Ticket to delay

Magid, Nora L.

THE RITES AND WRONGS OF PASSAGE Ticket to delay NORA L. MAGID WHEN MY STUDENTS ask me how I spent my sabbatical, I can tell them that I devoted an unholy amount of it to getting a Canadian...

...Neither of us understands what he is to do with the unspeakably ugly photographs, but we agree that his signing them should constitute certification...
...And they don't say how come last week you didn't know a lawyer and now you do...
...You must, they say, have a bank account...
...The two crises I have anticipated do not come about...
...To Americans who have simply to pop into a Polaroid booth, stand in line, and renew their old passports, this is like something out of Alice in Wonderland...
...Irish widow begins to strike me as a more valid category than mayor...
...Back to the consulate for the third time...
...I am handed three cards, am assured that I have read the form correctly and can be photographed out of state...
...NORA L. MAGID is an editor, writer, journalist, and part-time teacher at the University of Pennsylvania...
...I even know architects and engineers and people who teach social work and pharmacy and history and French and small children...
...I am given one last chance...
...We haven't done the proper thing with the pictures, but they let it go...
...He is supposed to have written a sentence on the back, and then added his signature...
...I convert my height and weight to metric and realize that lacking a sense of metric, I do not know if what I have arrived at suggests me or a mouse or a dinosaur...
...When he does have time, he takes weeks...
...The Canadian references required here would knock my parents' socks off, but I seem to have to recreate their lives...
...I begin to feel like two cents...
...I know approximately one thousand university students and one hundred English professors...
...My resistance is abysmal...
...Nor can the policeman with whose family I have Thanksgiving dinner each year...
...I was at your wedding," I say...
...I fill in recommendation forms for students all the time, and these include evaluations for sensitive security posts...
...Yes, he knows Canadian procedure, but it is too complicated, and he has no time...
...Besides, the forms carry a murky warning which seems to suggest that both applicant and guarantor can go to jail for two years if lies are told...
...22 February 1985: 113...
...Of course I know people...
...I also sigh over next of kin...
...Her uncle was married to my aunt, and, both only children, we have declared ourselves cousins...
...It was only years later I discovered that she had been born in Bolshoi Takmak, which I don't know how to spell...
...I don't have a minister...
...I don't have a priest...
...I record with a sigh the date of my birth in Montreal and the date issuance of the certificate...
...I'm offered someone's political crony who does political favors, but I don't want anyone to commit perjury for me, and I say no thank you...
...I leave in disgrace...
...Through teeth that I am grinding I explain that my last dentist, also in New York, has closed his office and disappeared...
...A tri-state life disenfranchises me...
...They accept my tattered birth certificate and suggest politely that I might want to send away for a new one...
...We are standing in the consulate in Philadelphia and my habits are obviously alarmingly irregular...
...There is a five-year discrepancy...
...I then skim the "in lieu of guarantor" forms and decide that I'd rather die than fill them in...
...I hate to ask him...
...Besides, I usually bank by mail, ana my bank accounts (plural) are in New York...
...I once inadvertently committed perjury because I'd always thought my mother had been born in Warsaw...
...I am the sole survivor of my family...
...I have never known a mayor, but in my past life (in New York where my suspect banking is done) I have known and I use the word loosely one senator who went on to become president of the United States, a second senator who did not, two Nobel Prize winners, and a surprising number of people in the CIA...
...I have my green card photocopied, front and back, but I do not realize until later that it needs to be notarized...
...These are for new people...
...We set up an appointment...
...Come to think of it, I don't have a rabbi either...
...The Philly photographer I approach about the pictures turns me down...
...It also seems to me that a crook is more likely than I to know the cluster of judge-cop-lawyer...
...You bank in New York...
...I select someone in Ontario...
...I go to the nearest photographer who knows all about size and shape and stamping and dating, and who for twelve bucks provides four unspeakably ugly pictures...
...There has, I say, to be a procedure for people like me...
...When I return to Philly, I force myself to fill in the forms...
...He is a busy man...
...You must know people...
...I tell the officials that I have difficulty with the list...
...On my second trip to the consulate I sit for two hours...
...I don't know him that well, and I am reluctant to put someone in a position where he can hardly say no...
...My European-born father thought that births were automatically registered...
...retired...
...The guarantor is a character witness who presumably lives where the applicant does, must have known her or him personally for at least two years, and must be chosen from one of the following groups: mayor, practicing lawyer, notary public, judge, magistrate, police officer, signing officer of a bank, medical doctor, or dentist...
...Why then can't my colleagues, many of whom are fearfully distinguished as well as moral, speak for me...
...So I scream a lot at everyone I know the professors, the administrators, the music teacher, one of the Irish widows, the journalists...
...I am offered someone's brother-in-law, a physician, who'll sign anything for her as a favor...
...I come early and ask if there is a notary on the premises...
...On previous occasions I have been told that born in the Province of Quebec translates to the need for evidence of baptism...
...The only doctor I know in Philly has just moved to Tampa...
...It was not until I went to kindergarten that the certificate was issued...
...and he asks how long he has known me...
...You have lived in this area for a number of years...
...How many people, I ask, know Mayor Goode or Mayor Koch...
...I know business executives and poets...
...I don't know the transliteration of my father's birthplace either, and I never want to have to explain again that I ride a bicycle, don't know how to drive, and hence cannot produce a driver's license...
...THE RITES AND WRONGS OF PASSAGE Ticket to delay NORA L. MAGID WHEN MY STUDENTS ask me how I spent my sabbatical, I can tell them that I devoted an unholy amount of it to getting a Canadian passport...
...They have to submit two completed forms, evidence of citizenship and of residence, and three photographs, one of which is certified by a guarantor...
...Eventually my best friend reminds me that I do know a lawyer...
...Everyone, I am told, has a doctor or a dentist...
...Oh yes, they say, hauling out yards more of ominous forms, but we don't usually accept them from people like you...
...No, I am told, we have to narrow it somewhere...
...But that possibility has gone unraised...
...They are surprised...
...My minister, my priest...
...Flag Day, '69," he says, and puts down fifteen years...
...The Hmong are automatically disqualified they have no written language but all of the others can read and write...
...Lovely tea sandwiches in a beautiful garden...
...I know my neighbors a factory worker, an administrator, a musician, a nurse, several Irish widows, and a large number of Hmong Commonweal: 112 refugees...
...There is...
...None of these people can speak for me...
...They live in New Jersey...
...Canadians living "abroad" have to start over each time...
...The guarantor plows through the forms: he is amused at the statement that 70 percent of passport applications are rejected because they have been incorrectly filled in...
...I go to New York and I wail at the consulate there...
...Of course I have a bank account, I say, but I have never laid eyes on anyone except a teller...
...This is my private woe and not the fault of the government...
...he notes that he is calling himself a practicing lawyer (as opposed to disbarred...
...All of this takes an hour...
...Besides only I don't say this out loud we are talking citizenship, not teeth, not sprained ankles...
...She can't figure out either from the information sheet or from the four instruction panels what to do with the green card photocopies, but she stamps and signs them, and she refuses to charge for what she considers an oddity...
...I know people in my own field writers and editors...
...Further, the birth certificate, a gorgeous object festooned with stamps and ribbons and calligraphy is (a) in tatters, though the shreds add up to a wnoie, anu (b) not a record of baptism...

Vol. 112 • February 1985 • No. 4


 
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