Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Travelogue: Stranger in a Strange Land

This humble blogster has recently received emails from concerned readers querying as to the cause of the recent dearth of postings. The reason often assumed for such nonfeasance during the dog days of Summer is "vacationing" and in a strict sense that may be the case.

Recently Leonidas was virtually dragged "kicking and screaming" through the gauntlet which commercial air travel has become on a visit to Mrs. Leonidas' family and friends in Sweden. Understand, dear reader, that Leonidas has command of two languages and neither one of them is Swedish. Fortunately, many (but not all) swedish people are reasonably conversant in English. For that reason and the good offices of Mrs. Leonidas, the sojourn escaped being categorized as "the trip to hell".

The situation however rapidly deteriorated at the Stockholm airport upon preparing to return home. Unfortunately, Mrs. Leonidas' ten year "permanent resident" card had expired during the trip and she was denied boarding for the flight home. Until recently, such an unhappy event would not have resulted in a denial of entry but under new unpublished "Homeland Security" (yes those are sneer quotes) regulations she needed to obtain a "Letter of Transport" from the US embassy in Stockholm. Such a document requires: 1) completing a 5 page I-90 form, 2) submitting 3 passport photos, 3) Being interviewed (by appointment only) by a US Consular officer.

I would advise anyone against attempting to reach a US government office either here or especially overseas by telephone. The likelihood of communicating with a live and sentient human being has about the same probability as completing the beautification process of the Roman Catholic Church. In the event, the appropriate consular officer conducts such "business" between the hours of 1:30 PM and 3:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays ONLY and the federal government exacts a fee of US $165.00 for the service.

Having gone unnoticed due to Mrs. Leonidas state drivers license being renewed at the same time as your hapless correspondent's for five years in 2009, hers was issued to expire on the same date as her "permanent" resident permit. Voilá, no longer any valid identification papers for Mrs Leonidas except a Swedish passport. To quote the gestapo agent addressing the unfortunate Norwegian civilian in 1944 Oslo: "Your papers are NOT in order!"

Upon returning home two weeks later, the Customs and Immigration agent at the Chicago airport advises Mrs Leonidas to submit a completed I-90 form (accompanied by a $450.00 fee) to the immigration office in Atlanta to apply for a ten year renewal for her expired "permanent" resident card.

Upon traveling the 90 mile round trip to the Atlanta immigration office we are advised that "paperwork is NOT accepted here". According to recently implemented "regulations" it is required to submit all forms electronically with applicable fees and await an interview and biometric sample appointment which will take "up to 3 months". If approved after that process, Mrs Leonidas will be mailed about 3 months later a renewed 10 year "permanent" residence card.

With all these requirements having being met and awaiting probably for the next six months of federal bureaucratic actions, we proceed to the local (32 miles distant) DMV office to renew the expired drivers license. After standing in line for 2 hours and filling out the multi page renewal form and passing the required exam Mrs Leonidas is advised her license CANNOT be renewed until she receives her "permanent" residence card containing an EXPIRATION date!

To quote the Curmudgeon Emeritus in a recent post: "Social harmony must rest on two supports: individual inhibition against lawbreaking, and an overwhelming preponderance of force on the side of social order...."

This aging blogster who has living memory of a much freer and harmonious society prior to the publication of a billion or so pages of the Federal Register hastens to raise the following rhetorical question: where do I sign up for the revolution?

1 comment:

Nick said...

Sorry to hear you and the Mrs dined in Hell. My little story doesn't quite measure up.

I recently visited my family back in New Jersey. We went to visit Ellis Island where our ancestors landed on these shores.

Before boarding the ferry, you must go through "airport-like" security. My elderly aunt warned the security that she had had knee replacement surgery. Of course, she set off the metal detector and they had to wand her. But after the wand, the also gave her a pat down search.

Now I'm sure even a Helot would know the difference between a Spartan and a Persian on site, but apparently the security at Liberty Park couldn't recognize an old Caucasian woman whose knees lit up like a Christmas tree as NOT a God-damned goat-loving Muslim terrorist.

When we got to Ellis Island, we learned that they processes 5000-7000 immigrants per day through a medical and legal review. Only 2% were turned away, half for medical conditions and half for having no apparent means of earning a living.

So your wife's problem is that she arrived on our shores 100 years too late. Back then they would turn up her eye lids with a button hook looking for trichinella, and make sure she had a wedded spouse with a marriage right there on the island.

Welcome home to the land of the semi-free and the home of some of the brave.