With just under a month until Christmas, it finally arrived! Samantha became an official resident of the United States of America. Surprisingly enough, I felt absolutely no emotion, despite the screaming and laughter coming from the other end of the phone. My lack of enthusiasm was probably due to the heavy sigh, and relief that it was 'all over'.
My experience through the immigration process was less horrific, and the only scars I received were those which I have previously written about, mostly self inflicted! Samantha's plight has been different. To cut a very long (six and a half years) story short, her case, as is always the case with Samantha, was an enigma. The dispensation that was awarded to her was very unusual. For every case we heard about 'other people' receiving visas, green cards and the like, (and everyone knew someone, and we encountered many laymen experts!) there were an equal amount of horror stories. We sat in the 'sweat box', during the interim periods, when we were waiting for our official papers, and saw people being escorted back to the departure lounge, as their papers were not in order.
The initial letter was followed, three days later, by the official 'Welcome to the United States of America' letter, and then the actual card. She could now come and go, through the 'short queue' at each end of her journey. It was time to make plans to go home for Christmas. Fortunately, we were able to find flights going out of Austin, at the same time. Unfortunately, they were not on the same airline, and although our departure will be within minutes of each other, our arrival will be three hours apart. Samantha has already planned to enjoy a full English Breakfast, at the airport, while waiting for me to exit into the arrival area, and meet up with whomever is going to collect us.
we had our itineraries finalised, it was time to go shopping, and return the vacuum.
Christmas shopping in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops, still seems wrong. The giant Macy's tree was covered in enormous baubles which sent off blinding rays as the sunlight hit them. Pumpkin frappuccinos were being offered at the coffee houses, and from every corner came the sounds of sleigh bells, and someone singing 'Walking in a Winter Wonderland'. For those in the Southern Hemisphere, this is nothing unusual, I am sure, but I am still finding it very hard to come to terms with not being cold. However, one thing that is the same, no matter on which side of the world one lives, and that is the inordinate amount of traffic, and lack of parking spaces. The mini was put through its paces, as I went into taxi driver mode, and took advantage of its size and agility. Our parking space was in high demand. It was not immediately outside the entrance, but near enough to cause a stir when we exited, keys in hand, heading into the overflow area.
It was pretty much the same at all locations, and after several stops we made our way to our usual grocery shopping haunt. Entering the store with the vacuum in trolley, I made my way to Customer Services. It is my custom to keep every single receipt, even those of fast food purchases, and greeting cards. However, when one is needed, it is virtually impossible to find it, as was the case in this instance. It would appear that goodwill to all men does not spread out to foreign women, and the returning of goods before the Yuletide celebration is not encouraged. The smile on the face of the shop assistant did not disappear at my arrival, as it was not there to begin with. She had obviously had a very long day, and it was about to get even longer. My explanation as to why I had returned the machine appeared to be inadequate, and the fact I did not have a receipt, a violation. 'This company is very strict, and they want a receipt', she said, referring to the manufacturer rather than the store. I assured her that a store credit would suffice and the item was faulty. Apparently it was not possible to give me a store credit, as the manufacturer would not accept the item back. Perhaps it was the raised eyebrows, or just the stare that caused her to call a supervisor. In actuality, I was tired, and ready to go home, having been out for many hours longer than I had wanted to be. Eventually, a senior member of the store arrived, with a colleague, and they looked at the box on the counter. 'What's the problem', she asked. 'I bought this.....'. Without blinking, she leaned on the counter, and shouted, 'I don't understand. I can't hear you!' Taking a deep breath was a good idea, as it allowed the air into my lungs for me to reply, firmly. 'This is faulty. The attachments are badly designed and come apart at the wrong places. It is the worst vacuum I have ever purchased, and it is very badly made'. The line that had built behind me was not happy that there was only one sales member on duty, and were starting to get restless. Mrs Grinch was going to have to think very carefully before making her next comment. She slowly, but quietly, reiterated her colleagues comment about the receipt being required by the manufacturer. Mild and meek as I usually am, even more so since living in the laid back state of Texas, today was the exception to the rule, and another deep breath was taken. 'Do you mean to tell me', I started, and you can imagine how English my English accent had become, 'that you do not have any means of telling that this item was bought from this store last week?' I am sure I heard a gasp from the onlookers, but chose not to wait for the cheer. The two women whispered behind the box, and emerged, looking rather tired. They attempted to find a serial number, to no avail. With the crowd becoming slightly more rowdy, Samantha took the stage with a rousing opening line. 'Is this it, here. At the bottom of the box, where it says, Serial Number'. The Oscar was hers! However, the ladies had to redeem their position as best they could. The manufacturers were still very strict about needing a receipt. I responded that I could not leave the store, now, with the item, as it had been pointed out to me, several times, that I did not have a receipt, and I had no proof, now, that I had bought the item last week. Best supporting award then became mine! A compromise was struck and a store credit was awarded to the Englishwomen! We left the enthused crowd to the three unfortunate store personnel and continued with our shopping.