Whatever you do, do not throw away your Social Security card.
About a year ago, while weeding useless cards from my stuffed wallet, I came across a fragment of something that in ancient times had once been my Social Security card. Faded, scruffed, creased and thin as onion-skin, it looked like a tattered scrap from one of the Dead Sea scrolls. Time to toss it, I foolishly decided. Why keep it? My Social Security number has long been “tattooed” in my memory, so much so it’s probably the only thing I’ll remember for sure when I end up in a memory-care unit.
(Which reminds me: They constantly warn us never to give out Social Security numbers and yet every time we fill out a form, an application, anything at all, they insist we cough up a Social Security number. Thus, my number has become engraved into my very being.)
Recently, I had to renew my driver’s license. I’d learned earlier I could get a “Real ID,” which would be included in the cost of renewal, $25.25. A Real ID will become necessary, as an added security measure, starting in October 2020 for anyone who wants to board an airplane for domestic flights. To get that ID, I needed to bring my birth certificate, Social Security number and two bills showing current address. Well and fine. I grabbed two bill statements and took the copy of my birth certificate from my file cabinet, then off I went to the government center.
At the service counter, I showed those papers, and like a robot I was about to rattle off my Social Security number. Then she asked for the card. Oops! The actual card, she said, is required for the Real ID. Oh well. I asked could I bring the card later, once I get a new one, and still get the Real ID included in the cost I was about to pay for my regular driver’s license? Nope. She explained the Real ID is a kind of enhanced driver’s license that allows one to fly as well as drive. It’s a two-in-one card, not an added one in addition to a regular driver’s license, as I’d thought.
Oh well. I won’t be flying the friendly skies any time soon. I’ll have to get a new Social Security card and then a Real ID, just in case, so I’ll be good-to-go when I win some fabulous trip.
Anyway, here’s my advice: Memorize your Social Security number if you haven’t already. Do not keep the card on your person. Put it in an alphabetized folder in a filing cabinet or in a safety-deposit box. Check the expiration date on your driver’s license (it always falls on your birthday, every four years). If you don’t have a copy of your birth certificate, go get one and file that, too. That way, you’ll be all set when you go off to get a new driver’s license, one with Real ID status. Then you will be able to fly within the United States with that ID or with a passport. You will still need a passport for foreign travel.
Oh, and one more thing: When you go for license renewal, be sure to bring your eyeglasses. When I peered into the vision-testing gizmo at the license bureau, the woman told me to read the letters on the upper line. For a split second I panicked; the entire line was a hopeless blur. In the next split second, one of huge relief, I realized I didn’t have my glasses on. I’d put them in my shirt pocket 10 minutes earlier so I could squint closely, like Mr. Magoo, at the microscopic print on the renewal form. Grabbing my glasses, I managed to identify the letters – or most of them.
Embarrassed, I laughed. She laughed, too. She was probably thinking, “He doesn’t need a license renewal; he needs a dog and a cane.”
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.