the name game

I was more than eager to change my name when I got married, for reasons that anyone who knows me would understand. And having worked in the Clerk’s office these past few years, I know just what the procedure is: get your marriage certificate from the clerk and take that to Social Security, then the DMV, and then change it everyone else. Simple, right Not exactly. And the weirdest part is that the places we thought would be the most hassle weren’t, and in reverse, some places that shouldn’t have blinked were the worst.

US-PassportcoverMost important for us was getting my passport changed. Our cruise isn’t until January and we wanted to book everything in my new name, so I’d need an updated passport. I worried about that a lot — how long would it take, should we pay for the super-fast service, or just expedite it, would it come back quickly. Well, bravo, State Department, because it was a breeze. I made a short appointment at the Post Office, got new pics and mailed everything out, and I had my newly-minted document back in my hands about two weeks later. We were even able to track the progress while it was processing. Nicely done, federal government.

I’ll give credit to the feds for Social Security as well, though sitting in that office waiting for my turn was like a page out of Sartre’s “No Exit”. New York State, however, gets a slightly lower rating. Some of my endeavors at the DMV were fine — new license, new registration. Getting a new title apparently involves making the paper it’s printed on from scratch. And your “EZ Pass” program was a little too persnickety about documentation for changing my last name on something that’s linked to a device velcroed to my window.

PayPal was not a walk in the park and took two tries uploading scans of my forms. But every other site was simple — Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google, it was just a matter of typing in the change. Apparently I could tell the Internet my name is Toni Princess Consuela Bananahammock and that would be fine.

Now, credit cards were a very mixed bag. One of them wished me to have a magical-kingdom-nice-day and did it in a flash, no questions asked. A certain clothing store’s card did the same, and I think sent me a 30% off coupon just ’cause in the process. With Bank of America, I went into my branch and was able to take care of my accounts there easily enough — but the credit card officer we had to call wanted me to go into a bank to process my request, which he said to me as I was calling him from a bank. Any of that pales compared to American Express — my favorite credit card (JetBlue miles!) and usually a wonderful company to deal with, but in this instance a monster-filled nightmare. I filled out forms and uploaded documents. I waited. I called to see what the problem was; I was told there was no problem, so I waited. I called again and was told all my submitted documents were illegible. I had an unpleasant conversation with a customer service person who didn’t understand what a PDF was. I submitted again. Those were also not acceptable. I had my new husband craft a lovely, CPA-ish letter that said, “Get this fixed and send my wife her AmEx card ASAP”, and it arrived FedEx a day later. (That right there? That’s why I married him. ) So go figure.

If I had it to do over I wouldn’t be so blithe, but it’s all done now, and I am who I am, both in paper and in plastic.

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