Five years ago, a teenage Gypsy caught me with my guard down and lifted my wallet – and every identifying document I owned – in the Madrid subway. Eventually, I replaced all that was missing, but my name somehow ended up misspelled on my Social Security card. Instead of Layne Lee Ann Mosler, I was now Layne Le Ann Mosler.
Laziness prevailed, and I let the vowel go, even though it meant that the name on the SS card didn’t match the one on my birth certificate.
No one seemed to mind the missing “e.” Not the U.S. State Department, which replaced my stolen passport lickety-split. None of my subsequent employers cared. Even the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles looked the other way and issued me a new driver’s license a few weeks ago.
But the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) is a different animal. When I bounced over to their Long Island City office on Friday morning to file the application for my yellow cab license, the man behind the intake counter pounced on my missing “e” and sent me packing.
So instead of spending the morning getting finger printed and photographed and walking away with a ticket to taxi school, I took the E train (no joke – God loves poetry) to the Social Security Administration in the far reaches of Queens, where I tried to convince the woman behind the glass to give me back my vowel.
She spent a good fifteen minutes looking back and forth between my birth certificate, my passport and my now defective Social Security card before she agreed to issue me a new one, which will arrive in the mail in 7-10 days. Then – and only then – can I return to the TLC for a second application filing attempt.
In the meantime, I’ll brush up on my New York geography and be mystified about the fact that the New York City TLC seems to have stricter requirements than the U.S. State Department. The absurdities of bureaucracy know no boundaries. Or is the TLC just being extra strict in light of the record number of cabbie applications coming in during these days of recession?
Whatever the reason, I can only bow before the man behind the intake counter and the woman on the other side of the glass, where standard operating procedures trump logical exceptions, where a missing “e” is enough to call my identity into question and make me wait a few weeks longer before I go behind the wheel.