August 22, 2019
Here in the Castle, you don’t get a call or an email from the 12th floor business center. A blue shirt knocks on your door and without giving you time to say “come in,” or “don’t come in” they open the door, often you’re trying to take a nap, and the call from the door wakes you with “finance wants to see you.“
That is never a good omen.
You scramble out of bed, struggle to put your shorts on (it’s summer) and with your rollater get to the elevator and get up to the 12th floor.
There are three people in a cramped office. A curly haired white guy in his 60s that nobody ever talks to. A young secretary-type (today they are called assistants) who is closest to the door.
And a third woman with dreadlocks who always seems to have an upset stomach and refuses to address me as a human being. She is hidden behind a divider filled on the top with plants, and almost never comes out to see you.
She is what we used to call the bookkeeper. And she arrives with attitude.
So I knock on the door to come in. I can never open that door with the rollater in front of me, and it’s all too narrow for the go-cart.
So I always have to yell: “I can’t open the door.” And the assistant gets up from behind the desk, walks to the door, opens it and I go in with the rollater. She always has a kindly smile on her face and tells me the bookkeeper will be right with me.
Whether it’s ’cause I’m white, Jewish, or she’s this way to everybody (that’s my guess) I have no idea, but no greetings. I hear her make her way out of the inner sanctum and she says, “Mr. Beckerman. I’ve been looking through the records and you never paid rent for June.”
Now this is the end of August, and she’s already looked through my records a few times. She never followed up on why my SSI (social security insurance) wasn’t even processed for three months.
And when it wasn’t approved, because my Social Security was over $770 I asked her why she told me I’d be approved during the interview.
She just looked at me with the “how dare you question my authority look.” And said she never said that. I asked my sister about it, she was there and she also heard it.
Anyway I said, so what’s next then. And she said you need to see your case worker about a SSP form.
So what’s that, I ask.
That’s an explanation from the state (NY) as to why you’ve been denied.
And then, I say, if they also deny me, then what?
She says, stone-faced, that’s all the options we have.
Am I allowed to make money to close up the difference? I ask innocently knowing the answer.
No, Mr. Beckerman. Those are the only two ways we have to help you.
Eventually she gets frustrated with my questioning and asks the white guy with the white curly hair (looks like Joseph Heller): Mr. Beckerman is asking what happens if he is denied the NYS SSP.
Curly haired guy: What’s that?
Bookkeeper: The State Supplemental Program
Curly haired guy (to me): You’ve been denied the Federal Insurance?
Me: Yes. My Social Security is more than $770 a month. Of course I’m in debt and owe about $10,000 but that doesn’t count in anybody’s ledger. I have about $10 in checking the last time I looked.
Curly haired guy: Well, there’s no other resources we have. Go visit your case worker —
Me: My case worker quit about three weeks ago –
Bookkeeper: There’s another case worker he name is Jooma. See her.
I tell them both my sister is on vacation, and I can’t get in touch with her until next week to see if she has a cancelled check for June. Meanwhile, I owe them $77 for the amount SSP was supposed to be paying the last three months.
I get downstairs to Jooma. She’s the opposite of the business group upstairs. I sit with her for about an hour while the State places her on hold and eventually hangs up.
I ask her about the $770 cutoff and she laughs and says that’s just a number they stick in the form, it doesn’t mean anything.
Being put on hold for an hour doesn’t faze her at all.
After a while, she says it’s a bad time to get through. I should take my scooter outside (yes at this point I’ve switched to the scooter) and I back out of her cramped office, and make a series of broken u-turns, and get out into the main lobby.
Really hot. I park in the shade and at this point I’m barely registering what might happen. It’s all like a 2 on the Richter Scale.
Then I come back into the lobby after a half hour. Too humid.
Jooma walks by. “Give me 15 minutes,” she says.
I watch a chess game between Harry and Avi. Avi has had a massive stroke and is in an expensive electric wheelchair which he loves.
I’m not sure what’s wrong physically with Harry.
But Avi beats Harry which is incredible. His left side is entirely paralyzed. His hearing is gone. But he is considered a preeminent sketch artist in the world (according to him) and I’ve seen his sketches and paintings – photorealistic. And the stroke did not effect his right hand. He still draws and paints.
Harry is a character. I’ll leave it at that for now.
So Jooma comes back and I scooter into her office. She calls the state again. This time she gets different hold music. She says this is a good sign, and finally after ten minutes the phone picks up.
Jooma explains who she is. The personal the other end asks if I’m present in the office.
Yes, I’m here.
She asks the litany of identity questions to determine I am who I say I am.
Then she goes looking for a certain form, I forget the name but it’s something something level 3.
Finally gets back on speaker and says, no we have no record of receiving it.
Jooma tells her we’ll refax it to her this afternoon.
Hangs up. So for three months, (at least) nobody at the Castle followed up to see if this important form had been received by the state.
Jooma calls the bookkeeper. The bookkeeper of course has a copy of the faxed form to cover her fat ass. But never followed up to see if a copy had been received.
Exact same situation with why it took so many months to get my social security check deposited into the proper Castle account. Nobody checked to see that the forms had been received and were being processed.
Ineptness wherever you look.