Monday, August 21, 2006

Plus ca change...

Hi again everyone! I'll have been in Norfolk for a week at about 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. I've been doing lots of stuff, like finding a graduate assistantship, moving into my house, getting my student ID, and (joy of all joys) getting a replacement social security card.

You see, before I moved to France two years ago, I put my social security card in a safe place so I wouldn't lose it abroad. Unfortunately, I have now forgotten where that safe place was, so I didn't have my card. This wouldn't really be a big deal, except that the guy who takes care of the tax forms in my department is a freak and demands more than the government wants (sound familiar, anyone?). He wouldn't accept my passport, drivers license, and birth certificate, and had no sympathy for my carless state. I had to get a taxi to drive me 20 minutes to the Social Security Office in Norfolk. Both of my taxi drivers took the scenic route, so I got to see lots of pretty houses along the way, and some things that made me smile: the Social Security Office is on Robin Hood Road, and we passed Sherwood Forest Elementary school on the way out there.

When I walked into the office, I had a pleasant feeling towards American bureaucracy, despite my present troubles with the Office of Homeland Security regarding Jube's visa. The kind old police officer at the information desk directed me to the correct room to get a replacement social security card, after having signed a paper and checking my ID. My mood was a bit dampened when I entered the room only to find an almost exact replica of the Prefecture in Nice: rows of seats filled with people, and enough crying babies to rival the foreign affairs office. Now, I know that the Social Security Office has more babies than other bureaucratic places in the US, because they all need to have a number assigned to them, but it's definitely annoying to sit next to a one-year-old who keeps touching your book.

I even got to hear a fight between a young woman and a mother. The young woman had called one of her friends on her cell phone, nearly deafening those around her, screaming about a fight she had had the night before, "and I don't know what the fuck she wanted, but she fucking hit me right in the head. Shit! That bitch don't know what kinda shit she got herself into!" The mother asked her to please use less curse words, but either the young woman didn't hear or didn't care. Finally the security guard had to intervene, and the young woman left before her number was called.

Once that was finished, I went back to finish filling out the papers for my job, where the secretary kept me for about half an hour longer than she had to. Oh well, at least I'm used to waiting now.

Also, when I was in France, I kept thinking about how flirtatious the men were. For example, when I went parasailing, I didn't have my swimsuit. The employee said, "No problem, you can borrow mine," with a big grin at his baggies. Well, I have discovered that in the American South, it's pretty similar. Today I had a man compliment my skirt while I was at an ATM; the employee taking my picture for my student ID said, "It'll be great, you're pretty!"; and at the Social Security Office, as I moved past people to find an empty seat, one of the men said, "I know you ain't that fat!" Luckily, after two years in France, it doesn't faze me at all.

So those are my impressions of the US so far. It's different than I remember it, but maybe that's just because I've absorbed other customs in France. I felt really uncomfortable, for example, when the bagger bagged my groceries for me and then helped me take them outside. On the other hand, everyone is super nice, like my teller at the credit union who found out about my wedding and told me about her 13-year-old daughter while I was opening my new accounts. I felt strange that she was sharing so much personal information, and I had to tell myself that it's just like that in America!

8 comments:

Helene said...

Good to see you are alive and well! I'm looking forward to hearing your impressions of the US South after your French immersion.

Brooke said...

oh that's right... Virginia is the 'South'... You should come back to the midwest, too... :)

Anonymous said...

The midwest misses you!

- N

Sarah said...

In my town in North Carolina we have a Robinhood road and Sherwood Forest school too! Maybe that's a strange southern custom...
Good luck with all the bureaucracy and the the Merry Men!

Doc said...

i get that same strange feeling when i go back, too. funny how france creeps under our skin like that.

Gem said...

I think I had less problems moving to France, because I expected it would be different, than moving back--I thought I would be used to everything!

robin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JennC said...

I get a weird feeling everytime I visit "home". All the personal information from strangers, all the niceness, etc. It's nice, but at the same time, disconcerting...