Friday, May 8, 2009

In Cleveland all you need are jingle bells and God's blessing

“Get your shoes on, we’re going to Cleveland City Hall.”

Why Mommy??”

“We are fixing your brother’s name.”

“But we already did that,” I heard the whining start.

“It didn’t work. We try again.”

“Can I wear my bells?! Pleeease.”

“Fine. But, if they become a problem, you’ll have to take them off.”

I collected my documentation, and we left for City Hall, for the fourth try. Somehow, an ‘e’ was missing out of Georg's, I mean George’s, first and middle names on his birth certificate. I’ll try to make a long story short.

First try

I called City Hall. I told them the problem. I asked them what documentation I needed.

“No problem,” they said kindly, “just bring your i.d.”

Skeptical, I brought my drivers’ license, passport, marriage license, social security card, copies of his incorrect birth certificate, a checkbook, cash, and credit cards.

After an hour wait in line, they said, “I’m sorry. The mistake was not made in our office, you’ll have to go over to Probate Court.”

I walked to Probate Court. Probate Court explained the procedure for having his name changed, not corrected, then kindly told me that a letter from the hospital would be all I needed to have the birth certificate corrected.

I immediately drove to the hospital, on the other side of town.

The hospital’s computer was down. A few days later, I received the request for correction letter in the mail.

Second try

I returned to City Hall, with everything from the first trip, plus the request for correction. I waited for an hour in line with my two little ones.

“You need to fill out this form.”

I filled it out.

“Is your spouse here?”


“He will need to come to our office, or you can have his signature notarized.”
"Is that all I will need?"


Third try

I returned with all of the documentation from above, with the form signed and properly notarized, which took me a few weeks to arrange. I waited for an hour in line with my two little ones.

“We will need your son’s social security card to show the correct spelling of his name.”

“It is wrong too.”

“We need some proof to show which spelling he commonly uses.”

George and Gladys were with me. I thought about assaulting a federal officer. I thought about having her interview George to see how he commonly spells his name. I wondered if he would just as soon be called Frank. I mean, the kid is two years old, did you expect him to have a W-2? Of course, I didn’t do any of that.

I peeked into the social security office across the street (after running across the street in the rain with two children). The wait was longer than my parking meter allowed. I went home.

Although I had already confirmed in the past that Ohio did not have any useful information about this process on line, I decided to research what other states would accept. I hit upon the Minnesota website, which gives detailed instructions. Minnesota does not accept a social security card as an additional form of id in this situation. Minnesota accepts baptismal certificates as an official document.

Fourth try

I didn’t call City Hall to ask. I went through my calendar and, based on my other tries, decided that the people who worked on Friday seemed the most efficient. Today, I found George’s baptismal certificate, made three copies, and went to City Hall.

Gladys hopped up the steps with both feet jingling all the way. The few people smoking outside the building smiled and waved.

The security guard softened as we approached, “Nice bells!”

“Yes, she is very festive, isn’t she?”

The people waiting in line at the birth certificate office thoroughly enjoyed my children’s dances.

“They are so precious,” one woman said to another. They clearly had never met. They both smiled.

The usually stale, cold, concrete building in downtown Cleveland took on an unusual jolliness. When my turn arrived, I explained the error on the certificate and handed her the documents one by one. A few minutes passed, until I heard the words of victory.

“How many copies will you need?”

We jingled happily out the door. Gladys hopped down the concrete steps with both feet, maximizing the jingle in the echoing hallway. The security guard, my fellow citizens, and the employees on break, all smiled and waved ‘goodbye,’ to our passing parade.
And, this time, I can literally thank God for the paperwork.

I stopped to take a few pictures outside of City Hall, because, as you may have noticed, I am now an official blogger because I take pictures of half-eaten ice cream sandwiches. I pleaded for George to stand by his sister, but he was terribly distracted by something behind me. He would NOT listen to me.

I turned around to see a Cleveland Fire Truck pulling away from the curb behind me, still waving at George.

Only in Cleveland.


Indy said...

First I thought I can't believe she wore bells. Then I thought, I can't believe you brought your children with you this many times. They'd have to put me in the Cleveland City Jail or a special hospital after going with my children to a gov run place of business. I hate going alone let alone with children. You are a saint and you are a better mother than me. :)

Chickadee said...

Somehow, you make a FOURTH trip to a federal building sound like an adventure. Amazing.

Perhaps, from now on, I will be there with bells on, as well.

BretCB said...

It always amazes me how much red tape and bureaucracy the government makes you go through for something seemingly simple. At one of my previous jobs, I met a guy who'd been "dead" for over 6 years, care of another unrelated, older, and actually dead gentleman with the same name from his home town. In that time, he'd been entirely unable to convince the government of his being alive. Yet they continued to let him work and pay his taxes ...

Anonymous said...

Oh were remarkably restrained. It's surprising how many officials are employed purely to confuse and annoy the general public with their red tape.

You'll HAVE to tell me where to get some bells like that - I may start a new trend over here in Britain.