Some people say, marriage is just a piece of paper. Well, I’ve been married 52 days and I still don’t have that piece of paper.
The Queen’s County City Clerk’s office has actually beaten out Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon for the worst customer service possible.
Trying to get a human on the phone at this beleaguered establishment is like trying to get our cats to stop eating plastic. The automated service funnels you to an extension that does nothing but ring and ring. Around the fifth time I called, I actually let it ring for seven minutes. No one ever answered. On another day when I did reach a human using a different number, I was connected to a rude female minister who was in the middle of marrying a couple. Why would they connect me to her and why would she answer the phone if she was in the middle of a ceremony? The whole thing has been a nightmare and so I had to drive over there to deal with it in the rain on a Monday. I hate Mondays.
By a stroke of luck, I got my number-B409. They were on B407 already. I anticipated a short conversation with an apathetic worker itching for a smoke break to find my certificate and send me on my way.
B409 was called and I sat down face to face with a somewhat pleasant woman, who took my ID and starting searching in the “system” for my marriage certificate. Of course I could not read the screen, but I could read her face. Her eyes were searching, and the space between her eyebrows were starting to furrow. A large pit started to grow in my stomach.
“M’am, we never received the license from the judge who married you.”
My heart began to race and I could feel angry, frustration and sadness rushing to my eyeballs.
“No, no, no. He sent it to you. We called him last week because we still had not received our certificate. He mailed it on the 29th to this office, which was weeks ago.”
“Let me check a couple other places.”
She gets up and starts looking through file cabinets. I put my hands in my face and the meltdown begins. I immediately assume I am not married. That I am going to have to get remarried in this damn courthouse and have a completely different date on my certificate. That the ceremony we had in front of friends and family would be null and void. Panic has taken over and the tears start falling.
She comes back, empty handed.
“Yes, I’m sorry m’am. We never received the paperwork.”
I am starting to do the ugly cry. There are at least a hundred people in the room waiting to get married with their suits and dresses on, holding bouquets of flowers, and here I am sobbing over not having my proof of marriage. I’m sure I looked like a wreck.
Seeing that she was not going to be able to handle me, she goes and gets the Deputy Clerk, who I guess is the head honcho.
This lady is all New York. I could see that my crying was not going to earn many points with her.
“Now, there is no reason to cry. This is not a big deal, you’re just going to have to do some work to get this straightened out.”
I’M going to have to do some work?? What did I do? This was not my fault. This is clearly a case of an over-used system that can’t keep their paperwork straight.
First she suggested that we just get remarried there. Absolutely not, I told her.
“Fine, then this is what you need to do…”
I pretty much zoned out when she started rattling off instructions about faxing letters with letterhead and duplicate licenses and the judge filling out everything again and make sure he signs the bottom line and then have him fax the letter to me and blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that this fuck up was really happening.
When I finally realized this was happening, I straightened up and wiped my tears. She was pretty irritated when I had to ask her to repeat everything. She was growing weary of my victim act, telling me again that this was not a big deal. Has she ever had to deal with her own office screw-ups? I think she might change her tune if she was on hold for seven minutes with no hope in sight.
Then she and the worker had the nerve to blame the judge.
“Yeah, these judges do this kind of thing all the time. The paperwork sits at the bottom of a drawer and never gets filed. I’m sure he never sent the original.”
Look, yes, he is a hippie judge from Woodstock, but this was not his fault. He marries 450 couples a year and this has never happened. Do I trust this guy from a small town that’s been known for loosey-goosey behavior over a huge bureaucracy of mis-management? You bet your sweet water bong I do.
So, the “work” began immediately. I had to call the judge (who calmed me down and told me, “yes, you are married, don’t worry) and have him fax over a letter on letterhead stating that he married us on the day and the time I said. Then after the Deputy clerk filled out her portion, I had to PAY $25 for a duplicate license (the worker lady then had the audacity to say, “I hope the judge is going to reimburse you for this duplicate.” Is she serious right now????) Then the duplicate license had to be overnighted to the judge. He has to fill everything out again and overnight that to one of our witnesses at the ceremony, who will then overnight it back to me so that I can go back to that hell hole to finally get my marriage certificate.
Everyone says marriage is work. Compromise is key. Don’t take each other for granted. Don’t go to bed angry.
I didn’t expect I’d have to fight with the government to get my piece of paper. But the good news is, I’m already fighting for my marriage.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/gearys/276917907/”>The Geary’s</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>