The other day, a friend approached me (stopping at six feet away, of course) and during our conversation he asked which was my favorite column out of nearly 1,000 I’ve written. Well, this is like asking King Solomon who his favorite wife was. The king and I both could name a few we didn’t like, but picking number one is tough. While most of my stuff is an exaggeration of the truth, this story really happened, word for word. It began eight years ago when I got this notification in the mail:
Dear Richard Wolfsie:
Our records show that the gender we have for you doesn’t match the information received from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid. To have your gender corrected, please contact your local Social Security office.
I dialed immediately, hoping to reach a real person who could look into everything without having to actually look at anything, if you know what I mean. After I answered a few automated questions, a man who identified himself as Art came on the phone and offered to assist me. I told him my last name and Social Security number.
“Yes, we have you on file. What can I do for you, Ma’am?”
That didn’t start out very well. I explained to Art the mistake they had made, but I was using a deeper voice, hoping that might move the conversation along in the right direction.
“We may have a software problem,” said Art.
“Well, from my point of view, it’s more of a hardware problem.”
“This is a new one for me, Wolfsie. By the way, mind if I just call you Wolfsie…at least until we satisfactorily address this problem? Not sure I can fix this with a simple keystroke. This may require a face-to-face meeting.”
I was uncomfortable with that possibility. I’m not a rugged looking guy. I even have some soft features. I tried to talk him out of it. “Look, how about an eyewitness report. Can you take my wife’s word for it? Or I can have the guys from the gym sign an affidavit. Or maybe the security agents at the airport could give you a buzz. Those guys have seen it all.”
“I’m very sorry, but we do have our standard operating procedures,” Art replied.
“No, an operation is out of the question. There must be a simpler way.”
“Are you on Medicare?” Art asked.
“Yes, for the past several months.”
“Apparently, not all of the parts I want covered.”
“Wolfsie, maybe the computer read your first name as being either a man’s or a woman’s — thus the confusion.”
“You must be right, Art. Who doesn’t have a sister or grandmother named Richard?”
“I need to put you on hold, Wolfsie. Sorry to make you wait.”
“No problem. I’ll pass the time flipping through Brides magazine.”
“It looks to me, Wolfsie, that we had you officially listed as a man, but for some reason you became a woman in our system when you signed up for Medicare. That was effective March 2, 2012.”
“Well, if it’s so effective, why don’t they let me drive from the ladies’ tees at my golf club?”
We had been on the phone almost an hour when Art said he needed to check one more thing. He promised he’d return in a few seconds. I held for another five minutes but he never came back on the line.
Isn’t that just like a man?