The other day my boss, Paul, told me had noticed recently that I was dead.
He had been speaking at a meeting in Bucksport, he said, when his eye glanced at a plaque on the wall.
"In Memory of Milton Gross," it read.
"That's funny," he said to himself, "no one let me know."
Then a few days later he was talking with a fellow employee, told him the story, and added, "And we're still paying him."
I'm happy that I'm not dead and that they are still paying me.
When he told me of his reading the plaque, I told my boss the tale of the first time I died.
I had just retired -- from journalism, that is, not my current retirement job driving a Downeast Transportation bus -- and Social Security had deposited my first retirement payment into our checking account.
So, happily on my way to......
.....to dying, apparently.
Our bank called and told us that Social Security had said I had died, so Social Security was going to stop sending me retirement payments.
Geez, if they were going to stop paying me, I couldn't afford to die. We had bills to pay, things to do, such as writing for the paper for which I was writing as a retirement job and such as having fun.
Always wanted to have fun when I retired. But I was dead.
Dolores suggested I find out from Social Security if I were really dead. I phoned them, and they said I could come to their office in Bangor and maybe they'd learn, if I proved it, that I was still alive.
Boy, what confusion. You're dead unless you prove you're alive. I noticed that Social Security didn't have to prove I was dead.
So, up to Bangor we went. But, since then Congressman John Baldacci's office was in the same building and since I attended his spaghetti suppers, we went there first. His office staff said they'd make sure I was alive.
Dead guys can't vote.
Next we visited the Social Security office.
"You don't look dead," said the clerk to whom we first presented my life and dead dilemma.
"I will be, if you guys don't cut this stuff out," I replied.
After she looked at me, she decided I was, indeed, alive, went onto her computer and with a few strokes brought me officially back to life.
What a relief! We went out to eat.
It turned out that another guy with my fist and last name, who had lived in Bucksport, had actually died. So Social Security corrected their error, stopped his payments and sent me mine.
I suppose they checked a lot before making their mistake, possibly checking our Social Security numbers -- no, too easy. Would have made too much sense. Easier just to kill you off.
Before I retired from journalism, I had met the guy -- or a guy -- with my first and last name. As things go in as Maine, and as we hope the nation doesn't always go, there are several guys in the Bucksport area with my first and last name.
This one I was meeting, I was meeting on the shore of Lamoine State Park, where I had gone to record for the news the slow sinking of a fishing boat.
"That's my boat," said Milton Gross to Milton Gross. "Are you taking this picture to embarrass me?"
"Sure," Milton Gross replied to Milton Gross, "that's how I make my living."
Or dying, whichever happens in any given week.
Was he the Milton Gross who later died, and because of his not remaining with us alive, Social Security had stopped paying me to live.
I'll probably never know.
But my advice to readers is, always check each morning when you get up to make sure you're still alive.
If you're not, don't bother getting up.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012
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