Thursday, December 11, 2003

Okay long time no blog.... this is in fact the third time that I have attempted to write this blog. Not quite sure how I managed to fail twice. A mixture of utter stupidity (on my part) and in fact more utter stupidity on my part). And no having got this far I'm not really sure what it is that I want to say. Screaming the word testicle at the top of my voice is one of the things going through my mind at the moment.

I started writing this post about 3 hours ago... sadly work distracted me from completing it. Some things that have made me really rather annoyed over the last week:

The fact that despite paying my (entirely non-exorbitant... sadly) wage , the university I work for still feels the need to charge me $10 for a key to my office. How come I can trusted to work for them, carry out scientific research, etc, etc... but I am not trusted to look after a bloody key. These people pay me x grand (where x is a single digit number) a month.... and yet they feel the need for me to go down to their office and hand over $10 in cash.... it's crazy.

On the subject of things that are stupid. Take for instance the stance of my employer with regards to it's rental car fleet. Now understandably they require any renting one of their vehicles to have a valid drivers license.... a perfectly reasonably request. However that driving license must be from the state of Pennsylvania (which is where my employer is based).... this is where my problems arise from. You see, I am not an American. In fact I'm British.... and so unsurprisingly I have a British driving license. Now this would be fine if I were renting a car from AVIS or HERTZ or practically any other car rental company.... but is sadly not good enough for my employer. The true genius (and I use that word with great caution) of my situation is that despite the fact that I currently reside and work in Pennsylvania... I am not eligible for a Pennsylvanian drivers license. The reason? Is because I only have a one year contract. So I am allowed for one year to drive in Pennsylvania with my dirty foreign license.... now let's suppose that a year goes by and my employer thinks that I'm wonderful and gives me an extension. And seeing as this is make believe why don't I get a 100% pay rise. So there I would be one year older, having been in Pennsylvania for just about a year... in the wonderful situation of being unable to drive using my British license cause I'd been here too long.. and unable to apply for a Pennsylvanian drivers license because I'd have less than a year left on my contract/visa...... Whoopee do.... I can't wait for those happy days.

Which brings me nicely to my main bug bear (what is a bug bear.... did I just make it up?? If I didn't who did?), and that is with those lovely people at INS. Now I realize it is probably a deportable (lovely word probably doesn't exist... but still lovely) offense to criticize in any way shape or form the actions (or inactions) of any part of the department of homeland security (or whatever it is called)... but here goes anyway. So I only recently got my job and came over here to work on an 'exciting' experiment (I'll talk about later sometime) and I had my visa and my passport and my certificate of eligibility and I flew into America. And surprisingly enough (you hear so many horror stories) I arrive and go through immigration without a problem. Then I have a couple of weeks where I am just in form filling hell. And the one thing they ask you on every bloody form you ever fill out is for your social security number. So obviously this is one of the first things I do when I get here. So a few weeks go by and I've managed to convince tout le monde that I am who I say I am despite my lack of SS number... and I have a flat, and cable tv and elastic trickery and I get paid (which felt really good considering that it had been bloody months since my last pay check. And somewhere in the middle of all this excitement I get a letter from the SS office saying.... can't give you a number INS have you on their records as Mr 'Vichol' instead of Mr 'Nichol', fill out this form and send it off to them to get it fixed. So I look at the form and it says form must be accompanied by a cheque to cover $100 application fee... unless the mistake was through no fault of your own. And I'm like... surely they determine if it's my fault or not... and if this application does not come with a cheque it is going straight in the bin. So I write them a cheque and send it off. A few weeks go by and I'm getting a little impatient... I start trying to check up on the application online and discover before I can do anything I need a receipt number... which I don't have. And then finally after about three and half weeks I get a letter from INS. The letter says, and I'm paraphrasing here: Jolly good Mr Nichol... we've taken your cheque and cashed it down the bank.. and now it's just going to be 30-45 days for us to process your application. And I'm like... 45 days and $100 to change a 'V' to and 'N'... they have got to be taking the mickey (insert your own expletive filled sentence to read my actual reaction). But apparently not... that's what it takes. I jsut don't understand how it happens... when I come through immigration the gentleman scans the bar code like part of my passport. Surely from then on in my details are in the machine, there should be no need to ever actually type my name in and therefore have the possibility of a mistake..... so I don't know what's going on. But the one thing I know for sure is that the chance of me ever seeing that $100 again (at least if it's anything like bureaucracy back home) is pretty fucking small.

There some things that made me smile this week.... but my poor little fingers are tired after all this moaning.... I know some people in Minnesota who described me as 'salty'... still don't really know what it means... but it may well be true.

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