Letter to a Friend
Just to catch you up…I spent all yesterday from early afternoon (one-ish) ‘til early evening running around with my set of legal papers, which I first collected from and had copies made by the court. After paying for certified copies of the dissolution and change of name I visited the Social Security office, the motor vehicle department, and the bank to effect the name change. I had planned to do more – such as a little grocery shopping and a quick peek into a store I love but haven’t visited in awhile – but had a bit of a run-in with a stupid fool at the local motor vehicle office.
I waited about 20 minutes there in line, and when I finally got in and handed this idiot my completed motor vehicle and license forms and the court order changing my name, he looked at it and said, “Oh, I can’t change both your names (first and last) without something from the Probate Court.” (The Probate Court is an archaic system Connecticut employs – using a separate town court system that dates back to before the flood – LOL – to administer changes of name, the probating of wills and estates, etc.)
I tried to explain that a Superior Court judge had ordered the name change as part of the divorce proceedings and that the Clerk of the Probate Court had advised me to save myself the Probate Court fee of $150 by asking the Superior Court judge to grant the change during the divorce hearing, but this cretin kept mumbling, ‘Oh, I can’t change both names without something from the Probate Court.” I guess he thought if I was resuming my maiden name that would be OK but anything else was out of the question.
I got a bit cross and told him that this was the only documentation I was ever going to have and I wasn’t required to go to Probate Court (the Superior Court is where all criminal and civil cases are adjudicated; it’s the major court system in Connecticut). He went and called a supervisor – or so he said – in Wethersfield, which is where the department’s main headquarters is located. He came back and said no, he wasn’t allowed to change both names to something completely different without ‘something’ from the Probate Court. So I told him I would go up to Wethersfield and fight with them and frankly, Constance, I stomped out.
Now you must understand that yesterday it was 94 °F (34.4 °C) here, with stifling humidity and a heat index of 104 °F (40 °C). Although most of my day was spent in an air-conditioned car and air-conditioned offices, my hair was pinned up and I was wearing comfortable light clothing, I was sweating from head to toe just going to and from the car after each stop; the thought of having to waste time and gas driving to Wethersfield on a boiling-hot Friday afternoon – with the entire population of the state leaving work early to escape for the weekend – to effect the name change for my license and registration, when it was totally unnecessary except for the appalling ignorance of this incompetent in the local office, made me furious.
As it was then 2:45 PM I knew I had better go to my bank – much nearer my apartment than where I was, and my planned last stop before a bit of shopping – with the paperwork before I headed on to the highway, because the bank closes at 4:30 PM and the crowds and lines at the motor vehicle headquarters are legendary, with every sort of the great unwashed dragging along their biker buddies, girlfriends, boyfriends, children, aunties and mothers-in-law (if they had goats they’d probably bring them too) while applying for licenses, new plates etc. Also, the Wethersfield office closes at 4 PM so I knew I was just going to be able to skim in there after my visit to the bank – although only about 15 miles (24 km) away, what with the crowds out and about I would be lucky to get in there on time. So off I went, had a nice short visit at the bank, hopped back into the car and set off to Wethersfield.
I arrived there about 3:35 PM, walked down an interminable, dirty, stuffy hallway and, clutching my sweaty paperwork, dashed to the elevator and shared the ride upstairs with a family of recent immigrants – man, wife, little girl and the mother-in-law, who never stopped telling the husband what to do and say when he got to the correct clerk upstairs. Once off the elevator I went to the information desk, was directed to Line 4, and found it at the back of the airplane-hangar-sized space into which the whole of humanity was packed – jostling, screeching and wandering around.
Fortunately, Line 4 was not long and I didn’t have too much of a wait. The polite young man behind the counter who helped me said not one word about the Probate Court or anything else other than to request the required department forms, my current photo license and my signature in one or two places. He gave me a new registration for the car, directed me to sit down and said I would be called in turn to have a new license photo taken.
Now mind you, my hair is pinned up but messy and sweaty by now, I am dripping and I am sure the little bit of lipstick and eye make-up I had applied hours before was running, worn off or both. NOT the kind of look for a photo on a document I will have to use for the next 5 years, being obliged to show it to all and sundry for ID purposes, etc. I had no comb with me, having taken only my all-purpose, all-in-one wallet, ID and credit card holder and paperwork inside with me, and no hope of looking like a rational human being on the document that every American uses for all official transactions requiring definitive identification.
When my name was called, I went into the cubbyhole where the cameras are and was pleasantly surprised to find a friendly man around my own age, who laughed when I pointed out that the picture on the license I was surrendering did not make me out to be a felon or a madwoman (a running joke in Connecticut due to the generally horrible photos on licenses) because I had worn make-up and combed my hair for the occasion – as well as it having been wintertime when one was not disarrayed and sweaty. He promised not to make me look like an escaped convict and gave me time to take down my hair and fluff-comb through it with my fingers (I discreetly rubbed my face as well in hopes of evening out or removing any make-up that might have begun to melt – LOL).
I smiled for the camera, pop! went the flash and lo and behold, the photo looked even better than the one taken last year at my regular renewal.
So after thanking him, I left – it was 4 PM exactly – and drove directly home through the chaotic congestion of Connecticut traffic to my wonderfully chilly apartment, much too worn out to have stopped for shopping…ain’t life grand?
With love to you and that talented man you married…Gina
© 2010 RC deWinter
A humorous essay on dealing with bureaucracy on a sweltering summer day.