Now that my green card has arrived, there are certain things I can progress. Among the most urgent is obtaining a US driver’s licence. The combination of my UK licence and an international licence permits me to drive in the US for up to a year from my arrival as a legal permanent resident. Theoretically, therefore, I have ample time to obtain my licence. However, even getting to the point of a test takes several steps and I also need to allow some time for possible fails and retakes. I passed my UK driving test first time after just ten lessons but that was in the days before driving theory tests. I’m not so confident this time around, especially since my brain is addled with knowledge of another country’s rules and regulations.
The first stage in this particular process is obtaining a learner’s permit and in order to get my mitts on one of those there are several things I need to do. One of those was undergoing a medical, which I did a couple of weeks ago; the other thing I have to do is present a whole series of documents that prove my identity and status. The green card was one such piece of documentation but I also need proofs of address. Since my husband moved out to the US in advance of the rest of us, obviously everything is in his name. I am only named on the lease. So this morning we decided to get my name added to the electricity bill, since a utility bill is a recognised proof of address for the purpose of obtaining a learner’s permit.
My husband spoke on the phone first and explained that he wanted my name added to the account and that he was authorising such a change. The phone then had to be handed to me, which is reasonable enough. I provided my information. It was all going swimmingly and smoothly. Then I had to give my social security number. I have only had an SSN for a few weeks and do not have a memory for numbers so I had not committed it to memory but I found it within a matter of minutes so we could proceed. I was then asked to clarify how my name was recorded on the SSN. We have a double-barreled surname. We use a hyphen; my surname on the SSN card was hyphenless. Instead of a hyphen there was a space. This was not good enough verification apparently. Our surname is unusual. In fact it is so rare that only the six members of the Pict family have this surname. But the fact that the hyphen was missing from my SSN registration meant the electricity company wanted additional evidence of my identity. Labyrinthine bureaucracy again.
I was asked for the details of my driver’s licence. I tried not to utter an irked guffaw down the phone as I patiently explained that I had only been in the US for two and a half months and had not yet obtained a US driver’s license. So now, in order to be added to the bill, I have to present two forms of photo identification at their offices in Philadelphia. Thankfully they will accept my UK driver’s licence as one of these, the other being my passport. Jumping through stupid hoops again. What was the point in my husband authorising my name being added to the bill if his authority meant nothing in the absence of a hyphen? And why did the Social Security Department take it upon themselves to drop the hyphen from our surname? My husband’s SSN has the surname with the hyphen so it’s not that the printing machine cannot produce them. Someone has apparently taken it upon themselves to abduct the hyphen for no particular reason. Just a whim. And it doesn’t bother me at all on a personal level except that now I am going to have this mismatch between how my surname appears on everything else and how it appears on the ruddy SSN and the Green Card. Of course there is also the serpent eating its own tail hassle of always being asked for the driver’s licence as my photo ID every single time I try to progress a step further in my quest to obtain said US driving licence.
Company checklists don’t allow for exceptions, divergence from the norm or apparently lost hyphens. That’s today’s vent.