I was in a deep squat, legs spread like a giraffe at a water hole, my back knotting up from the awkward crouch as I strained to get my lips near the metal speaking hole embedded at about bellybutton height in the thick Plexiglas window.
On the other side of the bulletproof shield was a woman. She was sitting.
"Uh, is there a chair I could sit in?" I asked, my buttocks jutting out behind me, my lips near the talking hole, my head tilted like a dog listening to a fire truck siren.
"No chair. What do you want?" she said.
I was in our village's only Social Security Administration office. It was, I imagine, similar to being in hell.
I needed the 2012 Social Security tax statements for my parents, who live in another state. My mother will be 90 in November. My dad, 89 this month. They did amazing things for me and my siblings for a long time. Now we do things for them.
I'd called first, a few days earlier, asking a Social Security representative if I could obtain the documents. I pointed out that I had legal power of attorney for my folks.
"Just make sure to bring all the paperwork," the man said.
So off I went, choosing to go at noon because, as you know, I'm an idiot. Some 75 to 80 people were in the waiting area ahead of me. I took a number. I think I had 12,877 and they were currently serving 6, but maybe it just seemed like that.
I settled into a chair and, as I like to do in crowds, began scanning for crazy people, cult members, men wearing shorts and white knee socks, people who cut their own hair, and anyone who appeared to have been raised by wolves.
The highlight came just past 12:30 when a woman arrived, holding the hand of a 4- or 5-year-old child. The woman wore sweatpants, flip-flop sandals and a white T-shirt with a message on the back, in big red letters, a message that read, and I quote: "F*#@ You!"
At first I thought she must have purchased the T-shirt online. You can find just about anything on the Web. (Thanks a lot, Al Gore.) But an online purchase would have required a computer, a credit card and even a rudimentary ability to type and, frankly, it seemed likely this woman would go 0-for-3 there.
There were others. A guy in his late 20s, maybe even early 30s, kept saying to his friend, out loud, "I don't know why I even need a #@%^&*@# Social Security card." You believed him. You also would have bet there were lots of other things he did not know. ("Name a continent." "Uh, Canadia?")
Then a guy a few rows in front of me farted. Loudly. Twice. I am not kidding. After the second explosion, a couple near him got up and chose to stand for more than an hour.
I think God made the Social Security office so people waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles would have someone to look down on.
After two hours and 34 minutes, my number was called. I shuffled toward the window, looked briefly for a chair and then went into my bent-over squatty thing to talk with the nice woman behind the barrier.
"I need 2012 Social Security tax statements for my parents. I have power of attorney papers," I said, sliding them toward her through the tiny space at the bottom of the window.
"Can't help you," she said.
"Uh, I ... uh, I don't know ... what?" I asked, hoping to dazzle her with my intelligence.
"Social Security doesn't recognize power of attorney," she said. "You'd have to bring a note from their doctor."
We chatted for another 30 seconds or so, me bent over with my head tilted. Then, being married and knowing defeat when I see it, I got back to a standing position and left the Social Security office.
I figured the woman in the "F*#@ You" T-shirt had been there before.
Rich Tosches (email@example.com) also writes a Sunday column in the Denver Post.
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