Saturday, May 06, 2006

THE CITY DESK - Rory Riddler, Councilman Ward 1

Birth Certificates Help Prove, You’re The One & Only You
For over fifty years, since birth to be exact, I’ve been a proud citizen of this great nation. In all that time I’ve left a paper trail a bloodhound with hay fever could follow. Financial records, voting records, employment records, phone records, tax records…not to mention that “permanent” record thing they kept on all of us in school. Though I’ve been a licensed driver in Missouri for over thirty years, that’s no longer good enough to prove to my own government that I’m the person looking back at me from my own photo ID.

In the wisdom of the Federal Government, to renew my Missouri driver’s license, I now must prove that I am…well me. Like Kris Kringle in Miracle On 34th Street, who had to prove he was the “one and only” Santa Claus, I’ve been reduced to proving I am the one and only Rory Riddler.

To do that requires showing my birth certificate.

Now my Scots-Irish heritage and blue eyes probably make me a low risk in the Government’s eyes of being a Middle-East terrorist. But drawing such distinctions wouldn’t be politically correct in a war where we are trying not to offend anyone. We all can appreciate wanting to crack down on potential terrorists getting their hands on real drivers licenses. Make them buy the fake ones they sell on every college campus.

Still, I can’t figure out why the government didn’t just waive the requirement for renewals of licenses for say all those who’ve been licensed for more than twenty years. I can’t believe there are “sleeper” cells of terrorists who have been sitting around for the last twenty years waiting for just the right moment to strike. “Honey, when are we going to strike a blow against the infidels? Right after their kids graduate from Harvard dear.”

So to help in the cause of freedom, I decided to buck up and simply get my birth certificate and go renew my license. Now where did I put that? Let’s see, the last time I needed it was to get a Social Security number so that narrows it down to the last thirty-three years.

I thought about just bringing my Mother and Father to the License Bureau with me as a character witness, but then thought twice about how that might play out.

License Bureau employee: “Do you both solemnly swear that the person standing here is your son?”

Mom: “Well he does look vaguely familiar.”

Dad: “Maybe if he came to visit more often.”

That’s when my wife Sue suggested I could just order a copy from the County Health Departments Vital Records Bureau on Boonslick. The first thing you notice when you approach the desk is a sign that reads, Birth Certificates $15…Death Certificates $13. I’m not sure why it costs less to prove your dead than alive. Maybe there’s less demand so they discounted death certificates to try to generate more business.

There were four other people trying to order birth certificates at the same time I was. Apparently lost records are a real profit center, prompting one man standing at the window to quip that the new rules seemed less about national security and more about $15.

One woman got pretty annoyed when the clerk asked to see her driver’s license to order a copy of her birth certificate. She had her license stolen and was in line to get a copy of her birth certificate to get a new license. The personnel behind the counter were very polite and professional and eventually resolved the woman’s Catch-22. They apparently get yelled at a lot; something I can certainly sympathize with.

I had to wait about fifteen minutes. It gave me time to check out the walls which were covered with helpful advice. There was a poster of Mr. Spock telling me I would “Live Long And Prosper” by not smoking. I learned how to check for ticks and that binge drinking till three in the morning is something expectant mothers should avoid. There was also a big full-color poster of a person licking an ashtray and commenting on the experience being just like kissing someone who smokes. As a non-smoker I wasn’t quite sure if the heavy message was aimed at shaming smokers into quitting to improve their chances with the opposite sex or warning me that kissing smokers would be dangerous to my health.

Of course the surest way to find something you’ve lost is to replace it. I found my birth certificate the very next morning. The original was in a scrapbook my parents had given me a few years ago. It was right there with the baby teeth, lock of hair, hospital wristband and tongue depressor from a house call the doctor made. There are all the report cards, awards, certificates and pages of photos lovingly dated.

Now that I’ve been able to prove, to the satisfaction of Federal and State authorities, that I’m 100% American born and raised, they should be able to reduce the threat level to a bluish green. My wife’s driver’s license isn’t due for another year or so. Till then I guess I’ll just have to take my chances that I might be sleeping with the enemy.