A lot of things you do once in a lifetime - birth, death, circumcision, those sorts of things. Speaking of being circumsized, I applied for Social Security today.
Our favorite government says on its website that the best way to apply for SS is on its website. Then it refers you there. Thus, the weirdness begins.
On www.ssa.gov is a button that says "Apply for Benefits." You might expect an application to appear on-screen at this point, but you would be so desperately wrong. What you get is a video that tells you how to apply.
On the video, in the finest government tradition, is a series of PowerPoint slides - yes, a video of slides - and an authoritative voice that reads the slides to you. In case you are both illiterate and deaf, there is a button that provides Closed Captioning of the authoritative voice reading the slides. Evidently, someone else would read the Closed Captioning to you. If you are not only illiterate and deaf but also blind and stupid, there is a phone number, which you can get someone to dial for you while you sit drooling in a corner. There's no doubt a video on how to do that.
"It's easy," says the video, "just make sure you read the instructions." So you click on the instructions, which explain that you should type your name into the space labeled "Name," and progress to complicated issues like, "Are you married? ___Yes ___No." Still not sure what to do? There's a video you can watch.
About halfway through the video for the second time, I began to suspect an endless loop of the "lather-rinse-repeat" variety, and so I disobeyed the authoritative voice and resumed searching on my own for the application form that I thought I had clicked on in the first place.
In the final analysis, getting circumsized by the government is easy. The application, once you drill down to it, contains only a couple of dozen highly predictable questions. It took me 10 minutes to complete. But of course by that time I had been inspired by an hour or two of preparing to learn how to understand how to understand the instructions that explain how to begin to start to fill in the application. Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Redundancy Department.
My first check should arrive in the mail any day now. Along with a video explaining how to open the envelope it came in.