I have a tendency to be lazy about government paperwork, mostly because its boring. Until 2005, changing your name was supposed to be a breeze. There was this handy-dandy line at the bottom of your marriage license where the bride and groom both signed the legal names they would use after their wedding date. Just like that, your name was changed. How convenient! But of course, such convenience cannot be tolerated by the federal government, and the line was erased just in time for my marriage.
Six months post-nuptials, tired of being a two-name couple, Vann ordered me The Official Name Change Kit, which sat unopened on my desk for about another three months. Suddenly inspired, I finally decided to begin the “Easy 5-Step Process” and triple the length of my last name.
Step 1: Go to County Courthouse
Thrilling. I arrive at the courthouse with my photo I.D. and am shuttled off to the 3rd floor. After filling out a stack of blue forms, I am sent to the 6th floor to fill out pink and yellow copies of the exact same thing. I arrive back at the 3rd floor with all three colors of paper and then they give me three copies of my marriage license for $25 a piece. Two hours and $75 for three pieces of ordinary white paper with information that I already know printed on it in raised ink.
Step 2: Go to DMV
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. One hour and $15 later, I walk out with a new driver’s license stating my new last name. My picture is a stunning replica of myself as a 12-year-old boy. I am now down to two marriage licenses.
Step 3: Go to Social Security Administrations Office
Okay, this is where it gets exciting. The security guard at the front door has been working at this place since – I don’t know – the Truman administration. He gives me a number and points me to the only empty chair in the place; the one right in the center of the middle row, between a pregnant woman with a newborn and a blind man with a seeing-eye dog. Since I assumed that it would be a long wait, I took Mr. Security up on his offer of the only available seat. FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! The chair lets out this really embarassing poot-sound when I sit. It’s some kind of faux leather pad with a hole in the side, so when you sit down all of the air comes rushing out to greet you. Every head in the place turns towards me, red-faced and half-squatting over the chair. So I casually crossed to the magazine rack and blamed it on the baby next to me. Being a dumbass, I forgot about the poot-chair after I picked up my Field & Stream and stupidly went and sat in it again. FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! All eyes on me. Again.
Well, they finally call my number and – guess what? – my name doesn’t match my Social Security Number. Somehow, my mom’s number got mixed up with mine. So then they had to verify that I was, indeed, myself, verify my mother’s information and then adjust the amount of money paid to Social Security by me since 2001. Instead of applying for a name change, I am now applying for a new Social Security Number under my maiden name so that they can make the appropriate changes. A new card is $12. I shall receive my new card in two weeks. I am now down to only one marriage license because I used the other one for my second form of I.D.
Step 4: Inform Bank, Insurance, Utilities & Everyone Else Who Gets Money from Me about Name Change
Turns out, I need more than three marriage licenses. I go back to the courthouse, visit floors 3, 6 and 3, fill out the tri-colored forms, pay my $75 again and then visit all of the fine people to whom I owe my hard-earned pennies. Vann has to accompany me to almost all of these places and confirm that I am actually his wife and ‘approve’ me. This, I think, is funny. Are there that many women out there trying to add themselves to strange men’s bank or insurance accounts? I have one marriage license left.
Step 5: Return to Social Security Administrations Office
Three months after my initial visit, I finally get my card with the correct number applied to my maiden name. So today I went back to apply for a name change to my number. Mr. Security is there, gives me a number and…you’ll never guess…points me to the SAME empty seat. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I decline the seat and merely lean up against the wall, feeling all smug. The next girl in the door, however, sits in the poot chair. FOOOOSSSSSHHH! I seriously thought I was going to pee, I laughed so hard.
Two hours later, they call my number, take my $12 and I am, officially, a Doubleday. Do I get a prize?