The CRTs started drifting off one by one. In some cases they found better jobs; in others they just couldn’t face another claimant. Either way their caseloads, as the claimants were known collectively, migrated to the regular staffers, who were used to the more “entitled” crowd of retirees collecting Social Security. Those claims reps had little patience, and less sympathy, for the welfare folks, who qualified as the unentitled.
You could see the life slowly drain out of the DO, like batteries in a flashlight someone left on. It got so bad, management asked me to revive The Free Nameless News, and even donated an administrative assistant to help with the typing, copying, stapling, apologizing, etc. But Vol. 2 of the News (Still 0¢) turned out to be as lifeless as the DO, both just going through the motions. So I decided to liven things up a bit, compliments of Vol. 2, No. 6.
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S C A N D A L R O C K S B O S T O N D O
Sunshine Fund Nabobs Under Investigation
A three-year reign of terror and tyranny will soon come to an end, the FNN learned today. The top officials of the Boston Sunshine Fund, whose ascendancy was aided by a bloodless coup three years ago, are currently under investigation by the National Council of Sunshine Funds, Ltd.
The Sunshine Fund was a charitable organization set up to provide meals and services to housebound claimants. The FNN’s shocking exposé accused Boston Sunshine Fund president Bernard (“Big Daddy”) Pont and treasurer Maureen (“Hatpin”) Troiano of embezzlement and extortion, respectively.
A major portion of the investigation will focus on Big Daddy’s highly questionable investment in the off-Tremont play Mama Was a Diesel-Lovin Man.
The next edition of the News trumpeted the establishment of a Sunshine Fund Defense League and featured a full-throated endorsement of the incumbent regime by Tricia McDermott (longtime staff writer for the paper), who tossed in a casual swipe at the editor.
I will not even mention the huge sums Carroll has spent to persuade local periodicals to publish his so-called articles.
Ouch. Management shut the paper down the following week, right before I was going to press with what turned out to be the Lost Edition of The Free Nameless News. Vol. 2, No. 8 was almost entirely devoted to my ex-fiancée (who I’d begun to think of as Miss Havisham) and the Wedding That Time Forgot. Odds are, it’s best that edition is lost.
A couple of weeks later the Assistant District Manager called me into his office.
“We’ve got a special assignment for you.”
“Really. What’s that.”
“We’re assigning you to our new Special Assignment Team. You of all people know how many troubled and disturbed claimants we get here at the Boston DO. Oddly enough, you seem to have a way with them. So we’re taking you out of the regular rotation and giving you the Special Assignment Team assignment.”
“Sort of the Loony Squad.”
“We’d never call it that.”
“How many other staffers on this . . . team?”
“Just you, so far. But we’re leaving open the possibility of others.”
“So I won’t be recovering overpayments any more.”
“Not to get technical about it, but you won’t not be recovering overpayments any more.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Thus I became the one-man Loony Squad. Whoever came into the DO and “looked a little off” (as one receptionist put it), got sent to me. The special claimant would walk slowly up the aisle – always with that half-smile that says Danger, Will Robinson! – and sit down in front of me. Sometimes she would absently finger a comb; sometimes he would test the heft of the three-hole punch on my desk. Every interview an adventure.
I did about three months on the Loony Squad and decided to call it a career at the SSA. I’d had it with transmittals and Saturday hours and genuine reproduction 18th century murals and force pays and loony claimants. I didn’t want to be the smartest guy who ever did redeterminations in the Boston DO. I just wanted to be gone.
As a parting gift I published Vol. 3, No. 1 (Only 0¢) of The Free Nameless News. It included the – mercifully – last installment of A Modest Analogy, along with a farewell note that ended this way:
My only regret throughout my too long and spotty career at SSA is that I never fathered a child in the office as an heir to my kingdom and a lasting monument to my presence here.
Alas, this work will have to suffice.
The final edition also contained a copy of my “Federal Employee’s Notice of Injury or Occupational Disease.” The form listed the Cause of Injury as an allergic reaction to bureaucratic work. The section marked Statement of Witness was signed by Prince High (SSI recipient) and read:
I seen Mr. Carroll break into a heavy sweat when I come to his desk, and I ask him why. He say don’t get too close, I’m allergic. He was looking around, smoking a lot of cigarettes, and putting his head on the desk every once in a while. I knew he sick, so I never told him nothing about winning the numbers. I knew he too sick to talk about it.
Yeah, yeah – hold your calls. That was way before political correctness.
When I gave my formal notice, there wasn’t a wet eye in the house. Two weeks later, I kissed the old dump goodbye.