How you can move and still be in the same place

Not long ago, our longtime dear friends Art and Ruth notified us of change of address, and this was disturbing because they live so far up in Maine that next door is Canada. In that part of Aroostook County, they have but four places to go.

One direction is "to the Valley," meaning the beautiful valley of the St. John River, where one ventures only with the help of Acadian French. Another way you can go from Aroostook County is "over east," which means the Maritime Provinces of Canada. A third way is "down county," perhaps as far as Houlton, but certainly no farther than Molunkus, which is a thriving city sparsely settled by pulpwood choppers and the idle rich. The fourth place to go is "outside." Florida, for instance, is Outside. Where had Art and Ruth gone that they had a new address?

It relieved us a great deal to learn that they hadn't gone anywhere. They still lived at the same old place. Uncle Sam's Postal Service had merely redesignated things after some whimsical plan, and instead of RFD so-and-so, Art and Ruth now lived at 27 Lawndale Street. You might suppose the local postmaster would be careful to hire clerks who'd be able to keep this absurdity an in-camera secret, instead of rubber-stamping letters to Ruth and Art with "Insufficient Address" and returning them to sender. You might, but I doubt it.

The United States Postal Service is "lacking," as we say Down-East, so Ruth and Art were put to the tedious task of notifying their many friends and services of their "change of address." This is not an isolated stupidity. In Bennington, Vt., my longtime angling buddy lived on Willow Way North, and the post office consolidated North and South. Now he has a new number on simple Willow Way. This, we can surmise, will speed up delivery as soon as my buddy notifies everybody of the change.

For another pertinent example, we wrote to a friend in Rochester, N.H., and our letter came back marked "Insufficient address, return to sender." Come to find out, our friend had moved one flight up into a smaller flat and was now at 86-B instead of 86-A. The same letter carrier delivered to both flats. We sent the same letter again but with a new postage stamp, and she got it at once, a week later.

It is now our turn to notify one and all that we have a new address. We lived five years in a senior-citizen residence and decided with tremendous unanimity that we should depart and take our departure with us, and we are now in what we call the "otherwheres," up to the valley, over east, down county, and outside. Look for our change-of-address notice in the mail.

I've taken care of just about everybody, and it's possible some of you may like to hear about Fleet Bank. We are not only a depositor, but also stockholders of record, although we always vote at annual meeting under the pen name of Proxy. This came about because the old South Boston Savings Bank placed some advertising on this page, soliciting depositors, and to thank the institution for its support I wrote a nice letter and sent $500 to open a savings account.

I got a dandy letter back from the president, folksy and warm, and a rapport was pleasantly established that lasted for some years, until Fleet Bank moved in and bought us out. Meantime, the South Boston Savings Bank offered stock to depositors, and as that had been a good year for turnips and I had money laying around, I reaffirmed my pleasure with South Boston and took a few shares.

Shortly our holdings were split, our South Boston was bought by Bank of Boston, then Fleet appeared. Amalgamation set in, and willy-nilly we found we were the owners of one of the biggest banks around. So I found the phone number, and after a moment of respectful silence, I dialed Fleet and asked to have my address changed.

I suppose everybody at the bank was busy that morning dealing with vast international monetary problems and I had intruded at an inconvenient time. I waited some 10 minutes, although it may have been only 15, and another vice president came on and asked what did I want? And so on. In the end, a female voice told me curtly that if I wanted my address changed I would be obliged to tell her my Social Security number.

Everybody gets this all the time, and when I get it I'm driven up the wall, too, because on my original Social Security card it says, next to the number, that it is not to be used for identification. Yet if I, or you, go in for a drop of oil on our bicycle sprocket, somebody wants our Social Security number. That number, on the explicit assurance of FDR himself, is betwixt me and you and Uncle Sam. I'm not about to divulge it, and I don't care who you are.

Yet here was I, the prestigious owner of a major bank, as well as a depositor in same, being asked to identify myself to a clerk of minor standing who probably had nothing else to do but change addresses. I said my Social Security number was not available to her, and she said in that case it would not be possible to change my address.

Fleet Bank doesn't know we've moved. But they'll find out next time they write to Proxy and the letter comes back! Meantime, I think I've notified everybody else except the Social Security Administration, and the folks there already have my number.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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