Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stranger In A Strange Land

By nature I'm an optimist, which I know doesn't come across in this space because blogs, like the 6pm news, generally focus on controversy and what's going wrong. And with incompetence and lies and wars gone south dominating the headlines, it's easy to forget that we have it pretty good in the U.S. When we flick the switch, the lights come on. When we turn the faucet, water comes out. That sets us apart from much of the rest of the world.

But every so often I notice a symptom of a broken system, and my optimism is tested. This week I wanted to rent a mailbox at a U.S. post office. I arrived with my driver's license, birth certificate, and social security card, thinking these would more than suffice. After waiting in line for twenty minutes, I presented my documents to the clerk. He looked at them for a few seconds and said that two documents were required to rent a box, but only my driver's license was acceptable. When I asked for an explanation, he pointed to a sign that listed the acceptable documents. Indeed, a birth certificate and a social security card were not on the list. What was? An "alien registration card" and a "certificate of naturalization."

I don't know what genius in the federal bureaucracy decided that a driver's license, birth certificate, and a social security card together aren't enough to rent a post office box. But when a green card trumps a U.S. birth certificate in the eyes of the federal government, something has gone terribly wrong.

Postscript: What document did the post office ultimately accept after rejecting my birth certificate and social security card? A copy of my current apartment lease.


Blogger Spider said...

TCR, you left us hanging. What documents would have then worked for you? Were there other documents than an "alien registration card" or certificate of naturalization" that qualified? What documents would a natural born citizen have needed?

Or perhaps I need to go down to the Post Office to find out. Or Google it.

10/05/2006 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only reason I can think of is that they wanted something that is issued by the federal government. Birth certs are local issued. I don't know why SS cards are not valid, but probably isn't because they're so easily counterfeited.

10/05/2006 9:39 AM  
Blogger owenz said...

Think of the federal government as fat, lazy slob. How does the lazy slob track "foreign terrorists" who try to rent mailboxes? Easy - it requires everyone to show their green cards in order to get a mailbox. That way, all the immigrants with mailboxes are easy to find!

Obviously, any terrorist with half a brain won't take the bait. And it's obviously it's a huge inconvenience for American citizens. But this is how the machine thinks.

10/05/2006 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The common denominator that unites a driver's license, alien registration card (a.k.a. legal permanent resident card, a.k.a. "green" card), and certificate of U.S. naturalization is that they are all forms of photo ID.

Loff your blog, cunningrealist.

10/05/2006 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to previous poster: but they accepted a lease (which does not contain a photo) over a birth cert and SS card.

10/05/2006 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The p.o.'s preference, however, is for two forms of photo ID. (Hey, I never said the federal government made sense, heh! Otherwise, a military ID would have been OK.)

10/05/2006 1:24 PM  
Blogger Holly Hodder said...

Apt. lease? Heck, I figured you for an owner, even a co-op owner.

10/05/2006 2:53 PM  
Blogger texasdiver said...

I suspect this has to do more with attempts to combat mail fraud and identity theft than terrorism or other nonsense.

I someone opens a PO Box with the intent of operating a fraudulent business or commit mail fraud or identity theft the PO wants to be able to track that box back to a real person with a real address.

Anyone can print a fake SS card or birth certificate with a decent color laser printer and the proper paper stock.

Green cards are extremely difficult to fake and nearly impossible to obtain under false pretenses. My wife was from Chile and had one before she got her citizenship. They have all sorts of built-in security strips and watermarks and that sort of thing. Better than even the best drivers licenses. Naturalization papers look more fakable but they are pretty impressive certificates with seals and stamps over the top of your photo. In any event, green cards have your A-number on them and that will track you back to a physical address because you are required by law to keep the INS informed of your permanent address.

My guess is what they want are two forms of ID that are government-issued photo IDs or that have your physical address printed on them in order to help curtail the rash of identify theft and fraud by people using PO Boxes.

10/05/2006 3:12 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

C.R. I think you must be still cranky from standing on line for twenty minutes.

Your social security card and your birth certificate do not have your address on them.

The US Post Office needed two pieces of i.d. with your current address. Not an unreasonable request.

Not very effective one since anyone can run off a lease on a home computer.

And you just go to the DMV, tell them you lost your license, give any address you want to and voila! a new license and you get to keep your old one.

I just moved and that's what I did because I wanted a Suffolk County license and a Nassau County license so I could use the public libraries in both counties.

10/05/2006 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

Broken government: as above, so below.

This article was posted in April. I wonder if the following miscalculation is being factored into the coming war on Iran?

“The best terror network in the world has remained neutral in the terror war for the past several years,” the Pentagon adviser on the war on terror said of Hezbollah. “This will mobilize them and put us up against the group that drove Israel out of southern Lebanon. If we move against Iran, Hezbollah will not sit on the sidelines. Unless the Israelis take them out, they will mobilize against us.” (When I asked the government consultant about that possibility, he said that, if Hezbollah fired rockets into northern Israel, “Israel and the new Lebanese government will finish them off.”)

Linked from

10/05/2006 4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should've went to the UPS Store or Mailboxes etc

10/05/2006 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charles Barkley: "I Was A Republican - Until They Lost Their Minds"

10/08/2006 12:53 PM  
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