Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crowded Office

I think two clear signs you might be in the Rat Race are a crowded office, and a high component of clerical work. This picture from 1938 shows a Social Security Office in Washington DC. These people's job was to change the spelling on people's name who have interactions with the Social Security Administration. According to the picture caption . . .

"A coding system, which eliminates all vowels and some consonants and reduces the remaining letters of the alphabet to groups designated by six master, or key, letters is employed in the Social Security Board Records Office. The coding system was adopted as a "foolproof" methods of keeping track of names, whether or not misspelled by their owners in subsequent correspondence. The system also is of great value in simplifying many of the mechanical operations necessary to set up and maintain individual wage record accounts for the millions or workers covered by the Social Security Act. The picture shows employees coding applicants names."

Yes, folks, this is the Rat Race!


  1. Social security, they spelled my son's name wrong on his card, he got it as a baby, and acted like it was our fault.

    My grandmother was born around the turn of the century, when she got her SS card, during FDR's tenure, both the year and day were wrong.

    Since she was born at home, without hospital records, the SS Administration,insisted that my grandmother,and her mother were wrong. Government arrogance!

  2. The job description sounds like "busy work" to me but my husband says this is the same system used by the census folks for filing people's names. It counters any errors caused by misspellings. I believe the system is called Soundex and here's a Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soundex
    How different a work setting from our office cubicles today.
    -Anne K.

  3. When a relative of ours lost her husband, SSA decided she had also died. They were pretty insistant about it, too. On my best (or worst) day, I could not tell somebody, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Jones, but your records show you are dead." A note from her doctor didn't do the trick, either. Her son had to take her down to the office, where she say forever (he said he thinkss they were watching to see if he had just propped up her dead body) and then she finally had to sign a "resurrection form". The mind boggles.

  4. The first thing I would have done was open those shades !
    At least let the sun shine in to brighten things up.

    In my former job, we used a Soundex system in attempting to identify criminals that were using fake names.
    Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't...

  5. Last year me and my daughter were privileged to visit the National Archives. They use the same system and while at first it seemed annoying, I can see the point to it now. By the way, if you ever get to DC, visit the Archives!