The Billionaire Bum

By: Samantha Blair

I did as he asked and was on my way fifteen minutes later, a new employee of the 31st Street Bar and Grill. My new employer’s name was Buddy, or at least that’s what he said that everyone called him. It was perfect. I was starting tomorrow night. My hours were going to be 8pm to 2am. I thought could survive for the rest of the week on the tips that I would make. I wasn’t worried about the hourly paycheck; by the time I would get it, I would be back to my old life anyway.

There was only one small problem. He said that I needed to bring my social security card before he could put me to work. I had one, of course, but it was in my apartment, out of reach. I was going to have to have a new one issued from the social security office. I didn’t know where that was, but with any luck it would be between here and the men’s shelter.

Things were definitely looking up.

Chapter 4: When it All Falls Down


I had no idea that payphones still existed, but apparently they did. I located one outside of a convenience store that had about three quarters of a tattered phone book still attached. A quick search, although not as fast as Google, and I had an address for the social security office. It was not within walking distance, and unfortunately nowhere near the shelter, but I still had my subway pass so it was accessible.

My stomach was grumbling, but I wanted to make sure that I had my employment and sleeping place all squared away before taking any more time off today. Skipping lunch probably wouldn’t kill me. Jason was right though; food was a definite concern with this lifestyle.

I found the social security office with little trouble and took a number from the machine.

The electronic counter on the wall said 26. My number was 34. That didn’t seem so bad.

An hour later the number on the wall was 31. I was still 34.

An hour later the number on the wall said 33. I was next, and I was impatient.

Where the hell are all of my tax dollars going? This is ridiculous. No one should have to wait this long for anything.

“Number 34,” the woman behind the glass called. Finally!

“Yes,” I said. “I need to get a copy of my social security card, please.”

“I need a driver’s license, birth certificate, and a personal check for $36,” she said.

“Um,” I stuttered, “I... here’s my ID. And I can give you cash?” I hadn’t really meant for that to sound like a question. Shit. How was I going to pay for this? I needed that card to be able to work, but I needed to hang on to my money. This was going to wipe me out.

“And, um, I don’t have my birth certificate on me...”

“Well, you need to get a copy of your birth certificate, and we don’t take cash. It has to be a check or a money order for thirty-six dollars even.”

“Where exactly do I get a copy of my birth certificate?” I asked, trying to keep the anger from my voice. Could no one have told me this before I waited for over two hours?

“Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics. It’s in the courthouse,” she said automatically, as if she gave this information two hundred times a day. Which, come to think of it, she probably did. But the courthouse! The damn courthouse was all the way back over by the bar.

“Do you know what a copy of your birth certificate costs?” I asked.

“No idea,” she said. She pushed a button and the number on the wall flipped over to 35.

“Number 35.”

I had clearly been dismissed.

“Wait! Are you sure?” I pleaded. “There’s nothing you can do without a birth certificate?” I gave her the best puppy dog eyes I could possibly muster, but she simply shook her head and looked to the next person in line.

I looked in my wallet as I stepped back into the street. I had $42.34. I needed $36 for the social security card, plus the fee for getting a money order because they wouldn’t take cash, which I thought would probably be a dollar or so. So that left me about $5 with which to buy a birth certificate, dinner, and hopefully a meal tomorrow before my first shift at the bar.

Somehow, I didn’t think that was going to work.

I was going to have to prioritize. Without the job, I would be screwed for the rest of the week, but getting the job was going to cost me more than I had. I needed to know how much more. I got on the subway again.

When I got to the courthouse, I was forced to take another number, but I had learned my lesson the last time. Instead of sitting idle, I went over to the rack of forms and attempted to decipher the requirements for obtaining a birth certificate. I needed form 103-B, a driver’s license (man was I glad that Jason let me keep mine) and a check or money order for $20.00.

Well, it could be worse.

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