12/12/2017 21:04

The Shape of Depersonalization Circa 2017

I'm learning to hate Social Security and I haven't even started receiving benefits yet. I did put in my application over the web -- after first having to suspend some security protocols -- and I received an email informing me, "You should receive a letter in the mail within 30 days".

After 39 days, I thought perhaps I ought to follow up. First, I called the number provided in that email. I tried that 3 times: The first time, the recorded message played over and over. The second time, I was efficiently routed to ring somebody's phone. Then there was a beep and the recorded message that the person at that extension was not available to take my call. What's the point of leaving my phone number and missing their call back? There would be some additional wasted time on their side, but no less waste on mine. The third time, someone answered the phone, listened to my Social Security number, and said I would need to talk to a specific person to whom this person would forward me. The specific person's phone rang, then there was a beep and the recorded message that that specific person was not available to take my call.

I also tried calling the general purpose phone number for Social Security. That call was efficiently answered by a complex and no doubt very expensive Interactive Voice Response system. That means that (for as long as I could stand it) I had to converse with a machine preprogrammed to recognize various English words and respond with prerecorded questions interspersed with long discourses on paperwork reduction (in a setting that has no paper involved) and the penalties for making false representations (to a machine). Eventually I couldn't stand the IVR any more and hung up.

I'd rather talk to a tree; it would be more responsive and likely would have a more robust personality.

The local Social Security Field Office has a completely ........ .... Different recorded .......... message which, after Allowing for .................... Inappropriate pauses, told ........ me that the office was not currently open.

The message also told me when the office would open, so I tried them again at that time. That made some difference, giving me a changed set of menu options. As with all such systems, the option to speak with a human being is the last one mentioned, probably provided as an afterthought. Taking that final option, I was transferred first to canned music and then to another recorded message. All representatives were unavailable, it told me. Good bye.

Using the web for information about the status of my application -- after first having to suspend some security protocols -- may be what they are trying to get me to do. But at Social Security one can't simply inquire about a status. One must sign up for a "my" Social Security account. When one has a "my" Social Security account, one can only receive notices through that online portal, the use of which requires me to suspend some security protocols.

I tried the local office again. Maybe I can't talk to anybody. Maybe I have to listen to machines. But at least the local field office isn't telling me to talk to the machine. Ring. Recorded message. Ring. Canned music. Ring. Slight variation on the recorded message. Ring. Canned music. Bad canned music. Repeat.

Well, that's an hour shot. But wait! There's a voice on the line, an actual human voice, it seems. This actual human begins to ask a long series of questions about myself and my family. (Some say this is to protect my privacy; I believe they ask only because they don't want to go on the World Wide Web. All the answers to these questions are available online for anyone who cares enough to look.)

After a few minutes of sharing about my family, I have my answer: The original email is wrong. In actual reality there is no letter in the mail within 30 days.