News & Politics

Lose Your Spouse. Gain More Hassles

The "Michael Corleone of widowhood" is still trying to get her cable service fixed.

Photograph by Flickr user Mr.TinDC.

In the past week I have felt like the Michael Corleone of widowhood. I thought I had finished with the bureaucratic hurdles associated with my husband Benjamin’s death from brain cancer 16 months ago. But like the Godfather once said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

First it was the Internal Revenue Service. As part of a refinance, I had given permission for a bank to get my past tax returns from the IRS. But the IRS was determined to protect Benjamin’s identity and refused to release information, despite my signature on the permission form.

After 90 minutes on hold with the fraud division, I called the press office and was advised to go directly to the IRS regional office downtown. I needed a a death certificate, a letter of administration of the estate, and a government ID. It took me longer to go through security than to get the documents I need. But I emerged with my very own tax returns.

Next I tried to register my car and discovered that Benjamin’s name was still on the title as a joint owner. The Maryland Department of Motor vehicles refused my registration, but sent a helpful booklet with directions on how to correct the problem. I had to fill out the back of the title, essentially selling the car to myself with Benjamin’s implied permission. Death certificate and administration letter in hand, I braved the main branch of the Montgomery County MVA. The new registration should arrive in the next ten days.

Buoyed by my bureaucratic successes, I decided to deal with my quivering Comcast cable reception. I went to the local service office, toting my main cable box. They exchanged it for a “new” used box.

It soon became apparent that installing the new box was beyond my technical abilities. But, when I called Comcast for a house call, I learned that only Benjamin was eligible for service. The Comcast representative explained that to change the ownership on the account I would need to return to the service office with a death certificate, proof of my marriage, and a government ID.

The request was so preposterous that I resorted to the classic Washington response, “I want to speak to your supervisor.”

The supervisor was not available but he or she did authorize a service call without a marriage certificate.

Now I just have to hope the cable guy shows up. Maybe I’ll catch a rerun of The Godfather.