I went to the Social Security Administration office to begin the process of changing my name to Mrs. ManThing. It looked, at first, like any other Government agency: depressing lighting, long-abused furniture, a melange of social groups, fiberglass panelboard on the walls. I stood in line, awaiting my turn at the next available window. Having brought a book, I attempted to read, until a conversation began to waft my direction.
I didn't want to listen. I really didn't want to listen- but the volume level made it damn near impossible not to.
"Laraine, it's just like that time you said you got that black eye from playing basketball."
"I did get that black eye from playing basketball."
"And what about your stereo? Your jambox? He took them both and pawned them. What has he done for you? What has he brought into your house?"
"He takes good care of my baby."
Oh, dear God, I had stumbled into a surprise live taping of Jerry Springer.
As soon as I was next in line, the window directly in front of me closed, and the person sitting at it walked away. I turned to the person next to me and sarcastically quipped, "Your tax dollars hard at work, folks!"
Luckily, another person came to work the window. Instead of the perfectly normal woman who had been there before, now sat a poor poor man who quite obviously had emphysema or some other quite serious lung ailment. I'm talking Darth Vader breathing. The room took on a bit of surrealism as I sat at the window, overhearing the escalating conversation about how much of a loser this girl's boyfriend was, and Laraine did you pay the cell phone bill, and Laraine how much more of your stuff are you going to let him pawn??- all the while, trying to concentrate on what the guy at the window was telling me, which I didn't get much of because- breathing problem!
I simply couldn't believe that people would air out their dirty laundry in public like that- it was very uncomfortable. I felt dirty for hearing it (though I had no choice), and not a little bit embarrassed for them.
Immediately after finishing up my business there, I went to Central Market, hoping the immersion in gourmet food would wipe the blech of the Social Security Office off.
Worked like a charm.