(Fred Weinberg/The Penny Press) – First, allow me to tell you what great readers you are in the company of.
Last week, I quoted from a speech given by President John F. Kennedy committing the nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely before the decade was out. When I gave the date of the speech, my finger slipped on the keyboard and 1963 became 1965.
Over 15 people caught that and brought it to my attention.
I am humbled that you read this column that closely.
Also last week, I got a call from my 85-year-old mother, who as regular readers know, was widowed last February when my father died.
She had gotten a call from a woman who she thought was with the Social Security Administration and said she would be making a visit the next morning. And she asked my mother if she had a dog.
It didn’t sound right to me, so I called the Peoria, Illinois office of the SSA.
Are you making a house call on my mother tomorrow morning and if so, why?
It took 45 minutes to get an answer to that question and it left me hoping that I would never need to deal with them again.
As bluntly as I can put this, they didn’t want to answer my question and they just didn’t care.
Never mind that it is a violation of Federal law to imply that you are with Social Security when you are not and never mind that anybody who asks if you have a dog could easily just be casing the house. The house where an 85-year-old woman lives alone.
They simply didn’t want to answer my question.
At one point, I told the supervisor, whose name I will not use to protect the guilty, that given the week’s news about the GSA from Las Vegas and the Secret Service from Cartagena, a government employee ought to be a little more careful in dealing with his employer. That is, any taxpayer.
When they finally told me that they really don’t make house calls and had nothing scheduled with my mother the next morning, I called the police.
As it turned out, the visitor was absolutely not connected with the Social Security Administration but rather someone peacefully trying to sell a service. Whether or not my mother was confused by the call was beside the point. And whether or not it was a valid sales call was also beside the point.
The Social Security Administration needs to be one hell of a lot more user friendly in a situation like that because it could have turned out differently.
And I’m not prepared to listen to that crapola the supervisor dished out about privacy. There appears to be an automatic reaction, whenever a question is asked that they can’t answer it because of privacy concerns. In this case—and many others—that’s pure nonsense.
They knew damn well that they weren’t making house calls, and even if I was Jack the Ripper, it would not make a bit difference to tell me that they were not calling on my mother the next day.
What possible reason could they really have in simply trying to blow me off?
And then, after Mr. Supervisor—whose name I am not using to protect the guilty—grudgingly gave me that information, I told him I would keep him in the loop if it turned out to be a problem.
He basically told me he didn’t care. “We’re not law enforcement,” he said.
As a citizen, I’m as livid as President Obama says he is about the GSA’s Vegas Vacation, and I’m pretty uncomfortable with the Secret Service boys being boys in Columbia while they are supposed to be protecting the President.
But nothing irritates me more than being blown off by some clown at the Social Security office when there might be a threat to my mother who is almost 2,000 miles away. Especially from a guy who thinks he’s got a lifetime appointment and makes as much as a Congressman.
It ended well, but the next time I get that kind of flapdoodle from a Federal employee—our employee—I’m going to travel right up the food chain and make an example of him or her. They need to start acting like they actually care about the people who they are supposed to serve.