Friday, January 25, 2013

TWIC cards, hypertension, and traffic

So, as anyone from work will tell you, I got a wicked good Boston accent. People from Boston note that I got a wicked good accent. I'll admit it. It's not an affectation, just how I talk. As a sailor, in my younger years, I developed something of a skill in using my accent and a certain ability to articulate my frustrations to get downright poetic with the english language using blasphemy and cuss words like a lumberjack uses boot spikes and a chainsaw... and this week, I've leveled up, plateaued, and leveled up again. My blood pressure jacked up so high the other day that I was the color of an eggplant, and, while I did not explode, I very definitely was just a few seconds away from achieving fusion. If looks could kill, I was channeling the black plague behind my eyes.

      I lost a lottery of sorts- I was one of those unlucky mariners you hear about who had headaches with my TWIC card. If you don't know, the TWIC (Transportation Worker ID Credential) is an ID that certifies that you passed a background check and probably won't stir shit up in port areas. It became mandatory for all commercial mariners to get one about 5 years ago. They're good for 5 years, and thus, it's renewal time.

         My card is almost expired. When I applied for a renewal, I wasn't planning on spending a month down in the Caribbean before picking up the card, so I was late to apply and pick my new one up. Not terribly late, but down to a close margin to my original card's expiration date. It just arrived at the regional office (no BS, a paternity-testing company in the 'burbs, so that tells you something about how ridiculous the Department of Homeland Security is. They should have farmed the contract out to the folks who pick peanuts out of elephant shit at Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey).

   The TWIC program was managed until recently by a down-at-heels military contractor who is always coming in second place in designing airplanes and shit to blow up shit contests. The TWIC card was a gimme program that fed their coffers a little while they tried and failed to come up with yet another military aircraft that someone would want somewhere.

 My beef with the TWIC is that every mariner with a Merchant Mariner's Credential already passes a  rigorous background check by the FBI and Coast Guard. Why should we be vetted twice on the same issue every 5 years just to cut a check to the Coast Guard AND the Ministry of Offense (Department of Homeland Security) for $150 each to be given a card that isn't even accepted when presented to the DHS security agents who issued the card in the first place? Sounds crazy? Yeah, try showing the card when you're in line at the rape-o-scan at the airport.

 One thing in my favor is that I'm actually pretty good at paperwork. I tend to do well when dealing with gubmint business when submitting applications. BUT...
     This time, no. I got the robo call last week that my new card is ready. We had a break in our schedule the other day, so I jumped in my truck and drove from my company's yard in Brooklyn home to Boston during the overnight, and had enough time to kiss the wife and catch a 90-minute nap before going into the paternity testing office to pick up my TWIC card... but the administrator wasn't in that day.
         Apparently, only a TWIC administrator can 'activate' (fancy talk for 'give you') a card. The secretary wasn't an administrator. I drove 250 miles to be told that no one could reach in the stack of envelopes I WAS LOOKING RIGHT AT to give me mine. To say I was livid is an understatement.

 Little silver lining in this cloud. My employer says to stay home and get my card the next morning, then come back to work. OK, I get a day with the fam, and am feeling better, if guilty.
     Next day, I'm in the door at 9:01.  My name is called 5 minutes later.

... and no one can find my card. You know, the one that they called me about, the one I paid for, the one that cost me 2 tanks of gas and a wicked bout of stomach cramps from eating rest stop food?  Yeah, no one can find it, AND I can't talk to a supervisor because her computer isn't working.

 So I go back to New York empty handed, make some phone calls and abase myself. On the way, I get a phone call. My card is on vacation, apparently, as it's sitting in an office on Cape Cod. Why? I don't know. What I do know is that they won't mail it to an office in New York. If I want to pick it up elsewhere, they have to shred it and start over- they WILL NOT MAIL IT TWICE. That's a big thing for them, I guess. And it would place me without a card when my current one expires, so no bueno.

So, next time there's a break in our schedule, I'm headed back up there for another long haul.



doubletrouble said...

"We're from the gummint & we're here to help".

Anonymous said...

TWIC waste of time , $$ , effort . One can't even use it at the airport.Overall the TWIC is a nightmare and worthless.Most if not all facities don't even have the readers yet. Because they can't agree on the right format etc. Not looking forward to renewing mine.

Paul, Dammit! said...

Morpho Trust, the new TWIC administrator, positively MUST go eat a dick.