Yesterday, I had to get some empreintes digitales (fingerprints) taken for a background check required by Home State for a substitute teaching license. After having lived in France and worked my way through the Peace Corps application, I felt well prepared to deal with bureaucracy. Perhaps not with the nature of bureaucracy, but rather with my usual errors such as not double-checking instructions or trying to cram errands into a one hour time span.
I went to the County Sheriff’s Office, where the pleasant receptionist informed me that fingerprinting was now done at the jail. While driving around the block to the Visitor’s Entrance, I remember my only other time at the jail. I was in fifth grade and we went on a field trip for Boy Scouts, all wearing our uniforms. A nice police officer led us on a tour and we all gawked at the high-tech surveillance électronique. This time, I was surprised to see a money transfer machine to the right of the reception window. Several different options scrolled across the screen in English and Spanish. I took a number and sat down amongst several families who had been waiting for visitation.
My number was quickly called and I met La Dactylo-Technicienne (the Fingerprinter) in her office, who knew the requirements for teaching and nursing licenses. I wrote out several checks, then let her press my fingers on a giant roll of ink which she spun around before each print. A dispenser offered up an abrasive soap-like substance which cleaned my hands well enough so that I could assemble the paperwork. All the paperwork, except for the transcripts that is. I thought that I could mail the package out myself, mais non, I had to hand everything over to her office.
In the past, I would have become très fâché at these inconveniences and surrendered. Instead, I calmly collected myself and walked out to the car. Part of this new attitude is being accustomed to several steps in processes, part is realizing that this would not be a hard problem in my Home Town where I knew all the locations and spoke and the language, and part is having matured into a more patient person. I will never be as patient as Host Country citizens who can stand in line for hours, but compared to BurkinaSciSteven circa 2007, I’ve made vast improvement. No words muttered under my breath, no reckless driving on the winter roads, just calm determination.
Twelve minutes later, I stepped out of the car (carefully, to avoid the ice patches) and went inside to hunt for the transcripts. They were sitting on top of my dresser, but I couldn’t find stamps anywhere. A quick call to my mother confirmed that we were out. Glancing at the clock, I sped off to the post office, bought the stamps and raced over to the jail before noon. I waited awkwardly for several minutes, worried that I’d missed my window of opportunity, before a guard called La Dactylo-Technicienne. She signed the fingerprint card and promised to drop the package in the mail that afternoon. Mission accomplished, just in time to enjoy a nice lunch and a session with the brace.