Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nameless in New York

I should have listened to my mother.
Recently I applied for an enhanced driver’s license at the NYS Motor Vehicles Department in the county office building in Little Valley. They would not process my application because I didn’t have my original birth certificate or a stamped, certified copy of that document.
I never saw my original birth certificate, but in 1967, I obtained a certified copy from the Bureau of Vital Records in downtown Buffalo. That copy dissolved years ago.
I applied for a new certified copy. A woman at Vital Records said I couldn’t get a copy of my birth certificate because my name was spelled differently on the original, from the name I have been using for as long as I remember.
“Terence” was on my original birth certificate; “Terrance” is on everything else. I don’t know when I began spelling it that way, but I’d had no problems for the first five decades of my life and expected none now.
I recall a time in the early 1970’s my mother saw my driver’s license. She remarked that I spelled my first name wrong and I should fix it or I would be in trouble. It was a characteristic mother-type warning, not unlike the advice concerning clean underwear when you leave the house.
As a typical know-it-all, just out of my teens, I tossed her concern off with a condescending tone. I said, “Oh Ma, what could go wrong?”
At that time, I had been using the name ‘Terrance’, for twenty years. For two letters, I was not about to change a thing.
The Vital Records woman in Buffalo informed me that things were different from 1967. Terrorism and Osama Ben Laden were mentioned. I needed legally, to change my name in my home county. Back at the Little Valley courthouse, I learned I’d have to pay $210 to have a number stamped on a court order to officially change make the change. I also needed photo ID, proof of home address and a CERTIFIED COPY OF MY BIRTH CERTIFICATE.
I explained I was changing my name so I could obtain said certified copy. After much discussion and several calls from the county to the City of Buffalo, Catt County decided it could take my $210 dollars. Vital Records decided that while they couldn’t give me a copy of my original birth certificate, they could fax one to a civil servant in Little Valley.
I was to go home and await the court’s decision.
The approval came in the mail and I was instructed to go back to the Catt County office building to pick up an official copy of the order, which I could take to Olean to be published in the Olean Times Herald.
I can only guess the purpose was to see how many people would object to my name change from Terence to Terrance. After all, it is an important question for all the residents of Cattaraugus County.
A few days later, a publication affidavit arrived in the mail and it was back to Little Valley. I was becoming good friends with the security guys. We exchanged pleasantries and personal information about our respective families.
There were more trips, Little Valley, downtown Buffalo. As I write this, I am back up to where I stood in 1967. I have a certified copy of my Birth Certificate with the original wrong spelling on it. I’ve skipped the enhanced license and now am trying for a passport.
The paper work is in Albany. It will be “reviewed”; I could have my birth certificate within four to six months.
My mother passed away years ago. I like to think she is somewhere, observing and enjoying my misspelled-name-trials-and-tribulations. I sense more than hear an ephemeral chuckle and a fleeting “I told you so.”
That’s Ok, it’s well deserved, I should have listened..

No comments: