So I’m watching Letterman tonight, and suddenly the video is replaced by a screen of text, white on a red background, looking like something produced by an oldschool TV-studio character generator, the sort of crap they had for the video productions class at my high school, and it says:
Emergency Alert System
Tune to Channel 20 for Emergency Instructions
Child Abduction Emergency
Thing of it is, I don’t have
a channel 20. Our nifty-wackass-unorderable cable plan, kinda-sorta grandfathered in from our last provider, gives us local channels only, for twelve bucks a month. So I can’t tune to channel 20. I guess this is why I have a radio; there is always KCBS All News 74. But still: Shouldn’t there not be cracks like this in the Emergency Alert System
Sunday: I call PG&E to order gas-and-electric for my new digs. They start gathering all my personal info. I give them my SSN when they ask for it. I’m not paranoid about my SSN.
Operator Yvonne tells me that when she feeds the PG&E mastercomputer my SSN, it spits back the name of my current roommate, MC, whom I’ve lived with for six years and been friends with for twenty. She sounds dubious of my story — that I’m me and that my SSN is my SSN — and very nicely tells me that I can’t order gas-and-electric for my new digs until we get this straightened out. And that MC will need to call them to get the ball rolling on that.
Sounds like a nightmare is about to unfold, right? I mean, how could this possibly
have happened, right? But when MC calls, it all falls into place pretty quickly. Dude on the phone says that this sort of thing “happens all the time” — that’s a direct quote — when accounts get transferred and so forth. And, yes, come to think of it, six years ago when we moved in here MC took over an existing account I had with PG&E, because I was fresh outta college and had not yet found work, but he had. So somewhere in that little dance, they didn’t zap my SSN when they reassigned the account to him. But still: Shouldn’t that sort of mismatch somehow not be able to happen? Shouldn’t SSNs be associated with people
in their database, not with accounts