When one is directionally challenged, as I am, getting places can turn into my worst nightmare. Take today, for example. I wanted to get a printout of my lifetime earnings (Don’t ask why. It’s a long story). Being Internet savvy, I went to socialsecurity.org, filled out the requisite form, and hit submit. Flashing red messages told me I had made a mistake. My address was wrong. I rechecked it; it was right. In a standoff with a website, one never wins. After a frustrating 20 minutes of trying to convince unseen forces that I really do live at this address, I gave up and decided to drive to the nearest Social Security office.
But first, I had to find out where it was. I Googled Social Security in St. Louis and found two offices in the general vicinity of my neighborhood. So, off I went, trying to beat the “heavy rains” that were predicted for St. Louis,
Of course, I forgot my GPS, without which I’m helpless. I finally found the address, but it was not a Social Security office. It was a law firm with one attorney who specialized in Social Security matters. “Try calling Social Security,” the helpful receptionist suggested and offered me her phone. I called the 800 number and was informed that the options had changed and I should listen carefully to the new menu. I’ll spare you the never-ending “if you want this, press one; if you want that, press two” and all the questions that required verbal responses, which the frustrated voice recognition system didn’t recognize. I gave up and hung up.
“How about a phone book?” the receptionist asked, handing me the old, reliable white pages. (Key word here is old.) I looked up Social Security in the government section, found an address, and set off once again. Supposedly, the office was in a bank building not far from my house. For some reason, though, it wasn’t listed on the bank directory. The reason turned out to be that it had moved to another location — this time, far, far away from where I live. The rain had started as I dashed to my car.
Of course, I had no idea where the street was located (despite trying to decipher a street guide printed in two-point type), passed it by miles, and, in desperation, dashed through the rain to a storefront medical clinic to beg for help. With explicit directions, I finally found the street and the building and the office. My purse was searched, I was given a number, and I sat down to wait. When it was my turn, I went to the window and commented on my problems trying to find this particular office.
“Did you Google us?” the women behind the counter asked. I nodded. “Well, honey, that’s your problem,” she said. “The information on Google is wrong.” Wrong? Yes, wrong. I had spent hours trying to find the place, time waiting for my turn, and more time driving back through the rain in rush hour traffic. I was exhausted and had wasted the whole afternoon going somewhere I didn’t need to go, all because a website, Google, automated telephone technology, and the phone book had conspired to complicated my already complicate life.
Later, I mentioned my travails to my daughter, who said, “Mom, I think Social Security automatically sends that printout every year. Are you sure you didn’t get one in the mail?” I don’t even want to look!
Bobbi Linkemer is a ghostwriter, book coach, editor, and the author of 14 books. Her articles on all aspects of writing appear on more than 25 article sites on the Web, including top-ranked EzineArticles.com. Bobbi has been a professional writer for 40 years, a magazine editor and journalist, and a writing teacher. She has written about thousands of subjects over the years. With Musings, for the first time, Bobbi is sharing her thoughts on a wide array of topics, from serious to satirical and philosophical to factual.