Monday, August 29, 2005


Ever lost your wallet or purse?

I did. Last week. and it was a wallet, by the way, you perv.

What a huge pain in the ass. The biggest problem? My whole ID was in that little leather pouch: credit cards, bank cards, birth certificate, SIN card, driver's license, OHIP card, office ID card, Blockbuster rental card, etc, etc etc.

Thank God that I didn't cram my passport into my wallet. Not sure what I would have done then.

So anyway, I have begun the long process of being able to prove I am who I say I am. In doing so, I have had to interact with numerous government agencies, their kiosks and the employees who run them. There have been many discrepencies, which I would like to share.

My basic thesis in this exercise was that the government response time would be esentially uniform, regardless of who I would be dealing with. I also expected that the private sector would move quickly. Here's what I have so far:

BANK CARD (2 HOURS): This was the most important to me, as I had no real access to money without it. I can tell you that begging for money from your wife isn't as glorious as it sounds. I'll have to learn from Kevin Federline. With passport in hand, I had a new card in the time it took me to take a subway to the branch. it was activated immediately. Full marks.

OHIP CARD (5 MINUTES): I didn't even have to go anywhere with this one. I called the Ministry of Health, they asked me for my address and Date of Birth and they said a new one was on its way. Kind of scary that I can get access to a card that quickly. Hmmmmm. Fraud, anyone? But still--no headache at all for an upstanding citizen like myself reporting a lost card.

DRIVER'S LICENSE (30 MINUTES): Not too bad. It on the MTO website that I needed 2 pieces of ID, but they only asked for one (again, my passport). After I put down $10, I had a temp right away. Line up was only about 5 minutes, so it wasn't too bad. I even had the option of taking a new pic, but since those gym visits haven't been happening as of late, I decided to keep the one I had (even though I do look like a convicted felon).

SIN CARD (ONGOING): Now I started to move into the not-so-great. Although not immediately needed, the government office was near my bank, so I thought I'd go over there. When I get to the front, there is a station that tells you to take an application from the pile and fill it out. No pen provided, so I take one and figure I'll fill it out when I get to the front. Then I get into the line with lots of babies, most screaming because its pretty damn muggy in there. I wait for a half hour (it was 10 am, so off-peak) only to be told that I need a birth certificate to get a SIN card. Thanks for wasting my time. How about a sign on the wall? Guess I need to get the ol' birth card first.

BIRTH CERTIFICATE (2 DAYS): Being born in the great State of Alberta, I had to deal with them remotely. Redemption! Now, "the source" of all ID verification is the Birth Certificate. It really is the grandaddy of government identification. I called up the fine folk at Registry Connect and they told me that they could have it too me pretty quick, depending on how much I was willing to pay. I'm totally cool with that--in fact, i wish more government agencies would act in that fashion. Considering that I had an expired passport and was travelling to the U.S. the next week, I figured "immediately" was my category of urgency. Once I faxed in my application, I had it on my desk in less than 48 hours.

PASSPORT (ONGOING): Back to the dregs of the federal government. So, I go into the Passport Office with my expired passport and there is no real clear indication of where I should go. There is a "pre screening" line for passport applications, but I figured since I had one already, it was different. No one there to tell me otherwise. After wandering for a few minutes, I decided to join the "pre-screen" line and take my chances. After waiting 20 minutes, they tell me that I needed to fill out an application and that I needed to get out of the line to do that. They also told me that renewing a passport is just like getting a passport for the first time, so I needed a birth certificate (which I didn't have at that point). A helpful young lady behind me in line told me to fill out the application online. She then told me this was her 3rd time in that line, after various corrections and miscues.

I went online and filled out the application, but it is unclear whether my application is being processed, or that I still have to go down to the Passport Office to fill out all the paperwork. I'll look into that when I have a few minutes.

CREDIT CARD (ONGOING): Now, I have to be fair. These guys weren't that great either, but it really depends on the company. My Mastercard was little problem, but that might have been that I cancelled it earlier in the week due to fraudulent charges on it from some online gambling site (Nope, not me). But I still needed to let them know and they were good with it--quick and easy.

My Visa, on the other hand, was difficult. After being in cue for 30 minutes, I finally got someone and answered increasing obscure security information (i.e "What are the last three digits of your cable bill account?"). When I asked to put a hold on it, the woman on the other end couldn't get into my account. She wouldn't tell me why, just that she was "unable to access my file". I told her I wanted to ensure no one was using my card right at that minute, but she blathered through an apology and said there was little she could do (although, from the sounds of her, it didn't seem like there was much she could have done). So, I hung up and decided to call again. This time, I had a bright young gal that quickly diagnosed the problem: they had an old phone number on file. With that fixed, the issued a new card, which has yet to arrive.

So, it was a real mixed bag, which I didn't expect. I totally understand that I needed to be put through hoops to ensure I was who I said I was. But most of my frustration came from waiting in line, unhelpful attendants, and missing information. Not from the actual protocols themselves. I can just imagine what it would be like if I was in a real pinch and I needed to get these documents ASAP. Big problem.

That's what I've been doing for the last week.

How about you? Things good?

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