"Social" Security

A couple of months ago I realized that I had forgotten to inform the the Brazilian government that I didn’t need to file a tax return because I hadn’t made any money. Such neglect caused my Brazilian Social Security Number to become “irregular”, and now I needed to make it regular again.

I went to the website for Revenue Brazil, as I do every year. But this time it was different. Very different. They had redone the whole website, and I couldn’t find the place to renew my SSN. To be precise, it wasn’t that they had redone the website: they were in the process of redoing it. And it wasn’t that I couldn’t find the place to renew my SSN: the links were there, but they kept sending me back and forth on a loop.

So I had two other three options: 1) call a 1-800 number; 2) file a petition in person; 3) forget about it.

Option number 1 was out of the question: you can’t make an international 1-800 call. Option number 2 was equally impractical. Unless, of course, I went to the consulate, or gave someone the power of attorney. So I went with option 3.

Until yesterday, out of the blue, the thought emerged again, and I finally decided to go to the consulate. I knew from before that the consulate kept unusual hours: 10-2. I work 10-4. But I do get an hour off for lunch. And the consulate is a 15 minute esterical walk away. So yesterday, after lunch, I rushed off to the consulate.

Turns out the hours have changed to 9-1. But this time I was determined to get this done at the very next oportunity. Which was as soon as the consulate opened today.

This morning, I quickly gobbled my breakfast and then rushed off to the consulate, a 5-minute esterical bike-ride away. Got there, three counters, one line up that filled the entire space, only one grumpy guy serving the public (grumpy guy who I knew from the time when they lost my BA and MA diplomas. And also from the time he decided to convince me not to transfer my voting station to Toronto, because it was a lot of work and what difference did my vote make anyways?).

After a while, grumpy guy (henceforth referred to as “GG”) finishes “helping” the people he’s supposed to be helping, and calls: “Next!” The next person happens to be an elegantly dressed size 14-plus lady, who needs a business visa for the Panamerican games. GG sends the lady over to another counter, because that’s the visa counter (though there’s no one there to take up visa requests).

Next person in line is an old gentleman, who also needs a visa to go see the Panamerican games. GG very rudely sends the old gentleman to the deserted counter, where size 14+ lady is still waiting for someone to come help her. GG then, at what maybe have been his attempt at something like efficiency and/or helpfulness, looks up to the ceiling and yells something to the effect that there are people waiting to be helped at the visa counter, could someone please come do something (I guess turning the head around 90 degrees towards the inner part of the consulate was just too much to be expected from him: hence the glance to the ceiling).

Next person in line was a stylish brunette (think Catherine Zeta-Jones), very tall in her stiletto heels and fresh in her lovely summer dress. She needs a visa to go to the Panamerican games, she says. GG opens his eyes out of their sockets, and drops his jaw. “What kind of game do you play?”, he asks. Ms. Zeta-Jones drily replies that the visa is not for her, it’s her boss who is volunteering at the games. All of us in the consulate then have the pleasure of finding out that GG worked for years with the Paraolympics committee, and he’s generally very committed to the organizational part of any sports event. He then kindly offers to look over Catherine’s papers, to see if anything is missing, so she won’t waste her time lining up for the other counter.

At this point, it became clear that, unlike GG, 14+size lady could turn her head much more than 90 degrees. Old gentleman’s head’s rotation in turn got close to a full 180. Catherine blushed, collected her documents, thanked GG for his kindness, and elegantly moved to the visa line, where someone eventually came to help and all necks got straightened.

The next person in line to see GG was me. He said that to do what I wanted to do through him was a lot of work(a lot of work for whom?): that the consulate would only work as the courier, and that, even then, there’d be no guarantee that my request would get to the right place. Best thing would be to find someone who was going to Brazil, and give them power of attorney. Alternatively, I could go try to do it online: and he gave me a print-out of the Revenue Brazil page. You know, the part with the loops.

With that in my hands I left the consulate, and made it back with 5 minutes to spare before work. Decided to have a quick look at the website. Turns out the number is not a 1800. And that I can call it from Skype. And even punch in all the 11 digits of my SSN, and my 8-digit date of birth, starting with the day, then month, then year. Then a voice said my request was successful, and I could check the website in 24 hours to see the updated status of my SSN. And then I rushed off to work and got there with one full minute to spare.

Which only goes to show that we sometimes make things much more complicated than they need to be. Or do we?


One response to “"Social" Security

  1. I think I know who this GG is… I remember one time someone came to get a visa to visit Brazil and he was giving the guy a hard time. Finally he told him “Brazil doesn’t want tourists”. I was shocked! I even wrote a complaint letter to the Brazilian press since this was at a time when the press was going on about trying to attract more tourists…

    But I have to confess they were nice to me last time. I got this really nice guy. I had to renew my passport to go back to Brazil. They had told me it would take weeks and I had almost decided to simply use my Italian passport to go down even if I’m not really supposed to. But I went on a thursday morning, explained I was leaving the following tuesday, and he was happy to have my passport ready by monday. He asked me for a copy of my reservation to be able to put me ahead of the line and had my passport ready early monday morning.

    Now we’ll see what happens when I go next time to transfer my voting station…

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