Red Tape and Family Secrets
Family outing! Don't I look thrilled! Be warned, the following contains family secrets. Oo. [cue ominous Twilight Zone-esque music]
Today, I didn't go to work in the morning since I went with my family to receive my passport. Mike planned on going with us today but was called away to work on that same emergency he had this past weekend. This made me slightly irritated, especially since he's never been through the passport process before and we (my family) haven't gone through actually getting a passport (just renewing) in so long, we weren't sure that he would be okay on his own. But, after a little while I decided not to fret about it and that he had 4 months to get it right. So, it was just Els and my mom. They picked me up frightfully early (around 7 am. Mike was happy that he didn't have to get up then) and we made our way to Newark.
Newark is the county seat and we had to go visit the Hall of Records. I don't think I've ever been there to get my passport -- we've always mailed them. So, this was a new thing. I brought along my camera. It's been a while since I've had it poke out of its case and I should get all the mileage I can out of it.
The Hall of Records is located behind a building that we originally thought was the Hall of Records and ended up being an abandoned municipal building that was still gleaming and white and didn't look at all abandoned. I think that was because there was a high fence around its perimeter that prevented vandals from getting at it. We did notice that they attacked the unprotected statue of an unidentified dignified man on the front steps, along with a possibly large flock of birds.
The building is set on top of a tall hill, probably the high point of Newark which made it an uphill climb. There was a metal detector at the front gate and I placed my bag on the xray machine and politely asked the guard if the metal detector would be okay with a digital camera.
They rolled their eyes at me and one guy said, "What are you doing at the hall of records with a camera?"
I spotted a large sign that talks about what is illegal to bring into the Hall of Records and noticed that camera wasn't on the list, but decided not to say anything.
"Hey lady, is your car nearby? Can you put your camera in your car?"
I looked at Mama and Els on the other side of the barrier and they nodded. "We'll wait for you here."
I looked at the guards as expressionless as I could and turned around and marched back to the car. It was a longer walk than I had expected, even though it was downhill. The lost company took its toll.
Coming back to the Hall of Records, I passed beeplessly through the metal detectors (sans camera that I placed in the car. I realized once I returned to the front steps that I should have just placed my digital camera in my purse and no one would say anything since it would go through the detector and would have suffered the same fate as my palm pilot -- no reaction from the guards whatsoever). I noticed Ma and Els were no longer there. I consulted the building directory but there was no passport office. I hmmfed and decided to take a trip and boarded an elevator, unaware of where exactly I should be going.
I got off on the top floor: the fourth. I looked around and noticed no signs or rooms that seem remotely related to passport or immigration or records. I took the elevator to the third floor.
Nothing there distinct either. Looks like judge's chambers, by the names and titles on the doors.
Second floor, more judge's chambers.
Huh. I went back down to the first floor and thoroughly consulted the directory again. This time, I spotted a room that, although didn't list passports or records, seemed to be of some importance because it was one of the only room numbers with a long description of names below the office. I decided on a whim to go there.
It was the passport office. Els and Ma greeted me with a "finally, she's here!"
"Did the guards tell you to come up here?"
I looked questionably at them. "No. They didn't say a word to me. I took a long time because I was wandering all around the building not sure of where I should go."
Ma sighed. "We told them to tell you to come here."
I shrugged. "They didn't say anything." I thought about how they didn't say anything about my pilot or the batteries in my backpack or anything. Those types of things tend to alert xray machine people and metal detector guards, from my past experiences. They were probably incompetent or something.
Getting the passport was painless. In fifteen minutes, we had signed and paid for our passports and were walking back to the car. After some chatting with the woman who was processing our papers, we learned that Els can get a non-driving id card at the DMV without takinga driving test so we decided to do that next. I opted to go with them since it was very early and I didn't have to be at work until 2.
We decided to go to the DMV in Wayne, NJ but in order for Els to get her non-driving ID card, she would need to get her birth certificate which she left at home. Since our house was halfway between the Hall of Records and the DMV, it was a quick and easy stop to make. It's always nice to come home: my mom's garden is extremely beautiful in the spring, summer, and early fall. It looks so much nicer now that they cut down the awful pine tree in the front yard. The pine tree used to be pretty, but then Ma started cutting the lower branches off. Soon, the tree looked way too top heavy and outrageously ugly and it was only recently that we got the eyesore removed. Atleast, I thought of it as an eyesore. We greeted my mom's younger sister (my Tita Dotte) who was there dropping off more food. She cooks very well and often drops off the extras she's made at my mom's house. I should pay her to bring me good Filipino food every week. Mm. Her husband is a head chef on a popular cruiseline. One Christmas he was here with my family and we had Beef Wellington and other amazing and fabulous dishes. It was hilariously comical as well -- Pa kept asking if the dishes were "okay to eat with rice" and it seemed wrong to see him scrape off the delicious crust from the Beef Wellington to eat the stuffing with rice. With us going to the Philippines at the end of the year and all my relatives being there, I wonder how wonderful the festivities will be then. How wonderful the food would be. I will gain twenty pounds when I am there!
We made our way up to the DMV. I took this ever familiar picture on the way up there. Notice, Els' hand is constantly on the dial flipping stations. I'm like that too, both on the radio and the television, although I don't think I'm as bad as Els is about channel/station surfing. Then again, it's all a matter of taste and whether or not we find a certain show fascinating. Mike berates me often when I watch TV because for some ungodly reason, I find infomercials interesting.
Being at the DMV was like pulling teeth. You start on one extremely slow moving line and move on to another extremely slow moving line (after your name is called) trying to avoid the sticky patches of unknown substances on the floor and the ratty and run down sofas with uncountable stains scattered around the waiting room. The large sticky patch in front of the pop and juice machines was completely unavoidable. It was disgusting. I don't think I can be in those kinds of working environments. When it took us around 15 minutes to get our passports, getting this id took us over two hours. Incredible! Atleast, getting the id had a minimum amount of hassle. No yelling or anything. I found the large families all waiting for their one child to get their drivers' license comical. They would all crowd around the second line, anxiously awaiting their names to be called, seemingly oblivious to the huge number of people waiting who were processed before them. One large family seemed extremely impatient and I observed them getting nasty looks from the people trying to process the requests.
We were all very happy to get out of there. Els especially. Now Ma can no longer complain about Els not having some form of ID or her driver's license. We were all very hungry after we left the DMV and decided to stop into the local mall (Wayne is known for and has several large malls in a shopping district of the town. You know the musical group, "Fountains of Wayne"? That's taken from a large marble fountain and statue store in Wayne. I will take a picture someday to show you.) We had lunch in the mall food court (I had some eel rolls from the Japanese food place that weren't bad for the price and some really bad General Tso's chicken from the Chinese place) and I bought some hair bleach and post cards from Hot Topic (a national gothic-trendy-grungy store).
The passenger's side mirror with my sister's face reflected in it
After the mall, Ma drove me to work (how delightful!) instead of having me take public transport to the city. That was nice. My afternoon meeting (which is why I didn't take the entire day off) didn't happen but I was able to busy myself with other code changes. The president of the company wrote me a nice letter congratulating me on a job well done with the project I supervised and wrapped last week and for the extra effort of coming in on Sunday. He also hoped that my new role in the Interactive/Creative group would be rewarding. It's always wonderful when praise is given like that. I've made a big note in my management skills notebook to do that to the people under me.
One last note (and one more image): Dori of saranwarp, has just launched a new project called shutterbug.org. I made a few banner graphics for her. Check it out!