Cat (willowisp) wrote,

Bureaucratic Hijinks

I grew up in a heavily Roman Catholic town, in a simpler era. After I made my confirmation, the nice lady at the Social Security office changed my middle name from the one given at birth to the one I took at Confirmation, without requiring a legal name change or anything.

Not long afterward I went off to SUNY Oswego, and ended up with the nickname of Cat. It was mostly because, in a moment of silliness, three of us decided to come up with nicknames. Since my mother would bring my kitty, Thena, to visit me nearly every weekend, and since Cat happened to be the first three letters of my middle name, I went with Cat. That's how I introduced myself to callicrates, and how I've called myself since then. I have now been using the name "Cat" for over half of my life.

Fast forward to my second time around at SUNY Oswego a few years ago, to finish my degree. I went to get my passport, but things had changed drastically since 09/11. Because my birth certificate middle name did not match my Social Security middle name, and since Oswego is *not* a heavily Catholic town where Confirmation is a major thing, I was denied until I made the names match up.

Fast forward again to late last year. We were discussing visiting a friend in Australia; in fact we've been saving up frequent flier miles for over ten years to that end, and we knew I would need to get a passport. NM is a heavily Roman Catholic state, but given how freaky people are about identity and security, we decided it would be best to change my name. And Andy said, since I was going to do so anyway, I might as well change it to "Cat," especially given how agitated I get when people insist on using my legal first name. I got the name change packet last summer, but between the intimidation factor of the forms (they really really *really* wanted people to use an attorney and repeatedly stressed how difficult it was for a mere mortal to get all of the forms correct and so on) and travel (once the ticket is purchased, the name thereon cannot be changed) I put it off until Monday. On Feb 27th, I phoned the courthouse to get an attorney recommended, and then actually followed through on the lead.

Due to several streets in town being closed I couldn't make my appointment with the attorney yesterday, but he was cool with that and filled out the forms via telephone. Today I met him at the courthouse to begin the filing process.

I knew the courthouse didn't take credit cards from last summer when I picked up the packet in the first place. No problem; Andy and I have checks. Except that the first stumbling block is that the court doesn't accept checks from anyone except attorneys, and mine had not brought his checkbook. I tried the courthouse ATM, but it was out of order. The next closest one was a few blocks away, so I walked over. Slight tangent to the nicest part of my day: there was a little restaurant at the bank, and I asked how much they charged for water. It turned out to be $.27 cents, but I had no cash. She gave me a plastic cup for water anyway. I was very grateful, but more on that later. The ATM at the bank hated me, so I found a payphone and collect called Andy, who was home due to construction at his office. We made a deal wherein he would go to an ATM, get the filing fee, and meet me by the courthouse. The security guy joked that he was going to start charging me admission. My attorney was extremely understanding, and still hung around. Thank goodness.

Finally, with cash in hand, we returned to the filing area and she stamped about a zillion sheets of paper, many with multiple stamps, and assigned us a judge as well as a temporary court date. Then we went up to the floor of the judge's office and after a phone call another clerk came out with a definite court date and time. Then we went back downstairs to get some more stamps on the zillion sheets of paper. The attorney had to leave at that time, but gave me directions to a local newspaper which could publish my intent to change names, apparently so anyone who has a problem with it can object. I seriously doubt that will be a problem since most of the people in NM don't even know my legal name.

I had change from the filing fee, so I went back to the bank to pay the diner person for the water from before. She wouldn't accept the money, but she did thank me for coming back and joked that next time I'd have to pay. Then came the next adventure. The attorney had given me directions to a newspaper I've never heard of in order to place the necessary ads about changing my name. I found the half-circle parking spot, but I couldn't find the newspaper. I asked a police officer where the office was, and he'd never heard of the paper either, but he Googled it on his cell phone and discovered it had moved.

About that time I remembered I had my 3G-enabled iPad with me, so I could have emailed Andy instead of calling. At any rate, I confirmed the address (my memory is a sieve) and set up Lord Vader to tell me how to get there (my TomTom alternates between John Cleese and Vader, depending upon my mood. Today was a Vader day). It is not well-marked yet, so I missed it and had to drive around the block a few times, but I finally figured it out. It is newly-enough moved that their business card still lists the old address. Anyway, the ad got placed successfully, and after it runs for two consecutive weeks she'll mail me the verified court form. The ads will run on March 2nd and the 9th and the court date isn't until mid-April, so there should be plenty of time for it to get to me, especially since it'll be in-town mail.
Tags: name change
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