And since you were kind enough to give your permission, here it is:
I stopped carrying a handbag almost twenty years ago when I was mugged while waiting at a red light in Miami. The driver-side window was down and my handbag was on the passenger seat next to me. Suddenly, out of nowhere, (caution: euphemism ahead) an "urban youth" thrust his arm through the window, pressed it across my throat, grabbed the handbag and fled on a bicycle. And stupid law-abiding citizen that I am, I sat there like a mindless lump waiting for the light to change so I could chase him! He vanished into the maze of buildings that comprised the projects from whence he came and after a fruitless drive around the ominous neighborhood, I went to find a phone (remember the pre-cellphone era?) to report the incident. An hour and a half later, a cop showed up and took my statement, barely containing his yawning boredom, not saying, but strongly intimating that I was wasting everybody's time and that I could expect to retrieve my property about the same time peace breaks out in the Middle East.
It took about six weeks to replace the essentials (driver's license, credit cards, checkbook, etc) and at least twice that long to realize how much other stuff I had been schlepping around and would never see again. So I made the decision to toss my extensive collection of handbags, and to carry nothing more than my wallet and a pack of Merit Lights (I was still smoking then...a few years later, cigarettes were replaced by reading glasses) anytime I left the house.
Thereafter, my wallet became the repository of every scrap of paper I accumulated, as well as the myriad cards, licenses, pictures of grandchildren, checkbook and the few dollars in cash all of which were dutifully transferred to each new wallet as its predecessor wore out. And just as my passport had become the essential Me when I was overseas, my wallet now contained my very essence.
Then, on Monday, it vanished.
Mentally retrace steps: House to car. Car to doctor's office. Doctor to car. Car to optometrist. Optometrist to car. Car to supermarket. Unpack cart, reach for wallet to pay for groceries...gulp! No wallet! Call (we're now in the cellphone era) doctor. Not there. Call optometrist. Nope. Tear car apart. Nada. Suddenly, I was a character written by Kafka, a non-person caught in a surreal maze with neither entrance nor exit, hopelessly trying to prove that I was a real honesttogod person with a name, address, bank account, credit cards, Social Security number, a handful of picture ID's, and a living, breathing body. Without a scrap of proof.
In these days of automated conversation, faceless corporate entities, even people who know you by sight, if you ain't got ID, you ain't got a life. Because I had lost both my checkbook and bank card, I thought the best place to start rebuilding would be the bank. The local branch was closed for the day, so I called the main office and talked to someone named Pedro who sounded about twelve years old, with a mentality to match, who asked if I wanted to close or freeze the account. I asked him to describe the differences between these actions. He couldn't. He could do whatever I asked him to do, but I had to choose: freeze or close? (Deal or No Deal) I chose freeze because it sounded less permanent and more reversible (like one of those zygote popsicles) and figured I'd get more information the following day when I could speak with someone at my branch office.
After a sleepless night during which I made mental lists of lost things, I telephoned the bank manager, a woman I have met on many occasions. "Oh, honey", she cooed into the phone. "That's awful! You'll have to come in, close your old account and open a new one. But be sure to bring a current picture ID."
Huh? All my ID was in the wallet. And didn't she already have a picture ID on file, from when I first opened the account? "Oh yes, but it's your old-out-of -state license and is now expired." Yes, but it's the license that expired, not me. "Oh, honeysweetiedarling..I'm so sorry. You can't open a new account without a current ID". But you KNOW me! "Yes, I do. But that's the bank policy. No ID, no account. Why don't you go to the DMV and get a new card?"
Well, I thought they must have my original on file, so I called to ask about getting a replacement. After the usual "press one for English, press two for motorcycles, press three for scratch your ass...." I got a menu of things you need to produce in order to get a new ID card. A choice of five or six other forms of identification...all of which I owned, all of which were in the lost wallet. So much for that solution.
I could feel myself becoming more invisible by the minute. I was actually beginning to doubt my own existence. It occurred to me that perhaps a rebirth was in order, so I called the New York City department of vital statistics to request proof of my birth. Miraculously, it only took about five menus before I got a human shoulder to cry on. A nice lady called Norma told me, in a brutal New Yawk accent that she would send me an application which had to be retoined with fifteen dolluhs after which they would send a copy of my boit suhtificit. In six to eight weeks.
Downloaded a form for acquisition of a duplicate SS card. Need four forms of ID for that. Florida Medicaid was a bit more reasonable; I could answer enough personal questions for them to believe I was who I said I was and they could send a new card. But it can't be used as ID for anything else.
A dozen or so calls later, canceling this, reopening that, all done by pushing various buttons on my overheated telephone, never once engaging in human conversation, I collapsed in the hysteria of frustrated exhaustion. And the phone rang.
"Is this Ruth Dickson?"
"This is Amber at Publix. I think we have something that belongs to you."
And with those few miraculous words, I got my life back. Today, I not only know who I am.. I can prove it!
Original article here
The rest of Dame Ruth Dickson's work can be found here