It is always nice to have an additional day tagged on to the weekend, and last weekend was no exception. Monday was Presidents' Day. Dana had to be at the office reasonably early, as although this was an official 'public' holiday, the overnight delivery service was planning to drop a parcel at our business, at first light!
I drove to Samantha's house and then she drove us to the mall. Although we usually avoid the 'outlet', we did not have any special plans for the day, and the sales in February are usually full of winter wonders. It was a reasonably successful trip, and as there were far fewer people than we expected, it was very pleasant. I returned home shortly after two, and surprisingly fell asleep for a couple of hours! Pie was enjoyed after dinner, and I would have thoroughly enjoyed another day at home, but no matter how much I tried to avoid it, work started on Tuesday morning, usual time!
Samantha had an appointment at the biometric centre at midday on Tuesday. The continuing saga of her 'paperwork', is exactly that; continuing! Although a permanent resident of the United States, there are still some 'i's to dot and 't's to cross. She has become a statistic in the backlog and whilst everything is going to plan, it appears that certain things, such as fingerprint cards, have a two year life expectancy! Along we went to the centre on Tuesday morning. I joined her for the ride as it can be rather daunting to sit alone in a federal office. However, the local office is not as daunting as that in San Antonio, nor as busy! After checking in with the front desk, we took a seat, and my daughter started to 'fill in the blanks' on a pre-printed form. For some reason, she has decided to keep her maiden name and use it, hyphenated with her married name, both of which contain enough letters to sink the post office! Along with that she has two middle names (another story completely!) and both of them are as long as Samantha! She thought it would be amusing (and no guessing where she gets her sense of humour from) to see a letter bearing all her names, and wondering where the left hand margin would have to start to fit all on the face of the envelope! This is all well and good, until you have to complete an official form, and the spaces given are not quite enough to fit the name Jon Smith, let alone five elongated titles! After writing as minutely as possible, she went to the next section, which was entitled 'physical description'. My daughter had dyed her hair red, and I mean crimson, to enhance her Halloween costume last year, and as she had received so many positive remarks, she has kept the colour. When circling the answer for 'hair', she opted for 'brown', as she said this was her natural colour, and presumably the option 'red' did not mean 'fire engine' hue! Then came 'weight'. We started to giggle. "Can I put what my weight really is, under all this excess", she said, pointing to her torso, "like my hair. Under all this, I am 110lbs", she snickered. The lady next to us looked out of the corner of her eye, and I wondered how much more of our conversation she had understood! After completing the form, returning it to the gentleman at the desk, and receiving her ticket, she came back to claim her seat next to me, and the less than amused applicant to her left. We waited for her number to be displayed. The screen showed '86', and she was '97'. As the digital display flipped to '87', my daughter and I chanted in unison, "They've gone 'ome!". Although our voices were not particularly loud, in duplicate it was not as quiet as we had anticipated. However, due to the language barrier, it would appear that we were not understood, including the lady to my daughter's left, (although she did give us a look of disapproval when we started to giggle once again,) and the person with the number '87' on their ticket, did not feel intimidated.
In large, bold letters, was a notice that gave the regulations for the centre. This included, (although was not limited to - a sentence used on all application forms,) no smoking, no food or beverages, no cell phone use, and no soliciting. Any violators would be, according to the notice, removed from the premises. As we sat, quietly to begin with, more people entered the room, and children started to become bored. When my children were young, if they misbehaved in any setting, I would 'remove them from the premises', and let them know that they could not return unless they acted with decorum. If it happened a second time, we would leave, permanently. However, there were some times when this was not always an option, such as when I was queuing in line to pay for groceries, or indeed, in the middle of paying for groceries. There was many a time when I would tell my daughter, in such a circumstance, not to do something, and her voice would rise to screaming pitch, and she would shout out something that would cause embarrassment to her mother! I referred to this as her 'supermarket' voice. All the children in the biometric office were practising their 'supermarket' voice! In fact, they were all perfecting their supermarket voice. "Where is a pen?", I asked Samantha. The questioning expression upon her face was answered with, "I want to write 'No screeching' on the list of 'do's and 'dont's'.", I replied. A vocal 'mexican wave' started to reverberate around the room, as all the adults sat in complete silence. I say 'all' the adults, but this was not exactly correct, unless my daughter and I are not counted in the adult population. "Remove them from the premises", I demanded, like the Queen of Hearts! I thought that "Off with their heads", may be considered a little 'over the top'! It would appear that numbers '88' to '95' were the kindergarten applicants, and once the person holding the ticket bearing the latter number left the premises, the only unruly person in the room was me! The numbers on the electronic counter continued to rise, and my daughter and I continued to announce, "They've gone 'ome!"
The woman to the left of my daughter continued to express disapproval upon her face, and I asked my daughter if I should offer her my virtual pen. Samantha suggested this was not appropriate!
When I first went to a biometric office, cell phones were prohibited on the premises. Bags were checked and if it appeared someone was attempting to smuggle the device into the building, the authorities would use their own 'Supermarket' voice, and demand that the phone, along with its owner, be removed from the premises, and the owner not be allowed back in until they could prove the offending object was no longer upon their person. If someone had managed to enter the building camouflaging the device upon their person, and it should happen to ring, or even vibrate (the staff appeared to have sonar hearing) the 'supermarket' voice was again activated, and the offender would be admonished in front of the rest of the congregation. The current local office is a little more lenient, in that the use of cell phones is forbidden rather than the carrying of the device. Provided they are turned off, and not used, they are permitted to be brought inside the office. If anyone did not adhere to the rather more lenient rule, they were sought out with eyes, rather than vocal chords, and a simple gesture of a shaking head, together with a finger pointing at the line item, 'no cell phone use' demanded that they comply with the rules. It was rather odd, that one person decided to flagrantly disobey the authorities. Perhaps it was even more odd that the said person was not me! As another number was displayed, and the crooning duo sang, "They've gone 'ome!", and the lady to the left of my daughter continued to shake her head, disapprovingly, a female rose and made her way towards the front. At the same time, a male contender also rose, and made his way towards the waiting officer. The female sat down in the front row, took her phone from her bag, and started to tap away on the screen. Samantha and I took a sharp intake of breath and waited to see how this would be dealt with! All the officials were behind the screens, and did not pay heed to the very naughty lady! "Make a citizen's arrest", I demanded. My daughter advised me that this was not possible, as quite obviously, from her needing to be in this particular place, that she was not a citizen, and therefore precluded from taking the action I had suggested! "Well make a resident's arrest", I continued. "Remove her from the premises" was a sentence that was understood, and all the dull murmuring stopped. The authorities came from behind the screen, and looked to see who was causing a scene. I shrank back into my seat, wondering how many fingers were pointing at me. "It was her, sir! It was her", could be heard in my head, but fortunately, not in the room. The phone had been put away by this time, and the offender was facing forward, as innocent as a lamb for the slaughter!
Eventually, the electronic board flipped over to number '97', and Samantha got up without the chorus of "They've gone 'ome!". The young man whom attended to my daughter was fascinated by her fingernails, which had been painted with a Union Jack on one hand, and the Stars and Stripes upon the other. On her ring finger, on each hand, is a minion. He asked whom she supported when the soccer was being played, and her response was 'England of course'. I would have educated him on the different 'crosses' within the Union Jack, and perhaps precluded myself from progressing further in the system, as undermining a government officer could be misconstrued as treason! However, my daughter was in the 'hot' seat, and I was sitting outside the 'box', wondering where I could find a 'sharpie' to modify the list of 'rules'.
I sat and waited, quietly, attempting to gain favour from the lady who was now sitting to my left. The scowl upon her face was indicative that this would not be forthcoming, or perhaps she too had flagrantly disobeyed the rules and had brought food into the premises, as the only other reason for her expression was that she was sucking on a piece of yellow citrus fruit! I was not about to ask!
Samantha emerged from the segregated compartment, holding a card with 'how did we do' printed across the top, and a copy of her original appointment letter. She completed the survey, popped the card into the appropriate box, and dragged me out of the facility, before I could cause any more trouble!
We drove back to the office, musing on how different our life is here, compared to back in Blighty, as she stopped to pick up a burrito! The rest of the week paled into insignificance compared to the trip to the biometric centre. However, there were a couple of things that were noteworthy, but as usual, I believe enough is as good as a feast, and I shall leave you (I hope) salivating for ........... another story!