Parking dahntahn

Google maps has been my goto for for directions as they’ve been easy to use and correct.  But for some reason it couldn’t find the address I was looking for.  It suggested a street that was very close to the address I entered–close enough that I could see the actual address I entered (check it out here).  Being still stuck in the stone age with no GPS, iPhone or android phone, I printed-out my directions and headed off.

I’m okay with driving in the hustle-and-bustle of downtown, and I was prepared for the challenge of getting parking.  I knew it would be expensive and I knew it would be hard to find spaces available.  But find it I did, and the attendant was nice enough as he showed me where to park.  He asked for my keys in case he had to move the car, and that made me pause.  I did park another car in, but I’m also gullible and naive.  After reconciling in my mind that having my car molested would make for a great story later I handed the keys over.

After my appointment with the Social Security Office I returned to find my car COMPLETELY stripped of tires and doors.  The windshield was busted and the entire contents of the car was gone.

Just kidding–it was where I had left it and in the same shape that I left it.  C’mon, Pittsburghers are more trustworthier than that!
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Utahians know their marmalade

Something about the way I look (or maybe the way I smell) makes strangers have the uncontrollable urge to approach me and tell me their life’s stories.  It used to be annoying, but over the years I’ve learned to deal with it and now I even embrace it.  Because by-and-large people are pretty darn interesting.  And sometimes having someone listen with genuine interest can really brighten your day.  Today I must have really been giving off the scent, because so many people accosted me downtown.  The first one of note was a man behind me in Starbucks.  I didn’t realize that he was talking to me, until I turned around and I was the only one close enough to him.  This guy I actually chose to pretend not to pay attention because some of the things he was saying were off-putting.  Actually seemed a little racist toward someone he accosted outside.

The second person, an older woman, was actually very pleasant.  She greeted several seemingly random people who gave her a familiar “Hi” back.  After walking her across the street she started walking along with me, telling me about the wonderful breakfast she had at church that morning.  Watermelon, wheat toast with orange marmalade, three cups of coffee and some juice.  She made it a point to mention that the marmalade was made in Utah.  Cause, you know, those people in Utah sure know their marmalade.  This left me wondering why she happened to mention that fact, and I considered that maybe she had contributed the marmalade to the breakfast.  Sensing a story behind it I asked her how she knew it was from Utah.

She winked at me and said, “Because that what it said on the label.”
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So-so security

I don’t know much about Social Security, but I know this: the visit to the downtown office was an eye-opener.

My son (2 of 4 for you trekkies out there) was diagnosed with Asperger’s and to really get the ball rolling you need to be rejected by the Social Security office.  I’m pretty sure that the rejection letter is your paper to get into a secret club, because the trip to the SS office sure seemed like initiation.

I smiled at the greeter and he welcomed me with a “Do you have any guns or knives on you?”

Um…what?  Er…not with me.  What do you need?

“Please turn off your cell phone.”

Calls probably interrupt the guy with the latex glove, and you don’t want him pissed at you.

I explained to the guard that I had an appointment and he directed me to the sign-in computer, telling me to select option “0”.  He was actually rather nice for a big guy with a gun.

I headed over tp the check-in computer put in my son’s SSN, got my slip of paper then sat down.  I reviewed my slip of paper and it said to have a seat and wait for my name to be called.  I took a few minutes to check out the surroundings.  Over the windows of the “tellers” was an electronic sign which said who was currently being help.  They had letters A through E and each letter had a number after it.  It made me think of a small battleship board.  Peoples’ letter-number combinations kept getting called and I noticed that their receipts had those letter-number combinations on them.  Mine didn’t.  So I got to play the whole mind-game of “should I ask someone about this or should I just play it cool and hope that they eventually call my name.”

To keep my mind off of this I decided to strike up a conversation with someone.  Near me was a woman who had a really cool Betty Boop purse.  I complimented her on it and she told me the story of how she bought it along with five other ones at some place up the street and all of the other ones had fallen apart.  As had her Betty Boop flip flops.  I got to hear all about her collection of Betty Boop paraphernalia.  She shared that she hadn’t actually seen any of the cartoons, but believed that they were taken off because of how risqé she was.  She has two boys and was irritated at how long she had been waiting for her battleship number to be called.

I had quite a bit of time to people-watch and I started noticing something.  Almost everyone there looked like they were going through a really hard time.  Some people were disabled.  Some people wore ill-fitting and dirty clothes.  Almost everyone looked down-on-their-luck.  All of them were cranky at having to wait so long.  It made me wonder what kind of stories each person had that led them to this office on this day.  It made me thankful for all of the things that have gone right in my life.  It made me frustrated on their behalf for having to navigate the maze of red-tape and bureaucracy to get the help they needed.

Despite cellphones not being allowed to be one, about half of the people had their phones on and were using them.  I was waiting for the guard to crack the whip but he never did.  I was glad–I couldn’t see the big deal.  I kept mine off out of consideration, but missed it being on to tell what time it was.  I swear they took a lesson off of the casinos.   After a while my thinking got the better of me and I went to the guard to ask about the “calling a name” vs. “calling bingo numbers” receipts, and as he assured me that they would call my name, someone came out and did call it.

The office worker who called my name looked like an accountant.  Go ahead–picture an accountant in your mind. Got it?  Yeah–that was him.  The odd thing was that from the time that I made eye-contact with him until when I left he did not stop talking.  He did include some punctuation to what he was saying, but at no time was there a pause for me to say anything.  That was fine, actually, because he was able to expedite the denial letter and get me back out the door quite quickly.  He did excuse himself two times to go get a printout.  I think that he used those breaks to draw breath.  He then lead me to the exit and wished me luck.

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