Back in October I finally proved my claim to United States citizenship and received my passport the following month. Some day I might like to move to the States. So, if I ever find an opportunity down there I don’t want any government paperwork regarding my citizenship to stand in the way.
But being a citizen is not enough. If you want to work in America you need to apply for a Social Security Card. I was able to get my passport through the United States Consulate in Vancouver, but if you are applying for your social security card for the first time you have to appear at a Social Security office in person. Unfortunately all of these offices are in the States and because they are government offices they are only open from Monday to Friday.
I work during those hours, and taking a day off to go Stateside is not an option in my world.
So, I had to wait until I got a weekday off for a statutory holiday that isn’t observed in the States.
Yesterday was Good Friday so that was the perfect day. I’d be able to dip down to Bellingham and back before my weekend of relaxation and fun begins.
I arrived at the Greyhound terminal and they initially told me that the bus was sold out but managed to stick me in at the last minute when a single seat became available.
The bus leaved almost an hour late and when we arrived at the border the line up of cars and busses was backed up for blocks. “I knew it was going to be bad,” said the bus drive. “But I had no idea it was going to be this bad. We’ll be here for hours.”
And we were.
The air conditioning broke.
The toddlers wailed.
The heat went on.
The duct tape holding the bathroom door gave way.
The bus filled up with the noxious odour of chemically sloshed feces.
The man sitting next to me flips through his passport.
I listen to calming meditiation music.
The man next to me frantically picks snot out of his nose.
I recoil in disgust.
He inspects every nugget of snot before flicking it onto the floor.
We inch across the borders and move swiftly through customs.
We finally roll into Bellingham at 3:30. Just enough time to get to the Social Security office. I rush downtown and go to the Federal Building only to discover that the Social Security office is in another part of town.
It’s now 3:47.
“Is there any way I can make it there on time by cab?” I ask a bus driver who happens to be standing at the corner.
“Well, I don’t think so. But if you go down that trail between the construction store, go past the high school turn left and hang a right you’ll find it right there.”
So, I run like a bat out of hell on a full bladder. By 3:51 I’m in another strange part of town. “Excuse me,” I ask this random passerby who’s face is covered in scars. “Where’s Alabama street?”
He tells me, but I don’t hear a word he says and he mumbles – so I can’t read his lips.
I thank him and sprint down the street.
I scan the horizon for anything that looks like a government office. I look for the American flag, but unlike Canada where prominent Canadian flags usually denote some kind of government office, they like to stick flags everywhere down there.
I notice a cab on the corner.
Without even hailing it I jump in and say “I’ll give you a fucking huge tip if you get me to 710 Alabama Street before 4.”
Without a word the driver burns rubber across several quiet, residential blocks. He gets me there with six minutes to spare. I hand him a handful of American bills and rush inside the standalone office.