Conversation on the cell phone with my lawyer when I went to get Kaitlynn’s birth certificate with the name change.
“They printed out the paper for me to verify the info before they print it on the official document. First, my name is spelled wrong. Second, Kaitlynn’s date of birth is wrong: January 1, 1800. They tell me I have to go to window 6 upstairs to have it corrected,” I said.
“No, no, no. Don’t got to window 6. Go downstairs and ask for So-and-So.”
I walk around the block. The lines to get through the gate is 50 people deep. The gate blocks the stairs which I need to get down. Inside the gate there is an armed police man. I cut to the front of the line feeling the burning stares on my back. I tell the cop I need to go down. Guarding well his circle of authority he say that So-and-So is very busy and I can’t go down. I look through the gate and see a sea of people swarming around in lines as well. Back to the cell phone with lawyer lady.
“So how long do you recommend I wait to get down stairs?”
“Just go down stairs!”
“There is an armed guard and a closed gate. He says I can’t go down.”
“Just go up to him and explain that you need to make a correction on a document and he needs to let you down.”
Deep breath. Marching up to the front of the line once again I tell him what she said. He looks at me, looks at my document, looks at me, looks down stairs, looks at the line, looks at me. I don’t budge. Even though they are pushing up against me to get down too. He opens the gate and lets me downstairs. The gate crashes closed quickly almost nipping my heels. Back to the cell phone.
“I am downstairs. Now what?”
“Now you go to the end window and tell the lady you need to see So-and-So.”
Pass windows D, C, B, and A all marked as well as window 6. I pass the milling crowd. Then the shouting begins.They are not happy that I have cut to the front.
“There’s a line lady!” “Go back to the end of the line!” “We were here first!”
It is in moments when a crowd of four-score and some all start shouting at you that you employ your gringo powers and start speaking to yourself.
“Just pretend you don’t speak Spanish. Just act like you don’t hear a thing. Come on guy, hurry up so I can find this person.”
I had known to invade the personal space of the guy before me. He started to gather his things. I moved an inch closer and put my folder on the ledge beside his things. Visions in my peripheral made my heart pound. Then one of the shouters came closer.
“Fine then. It’s my turn. I will go next!” She lumbered up and shouldered me into the wall as I began to speak and leaned back into her to scoot her over out of my way.
“I need to see So-and-So about correcting a document,” I said using my outdoors voice and speaking over the other lady trying to push her way in. The tired lady on the inside pointed to the door marked: Authorized Personnel Only. I pushed it open and walked through. Asking around I found the desk of So-and-So. It was also through a door marked: Authorized Personnel Only. I walked on through. I felt as though I was trespassing. Maybe I was Authorized; the crowd seemed to think differently.
Finally I was able to talk to So-and-So who pointed to the desk next to hers. Doctor Dude was the one who I needed to talk to. I talked to him about the changes that needed to be made. Since all public records are bound in handwritten ledgers he said he had to look for the book. He left.
While he was gone I was not without “entertainment”. [WARNING! THE FOLLOWING CONVERSATION IS RATED PG13 maybe R.]
Two of the three that shared this office were the gals left revising their cases. Missy Miss began to talk with So-and-So.
MM: Did you ever hear what happened to that 8 year old girl?
SS: It is a sad story! She was locked by her uncle in a room with her younger brother. Somehow they escaped. The next night they were found down by the river. She was missing a foot and her belly had been split so her intestines were laying on the ground.
MM: Horrible! Was the uncle an adult?
SS: I don’t know. But did you hear about this other case?
MM: What is it?
SS: A child prostitution ring was discovered. They had been using kids and charging 5 Bolivianos [75 cent U.S.] each time.
MM: That is why the penalty for these offenders needs to include rehabilitation. They enter into the prisons and come out worse than before. If we had a system of rehabilitation we would be sure that this would never happen again.
SS: We cannot be sure that would even help.
This conversation took place while both of them read over cases and tended to a few other people who came through. I had spoken Spanish when I entered the room. Did they think I would not capture what they are saying? Or is this simply the way everyone speaks?
They did not cry. They spoke in a matter of fact tone. I did not cry. I still am not crying. Even after being shut down by an armed guard, passing through denied doors, standing face to face with incompetence, getting shouted at, was shoved into a wall and was made to wait in a room where they were telling true horror stories I was not immediately outwardly affected. I came home to figure out what was for lunch and talk to my kids about how there tests went. I swallowed it all down into my garbage disposal I like to call my soul.
I am chronicling this to note my hardened and compartmentalized being. I am a changed person. I repeated to myself subconsciously and consciously dozens of times this morning: I don’t care.
What happened with the book Doctor Dude went to find? He came back and told me, ” The book is in movement being used by someone else. Come back in the afternoon at 3:30 or 4 and I will look for it again. The book has disappeared.”
I have disappeared. How else can I face this kind of visit to government offices not only once but now twice in one day? By the way, this encounter is pretty normal. Normal?
Afterthought: And I wonder why I deal with anger issues. All of the above and I don’t yet have the birth certificate.