Another step forward in the Visa process – Fingerprints

“I don’t want you to freak out,” I cautioned the constable, watching with minor concern as he pulled on a pair of latex gloves in preparation to take down my fingerprints, “but I’m missing a couple of fingers.”

He paused, and shot a barely concealed glance of surprise down at my hands. Probably wondering if this was my idea of a joke. It wasn’t. “Uh. Should be all good…” He mumbled, turning away from me momentarily to retrieve what I could only assume was the Queensland Police Fingerprint Manual for Mutants. Constable Roberts was a big guy. Not in the ‘I eat McDonald’s three times a day’ type way, but big as in he looked as though he could bench press a paddy wagon without breaking much of a sweat. A brown shrubby beard covered his boxy jaw, and he was at least six foot. A stark comparison to my petite barely-five-foot-three physique. But still he somehow suddenly managed to look awkwardly uncomfortable in my presence.

“Don’t worry,” I smiled, “That’s as far as my superpowers go!”

Const. Roberts didn’t get the joke.

Over the other side of the room, another officer looked up, “It’s probably good that you warned us!” He grinned, “Roberts would have run straight outta here if you just sprung that on him!”

Const. Roberts shifted his solid weight from foot to foot and muttered  humorlessly “Probably. Just because it’s a break in procedure and I wouldn’t know what to do.”  No bedside manner at all, this guy.

I guess before I go any further I should stress that I’m definitely not a criminal. Apart from the odd parking ticket, and that one time I stole a Cherry Ripe chocolate bar from my grade 3 ballet class fundraiser (age six, I showed budding promise as Victoria’s youngest chocolate thief) (Mum, if you’re reading this I swear it wasn’t me), I’ve never been in trouble with the law.

The fingerprints were needed for the final stages of my U.S. Visa application, one part of which requested a police and fingerprint check. Even so, as the officer began to awkwardly cover my hands in thick, black, foul smelling ink, I couldn’t help but feel kind of nervous. “Why don’t you guys use digital technology?” I squeaked.

“S’not protocol for visa applications.” Came the short reply. “But for you, would’ve been easier.”

Oh. Okay then.

“Where are you going?!” The second officer jumped back into the conversation like an excitable puppy wanting attention. Everything he said ended with a giant exclamation mark  and a wide, happy smile. I tried to work out whether or not it was because he felt sorry for me, or he just really, really loved his job.

“America.” I supplied readily, “I’m getting married.”

“You might as well stop the process now,” he said grinning, “they don’t accept immigrants who’re missing fingers!”

THANKS FOR THE VOTE OF CONFIDENCE, QUEENSLAND POLICE.

Const. Roberts remained silent, except to begin grunting commands at me. Roll my fingers this way, press my palms that way, more ink, less pressure, it was obvious he wanted to be back at his desk reading the newspaper, or getting cheeky with the receptionist I’d seen him chatting up as I’d first entered. (If Constable Roberts knew how to be cheeky. I somewhat doubted he could.)  I complied dutifully, because, you know. This was a police station. Regardless of my spotless track record with The Law, I didn’t want to somehow end up on their bad  side.

As we came to my unfortunate right hand, he paused as he flipped through the manual, grim mouth moving silently as he read through the instructions. He coughed awkwardly, and said, rather apologetically I felt, “I’m….I’m going to have to ask how it happened.”

“The proposal or the fingers?” I joked.

Officer smiley over at the desk guffawed appreciatively, but Const. Roberts looked at me like I’d insulted ten generations of his family and replied flatly, “The fingers.”

I’ve had the same question so much sometimes I take to making up exciting stories because the truth – that I was born like that – is so terribly boring. Instead I’ll tell them that I was mauled by lions on an African Safari, or my fingers were shot off by Hungarian warriors in Budapest. Ridiculous scenarios that push the limits of believability – but because people can’t seem to handle any sort of physical defect without getting flushed and awkward, they’ll stare at me in awe and breath “Wow. Really?!!!”

Somehow, I didn’t think now was the time to start telling tales, so I replied in the traditional airy fairy sing song voice I adopted when answering a much repeated question: “Oh, I was born like that.” The constable nodded, and diligently recorded this down in the empty boxes where my prints should have gone. Once this was done, he straightened, and grunted toward a large tin of foul smelling lanolin. “We’re done here. You can clean your hands with that.”

Before I got to ask any more questions, he’d disappeared to file the paperwork, returning only briefly to make sure I could find my way out.

Officer Smiley waved from behind his desk, “Good luck in the States, mate!” He called after me. I waved awkwardly in response, hoping that if ever there was a chance I’d need another set done, I might somehow miraculously sprout two extra fingers. The whole experience was terribly, terribly awkward.

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My unfortunate jeans

Shopping for jeans is not an enjoyable experience for me. If given the choice between gargling bleach and trying to find some well fitting denim, I’d be tossing back a bottle of peroxide like there was no tomorrow.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve never been given the option to sample the supermarket’s finest selection of bleaches, and so on Thursday night after work I bit the bullet and made my way into the city in order to find the perfect pair of plum coloured pants. (Because everyone needs a pair of plum jeans, right? It’s basically a human necessity. Like water or shelter or something.)

A moth drawn to a bright flame, my reluctant journey took me into the back of the department store that boasted large discounts on marked prices. I managed to work out my sizing in the weird measurement system most denim companies insist on using and things were progressing well. (That is: I’d not flown into a murderous rage and ripped the store apart. I did have a thorough grumble to myself that nowhere on any of the tags were the words “PERFECT FOR SHORT GIRLS WITH STUMPY LEGS AND FLAT BUMS” though. Kiiind of what I was looking for.)

After rifling a little through the racks, my hands fell upon a beautifully soft pair of maroon jeans. At 70% off, I nearly fell over myself in excitement as I searched desperately for the size at the waist. 25inches. About three sizes too small for me.

Still, the fabric seemed stretchy enough, and aside from the fact the jeans weirdly didn’t possess front pockets, they would have been absolutely perfect for what I was after. So I threw caution to the wind, and took them with me to the change room. I reasoned if they didn’t fit I’d just go hungry until they did. Because that’s healthy.

Strangely enough, they fit.

They don’t look terrible, right?!

I did all the tests. I bounced. I karate kicked. I crouched. I pliéd and demi pliéd.  The small space of my change room became a NASA testing pod for all sorts of bizarre leg movements (you never know when you need to break into an Irish Riverdance), until I’d mentally ticked all the boxes and decided that these jeans were perfection and comfort personified.

The next morning, I pulled them out of my bag, congratulated myself once more on my shopping prowess and went to pull the tags off.

Then my heart sank.

I stared, slack jawed at the description on the back of the tag, which I had quite obviously missed in my excitement the night before.

“MATERNITY JEANS.” The tag proclaimed with all the smugness in the world.

I’d bought bloody maternity jeans.

Suddenly it all made so much sense.

Suddenly it all made so much sense.

Horrified, I gaped at the stretchy waist. The area where pockets usually are had been replaced with elastic. They sat about my hips slightly further down than a regular pair of lowrise should, with an obvious dip in the front.

“Well, damn.” I breathed.

After a moment’s hesitation, I sighed and pulled them on, reviewing my appearance critically in the mirror. The fit was pretty great, and they were incredibly comfy. I could make them work. For a pair of pants reduced from $140 to $30, how could I possibly go wrong, maternity jeans or no? There was absolutely no reason I should be that horrified at what was simply a label. The label didn’t matter. What was important was that I felt amazing in them, and could also tell people that I was totally wearing a size six.

Also, it meant I could eat all the food in the world, and not have to unbutton my pants, and at the end of the day, that’s a pretty great thing.