Friday, March 16, 2012

Green Card

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, I was stricken by a ghastly stomach bug. By 7am, I was preparing to die quietly, curled around a bottle of Pedialyte, when Mr. Berman burst into the room.

"It's your Green Card appointment! At 8am! Come on, I'll drive you!"

I scowled in his general direction, somewhat petulantly, I have to confess.

"Just can't. Sod off."

"You can -- you have to. Or you won't be able to travel next month."

I remembered that I have a business trip in April, by which time I need to have renewed my Green Card. It takes months to get an appointment. I struggled to find a suitable expletive, but ran out of energy and reverted to my father's family-friendly favorite in times of stress.

"GOD give me strength." (It's really quite effective when pronounced with venom, a perfectly acceptable substitute when a meatier alternative is not readily available or appropriate. I consider it the tofu of the swearing world.)

"It'll only take you 15 minutes. My appointment was really fast. Come on."

With this, Mr. Berman hauled me to a sitting position. I pointed out that he evidently hated me and wanted me to die. He ignored me, wisely, and proceeded to assess my clothing. Having vomited all over myself a number of times in the night, I was wearing an odd assortment of garments. He pronounced the yoga pants Green Card-worthy, wrestled my feet into flip flops, and dragged a sweater over the most offensive article, a Marks & Spencer flannel pyjama top in pink plaid, circa 1985, now encrusted with traces of vomit. Since I was gnashing my teeth in a threatening manner throughout this process, he decided against enforced tooth brushing, and dragged me out to the car.

"What about Ted?" I whimpered.

The same stomach bug had also hit my youngest son 24 hours before, and he was off school, lying prone with his head positioned over a bowl in precautionary fashion. He is not a morning person under the best of circumstances, which these decidedly were not. My husband ran back to fetch him, and emerged from the house five minutes later, bearing a limp and pasty-faced Ted, who was also wearing mismatched pyjamas, with snowboots.

"Come on," Mr. Berman said encouragingly. "Let's get it over with -- we'll have you home and back in bed soon."

I lay in the reclined passenger seat with a plastic bag hooked over my ears as we hurtled through rush-hour streets. (During this time, I reconsidered my hardcore eco stance. Plastic may be the devil's substance, but it does have its uses. You couldn't rely on a reusable hessian bag for this task.) Upon arrival at the Citizenship and Immigration Office, I lurched out of the car, and staggered towards the door.

"Why does mummy look like an old lady?" I heard my son ask, as I disappeared into the bowels of the government. It struck me that I did not look like the kind of person you'd want to be granting permanent resident status to. In panic, I wondered if those were the last words I would hear him say. What if they determined I looked infectious (which I most certainly was), or crazy (which I most certainly looked, with my pink plaid flannel, vomit-encrusted pyjama shirt dangling below my sweater) and put me back on the boat? Do they still have boats, for people like me?

Good god -- was I in danger of deportation?

Deported I was not, but the interminable line was almost the end of me. I silently cursed Mr. Berman and his 15-minute promise, and consigned all 23 people on line in front of me to burn in hell, as I stood feverishly, on trembling legs, for almost an hour, with frequent dashes to the restroom. Eventually, an official fingerprinted me (which took a while, on account of my dripping palms), photographed me (which also took a while, on account of the fact that I looked dead on every try), and approved me (and we wonder why the country is in the state it's in).

As I was leaving, I was asked to fill in a customer satisfaction survey. I refrained from complaint, given that I had just infected everyone within a 5-mile radius with what I was beginning to think must be Ebola.

My conscience is somewhat alleviated when I remember that they'll all have the last laugh.

We will live, and our stomachs will recover. But only I will have to live with an official ID for the next 10 years that is a Feverish-Looking, Dear-God-Why-Didn't-I-At-Least Apply-Blush, Exceedingly-Green Card.

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