The Registry of Forgotten Statistics

The week I realized my ex and I were pretty much over each other was the week I had to get a copy of our marriage certificate. It’s required in order to get a divorce, which I find pretty funny. Is the state trying to prevent people from falsely filing for divorce? “You know, we never got legally married, but let’s put one over on the state and file for divorce. Those nice lawyers and mediators need our savings, the courts could use the fees, and I just love to have strangers comb through every single personal and financial document I have. What a great prank!”

I had just moved and culled my possessions, so I knew what I had and didn’t have, and I didn’t have the certificate. My ex didn’t either. But it was more than that. You know when you’re trying to find something important but rarely used, you can picture in your mind the three likely places you put such things. Or, you have a memory of putting it somewhere and thinking “It will be safe here,” and that starts your search. I stopped and thought. It should have been with the birth certificates and passports, but it wasn’t.  I thought and thought. Nothing. My mind was like a deserted Western town, with tumble weeds rolling by in the wind. It was weird. Now I know it’s been 20 years and maybe it’s my mid-life brain or maybe it was the universe playing a good joke, but either way, I couldn’t even conjure up a fake memory of what the hell happened to that thing. So I was off to the state website for the Registry of Vital Statistics to go about getting a replacement. I just hoped it’ wasn’t like when you get a replacement drivers license and all the bouncers look at it for a really long time before letting you in. (OK, it’s been 20 years since a bouncer did that, but still it’s embarrassing.) I imagine the judge will examine it closely, then pierce us with an over-the-half-glasses stare, “Are you sure this is real?” “Aw shucks, you got us! We’re just messin’ with ya!”

So the website tells me I can pay $75 to have it mailed, faxed, or emailed, or come in person and pay $20. This makes no sense in the business world, but apparently makes complete sense for civil service. Maybe our civilization would absolutely break down if we weren’t forced to wait in long lines to get government documents. I shudder at the thought. But for those of you who miss face-to-face customer service and don’t like it when a business encourages you to email or sort through a help forum before calling, I suggest you go right down to the Registry of Vital Statistics and order up all your certificates and have a great time. I prefer societal breakdown and email.

I resigned myself to going, but comforted myself with the fact that at least it must be in Boston proper, right? Maybe next to another registry, like the Registry of Motor Vehicles, or next to the courthouse. Ohhhhh nooooooo. That would never do. It’s actually in an out-of-the way place that is the farthest it can be from downtown and still be considered within Boston’s borders. A friend suggested the location protects the vital records in case Boston gets invaded. I think a black market identity selling scheme is more likely. After all, this is the place that has volumes of musty books recording the births, deaths, and marriages of Boston’s citizens since the 1600s—this is the identity mother load. Although I guess having a fake ID with the name Jedediah Cobbler would probably raise awkward questions sooner or later.

So, off I went to get a fake ID, I mean my vital statistic, and a mere two train rides and long walk later, I arrived. And my first task, of course, was to fill out a form. I wrote our names, place of marriage, and then got stuck on the date. Just like when I was trying to place the certificate at home, the tumble weeds were rolling again. The swinging door to the saloon banged in the wind. I had the date engraved in my wedding ring, but I stopped wearing it. I knew the month and year, but it took a full minute to conjure up the day, and I only managed that because I actually looked at that month on my phone and seeing the number triggered my memory.

I handed over the money, got my certificate, and secretly wondered if they could tell I needed it to get divorced. I headed back to work via a long walk and two train rides and was not at my desk for more than 10 minutes when my ex called. He was filling out some preliminary separation paperwork and couldn’t remember my birthday. Like me and the marriage certificate, he’d remembered the year and the month, but couldn’t place the day. I told him, and when I got off the phone, I just started to laugh. We were clearly both moving on, letting go of our now non-vital statistics. I should have charged him $75 for the phone call.

Photo Credit: Raging Fluff blog


  1. OMG…perfection in the written word. Well done – I really enjoyed this one! Tumbleweeds & swinging saloon door. LMFAO. Awesome essay. G

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