folks were courteous and helpful. And the people I sat with, despite their grumbling, were friendly and funny.

“If you don’t laugh,” Janice remarked, “you’ll cry.”

I cried for joy when my name was called. I went to Window 1 and was told by another nice young woman that the earliest appointment was in two months.

“See you then,” Janice said as I left. “We’ll still be here.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

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