Despite the fact we have lived here for nine years, there are still some aspects of the system that we have still not mastered. Samantha was about to apply for a Social Security number. The website was reasonably helpful as far as downloading a form, but the amount of evidence needed is not always forthcoming, which makes for a very frustrating experience.
The facility opened at 9am, and it was a good thing that Dana told us that 'all government offices open at 8', as the queue when we arrived at ten past the hour was quite lengthy. I had contracted a rather slow moving but weighty virus, and did not feel my best when standing in the morning heat, as the temperature was insistent upon heading for a century! Several people arrived after us and joined the line. A rather perky lady in a wheelchair was delivered by her very helpful neighbour, and made me feel rather selfish for complaining about how bad I felt. However, when the ants, that had been performing military manoeuvres, decided it was time to go to battle, it was my leg that they saw as the enemy, and proceeded to climb up the heal of my shoe as if it had grips and handles. By the time I had crushed several foot soldiers, and moved over to another area, the lady in the wheelchair was ready with her epi-pen, as a bite from even one would, apparently, cause her to go into anaphylactic shock. Once again, I felt as if I was making rather a big fuss over nothing, and when she gave us a list of the illnesses she had contracted through passive smoking, (as the gentleman standing behind her in the queue lit his cigarette) rather than succumb to merely feeling completely guilty, I was ready to throw in the towel and concede that I was, indeed, a wimp!
As the doors opened, I failed to redeem myself by not offering to push the poor lady up the slope that led inside the building. I felt somewhat like the nun in the Song of Bernadette, constantly berating, and then finding out that she, Bernadette, was indeed one the sweetest persons whomever lived. Fortunately, all this persecution was personal, so there were no reprisals from others standing in the queue and none of them had offered to allow the lady to go first, and as I was not the one requiring the number, I could not give up a place.
The windows were not yet open, but we were first in line for the acquisition and sat down at the closed shutters. At 9am they opened and a fresh faced young woman asked us how she could help. Samantha handed over the completed form, her driving license and residency card. Unfortunately, this was not enough, and extra proof was required. A passport or birth certificate would suffice. I was tempted to comment that the aforementioned pieces of evidence, especially the residency card, could not have been procured without 'all of the above'. She had been required to provide both for the licence and card. Samantha was quite articulate in her reply, but rules were rules, and the lady explained that they needed to prove that she was who she said she was, and that meant proof of her birth. Samantha's mother at this point could keep silent no longer. 'What proof do you need. I have plenty; I was there!' I offered to write a full description, from conception to labour, and have it notarized there and then, as according to their own posted signs, a certificate of birth is not necessarily evidence of your existence. The, by now, confused young woman appeared to be ecstatic when her computer failed, and all those around her complained that there was a malfunction. I am not sure what sort of magnetic pulse my daughter exudes, but each time we go into a government office, the computers crash. Another member of staff, obviously employed due to the lack of megaphones available, announced that there was a computer crash and nothing could be achieved until these were put back online. As there was no way of telling how long this problem would take to resolve, she suggested everyone 'come back later'. Relieved at her colleagues request, our receptionist took Samantha's telephone number and said she would input the information she had, once everything was in working order, and would call if she needed anything else. We left rather unsatisfied!
We drove back to the office and continued with our daily duties, and Samantha waited for the phone call which did not happen. She could only assume that the threat of my re-enacting her arrival into the world from start to finish had left an indelible mark upon the brain of the counter official, and that she had made it her mission to find another way around the dilemma. All that we could do now was wait.
Along with the new life my daughter has adapted to, she now wished to acquire a new vehicle, and not having a social security number did not stop her from looking at a selection of models that she had shortlisted. Unfortunately, I was to be her companion on this trip, and Saturday was the day to window shop. Armed with print-outs of pictures, prices and a list of extras included, we headed for what is commonly called the 'Motor Mile'. The temperature was high, and the salesmen were not as willing to wander around outside as were we, which I considered our advantage, as we checked out several models without hindrance. However, there is always the exception to the rule, and on our last stop, a very nice, polite, young man came out to introduce himself. After the obligatory niceties, he asked what we were looking for. I let Samantha take centre stage, as it is all too easy for me to take over, and after my last take over I thought it best to stay quiet. He seemed to believe she did exist, despite paper proof. He proceeded to tell her about the attributes of the sound system, blue tooth and seat covers. With no mention of the mechanics etc, Samantha's mother, at this point, could keep silent no longer. 'What size is the engine', caused a bit of a stir, and although he did not ask why I needed to know, the question was written all over his face. When I announced that it was 'pretty hefty then', he seemed to become a little insecure, and continued to tell Samantha how she could download all her favourite tunes onto some gizmo by pressing a button on the steering wheel. 'How many miles does it get to the gallon', was another taboo remark. I was shown the printed sheet that was inside the passenger's side window, and felt a silent order being given. I was back in the classroom, asking a dumb question, and told to 'look it up!' After several more comments of how the car was more like a living room than a people carrier, I decided to push my luck one more time; 'What are the running costs, and how many problems have you encountered...with the engine, NOT the sound system'. A test run was the reply. In order to stop me asking so many ridiculous questions, perhaps I would like to sit inside and take a test run. We were motioned inside the building to a small office, and a form was placed in front of us, with a pen, with a subtle demand to fill in the blanks, while he went to retrieve the keys. Samantha put in her name, 'Samantha', promptly crossing out her last name at my request, then added her zip code (just to give them an idea of the area from which their prospective customers had travelled to see their stock) and the make and model of the car which caught her interest. The rest of the information was none of their business at this stage. She didn't yet have a social security number, so that box had to remain empty.
The car was very nice, but she still had to sit in the other models which were at other dealerships, and was not going to make a decision. Although I was not completely satisfied with the response from our attendant, he probably was doing his job to the best of his ability, and to the best of his knowledge, as from what I have come to understand, cars are now sold on accessories, rather than performance. If you want the latter, then go to the races! We asked the young man for his card, and he ran back inside the building, returning promptly with his manager. I answered in the affirmative to all the questions regarding the salesman's aptitude, and added that it was actually my daughter to whom the inquiries should be made, and it was she that would have to discuss the outcome with her husband. The 'interferring mother in law' did not have the final word in their relationship, she just knew that if the car failed to start, or the engine seized, a chorus of the Jackson Five harmonising, 'I'll be there', downloaded through blue tooth, or indeed any other type of coloured incisor, played across the magnificent sound system, would not get her daughter to, or from, her destination! The blurred faces confirmed that neither humour, nor sarcasm were familiar in these parts! 'Y'all have a nice day, ma'am', was the perfect reply, and one with which I was most satisfied!
Mission two for the week had been more successful than number one, as we had left the dealership with more satisfaction than we had the other office earlier in the week. The next item on the agenda was the weekly shop. Walmart awaited. As we wandered around the aisles, the public address system announced that there would be a presentation at the front of the store in two minutes. Samantha and I looked at each other, and mouthed 'juicer!' The knife salesman was due to perform in just over a minute and we had to get into the crowd as we knew he would be starting his show, holding a small orange object which, theoretically, if inserted into a piece of fruit and twisted slightly, would produce a flow of liquid. What this item has to do with knives is still a mystery to me, but every time I have seen the presentation, on both sides of the Atlantic, the salesman starts with the same question; 'Can anyone tell me what this is?' I was the first to shout out correctly when last I saw the production and received the little plastic orange gadget. As unimpressed as I am, as it is not always easy to insert, depending upon the toughness of the fruit's skin, and it also requires a lot of squeezing and manipulating to get a modicum of refreshment, Samantha needed one! I stood in the middle of the crowd, facing the vendor, and she stood to the side. No sooner had the word, 'is' came out did we scream, 'JUICER'. Slightly stunned at the quick, yet entirely accurate, response, he perfectly pitched the plastic items into our hands. Incredibly disappointed, the rest of the crowd waited for another chance, but he had already started extolling the attributes of the knives, with the promise of a free gift at the end of the presentation, which would not be a juicer. I have a set of the paring knife that would be the grattis handout, and as my daughter had finally received something for her efforts this week, we departed the scene. My compassion had returned, and I decided to make amends for my ealier failure when queuing outside the double 's' office, and made my way to a very sad looking lady, who continued to mumble, 'but how do we get one of those juice things', and gave her mine, with the explanation, 'Ma'am, I have one of these. They really are not that good, but you are welcome to mine'. It felt good to 'make someone's day'.
Success comes in many forms, and Samantha's mother, at this point, managed to keep silent and just smiled. Whether the computers were ever restored at the government offices, is yet to be seen, and although I am doubtful it will be required, I am still willing to submit a signed affidavit pertaining to the existence of my daughter. Whether the information as to from where customers travel to search out their ideal vehicle is documented, will probably never be known, and although music may be the food of life, I am doubtful that a melody alone will repair an engine. Whether or not the lady to whom I gave the juicer will be enthralled with her gift, will remain a mystery forever. I only hope that this week's episode has been as entertaining for you to read as it was for me to recount. Life is certainly never humdrum here, and so it remains for me to gather more for ............ another story.