One Government Office that Ignores its Reputation

I had half an hour to pick up a replacement social security card. There was no way I had enough time, so I went straight to office and confronted my boss.

There’s one right by the airport, nearby. I’ll go during lunch.

Thanks for offering.

I almost wish I hadn’t. As soon as the words slipped out of my mouth, I remembered that this particular office is notorious for long lines and slow service, even among social security administration offices. It’s practically at the level of an inner-city DMV. At the fastest, requesting a card is a 45-minute chore of a errand mostly made up of time spent reading your book and turning off your cellphone.

The last time I lost my card, I went to a dingy office in a San Jose strip mall, complete with 1973-quality interior decorating. It lasted a lot more than the 45 minutes the guard said it would, and I just knew I’d get the same uncomfortable chairs and wasted hour of my life this time around.

Imagine my disappointment that I was in and out just as soon as the social security card lady got back from her lunch. The blandly disinterested clerk from my last visit at the other office had been replaced at this office by an attentive clerk who, if I remember correctly, even smiled at me. More than once.

She didn’t disappear behind the counter for minutes at a time as she asked around her superiors about exactly how she was supposed to fill out the paperwork, and she wasn’t the 20-something answering my questions while busily texting her boyfriend. She started doing what she needed to do, and without blinking.

As I told her just before I turned to leave:

Whatever people usually say about the Social Security Administration, I had a very positive experience today. Please: Keep it up.

If only consistency weren’t completely out of the question.


  1. 1 Emotionally Detached Confidence « Off the Tenure Track

    […] are the exception rather than the rule. In the civil service, it’s gotten so bad that a well-run Social Security office is something to write home […]

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