The diversity of life here never fails to amaze and amuse! I am constantly reminded that my life here is different, as are the people. Texas is a large state. It is the largest continental state, and before the inclusion of Alaska into the Union, it held the overall title. It is little wonder that there are so many different varieties of personage!
Austin has its own level of diversity, but as I have repeatedly said in past posts, the slogan for the city is, 'Keep Austin Weird', so nothing that happens here should amaze me, although sometimes I am slightly surprised! This week Samantha and I have been part of the diversity. It is not that we have become part of the counter-culture, nor have we done anything that in a normal setting would be weird. However, crocheting by the swimming pool has caused some level of surprise, although no one is totally amazed. Albeit we are surrounded by craft stores, and they are always very busy, it is unusual for the craft to be completed in the leisure areas!
Although I am still considered somewhat 'straight laced', (for want of a better term,) and do get slightly irritated at people in a position of authority not having a modicum of common sense, sometimes I am tickled by the lack of aptitude. The word 'podunk' is one that I had not used in my previous life, but one that has become a part of my everyday language here in Texas. The definition is (apparently) a 'small or insignificant town'. I am not sure that the inhabitants of the towns that are referred to as 'podunk' would agree with the outside consensus, nor would they consider themselves, as individuals, to be of 'small or insignificant' mindedness. I think that the equivalent in my native land would be referred to as 'not very worldly'. The term, I am sure, is meant without insult, but more as 'descriptive'.
If I were to encounter the same scenario, in England, as I did this week, in Texas, I would probably be a little horrified. However, I actually found it amusing, and somewhat, 'quaint'.
In order to explain my predicament, I will need to give a little legal background, which I shall keep to a minimum. A law was passed, in Texas, a couple of sessions back, that allowed inmates of a state jail to be served with legal papers, via a designated representative. This meant that the server did not have to hand the papers, personally to the recipient, but to their designated representative, which meant life was much easier for both the server and the facility. It was also deemed acceptable that the papers could be delivered by certified mail to the designated representative. All I would have to do, in order to effect such service was to call the jail and ask for the name of their 'des rep'. Easy! Or not! Yes folks, we are in Texas! In space, no one can hear you scream. In Texas, no one can understand the Englishwoman!
Being diverse enough to stitch by the swimming pool does not make it any easier for me to become part of this colourful society. I have had several attorneys call me this week, asking for papers to be delivered to inmates, at 'correctional' facilities. I have now dubbed this to be a, 'You want what, now?', service. There are some clients who still believe that I am purely employed to be the voice that answers the phone, and they insist on talking to the 'guru' (as my husband is affectionately known throughout the industry). I call through the glass that separates our office, "They want a 'You want what, now?' service!" The reason for the dubbing is that each time I call, and ask, in my best English accent, "Who is your designated representative to receive service of process?", the answer is always the same. "You want what, now?"
The lack of ability to understand me is not what I consider a problem. After all, if a Scotsman talks quickly to a Londoner, and vice-versa, neither one would have a clue as to what the other was saying. However, I persist. I speak slowly, and clearly, and eventually, I am put through to another member of the facility, to go through the same procedure. "You want what, now?" is repeated two or three times. Eventually someone, somewhere knows what I am talking about and I am given the name of the person to whom I need to address the envelope. I have learned to set aside time to make my phone calls, and no longer get agitated. After all, there is no reason for a receptionist, or even a guard, to know the procedure for service of process. I suppose I can, in a very small way (Podunk, perhaps) understand why some of our clients do not think I am equipped with enough knowledge to answer their questions!
As mentioned, this week there were a variety of clients who wanted the "You want what, now?" service, and I was on the telephone virtually every day. Half way through the list, I came across a facility that was beyond 'Podunk'. In fact, I think they were probably 'fictional' rather than 'insignificant'. After the initial question, I was transferred to a guard. After insisting that I did not have to deliver the papers personally, by driving to the facility, making an appointment to see the 'servee', or liaising with the sheriff, I was put through to a third person. He was unsure as to whether the person to whom the papers were addressed was actually at the facility, but perhaps the Warden could help. I felt sure that the Warden would be fully aware of all aspects of his jail and thanked the third person profusely for his help. I waited to be connected. A lady answered the phone. "You want what, now?", was not a surprising first sentence! I explained the procedure, and waited as I heard her taping at what I assumed was a keyboard. Part of me wanted to sing the opening line to the Spice Girl's big hit, but I thought she might have a problem with the zigazig ah! She did not know whether the person to whom I wished to send the papers was actually at the facility. Then she added that she was not sure how to access the system to find out. Thinking this was a little odd, I waited for her to finish. (All the while, I had the vision of the school secretary in an early scene from the movie 'Grease', where she was having a problem putting the ribbon in the typewriter!) After a few sighs, she returned her attention to me, and again asked me to repeat my request. "Oh dear. I don't know. I am just standing in for a friend today". I am not sure whether I should be concerned that I found this amusing and quaint! After telling me that 'her friend' would be returning in a day or two, and perhaps I should call back next week, I asked to be put through to the 'mail room', as they would be the department receiving the letter. She obliged, after ascertaining, loudly, how to use the telephonic system. I feel the need here to add, that I am unsure as to which facility I was talking. (I feel the need to protect the Podunk!) I was finally put through to someone who could help me, and it transpired that the inmate had been transferred to a different facility, bypassing this one altogether! Therefore all notes and information pertaining to the wrong facility were put in the circular file!
I am quite sure that this is not usual of most 'correctional' institutions in the state of Texas, but it certainly keeps me from feeling that my life here is anything but dull! To repeat myself, although I have little patience with those who do not consider me to be au fait with the finer points of the industry in which I am employed, if this is even a small percentage of what they encounter when speaking to a 'receptionist', I can (reluctantly) understand their angst!
In case anyone is interested, I did find the correct 'correctional' facility to which to send my papers, and the designated representative signed and returned the required receipt. This was then sent to the relevant court to be filed.
Samantha finished her crocheting. She did not complete the task by the pool, but in the comfort of her living room! The finished item was a 'Hello Kitty' blanket for her god-daughter. I did help. Somewhere in the middle of the blanket is one square, beautifully and lovingly made by moi!
Next week will, no doubt, bring its own set of wonderful happenings. It will be a four day week, as the third of July has been designated a holiday in lieu of the 4th. Yes, it is that time again, when I shall say cheerio to the last year and embark on a new age number! This time next week, I shall be entitled to eat from the senior menu at several restaurants. (When did 55 become senior!) Diversity will continue to amuse, amaze, confuse and possibly irritate, but as a senior I will have an excuse! As I hear the words echo in my ears, "You want what, now?", I will let them know my answer in ............. another story!