(Readers note: the lovable hairdresser who writes Euro Like Me is abroad, so the Blog Drone 2000XdW will be posting a few of his old journal entries for him. So sit back and cool yr. heels: This is a little flashback to the bureaucratic labyrinth behind our big fat international adoption....)
Sugar C. Jones.
Voice like a tarpit. Lime sherbet polyester pantsuit. Blond middle-aged dreads. But before I actually saw her, I saw her nameplate—itself approximately sixty-five years-old, made of rubber, plastic and glue, like a chipped relic from a film noir movie--sitting amongst the tilting piles of her desk. Sugar C. Jones. But that's Mrs. Jones to you, pal.
In the middle of my paperwork day, as two simple tasks multiplied like a root system, and I realized that, in addition to catching a three A.M. bus to Washington D.C. for a visit to the Ethiopian Embassy and the US State Department, I would also need to send a fax and a Fed Ex package to Texas, make two visits to the New York County Clerk's office, another to the fingerprint crew over at One Police Plaza, set up a last minute rendezvous with our American social worker (whom I would then walk over to a notary to get a signature, another stamp and a seal,) then visit the New York Secretary of State, the Treasury Department, and the Authentication Section of the DC Office of Homeland Security--in the middle of this ratpath without-a-breadcrumb-trail, I found myself sweating from the forehead, perhaps only seconds away from going into a full-body twitch, and staring at yet another paperpusher who was telling me that my documents were not only not in order but that they were pretty much meaningless. And her name was Sugar. Sugar C. Jones.
"You'll have to separate these papers," Sugar was saying, her fingers folding and spindling my delicately bound and sealed adoption dossier, "And you have to get your social worker to notarize this form before I can authenticate it. You'll have to take this other form back to 1 Police Plaza, have one of the three supervisors over there resign it at the bottom, then bring it back to me. And you'll have to separate these papers."
"Wait a second," I sputtered, "Why do I have to go over to the Police Department again--this is an original and official document, and they've already signed it! I was told you would just notarize these papers and then I could take them to--."
"I don't notarize documents, I authenticate them."
"Wha-? I don't, I…?"
"I can only authenticate the notarization of notaries who are qualified with a stamp for New York County to notarize county documents for authentication. This, and this--matter of fact, a lot of these other documents are gonna have to be notarized and authenticated before you take them to the Secretary of State."
"I'm sorry," I whimpered, my head descending into my hands, "Could--could you please be careful with that--we paid a lot of money to have those documents bound like that…."
"Just a minute," Sugar C. Jones said, storming off with my dossier.
For a second, I thought she'd gone to get security. Somewhere back in the dizzy murk of my brain, it was beginning to dawn on me that the pantsuited Mrs. Jones was a steel wall.
She came back with her superviser, a man with a yellowish tie and a haircut and a head that somehow made me think, 'Rutabaga.' "He doesn't want to separate these documents," Sugar was telling this turnip man.
He didn't really tell me anything different, except that if I would go away and get all the necessary stamps and signatories on the relevant papers, then come back again, he and Sugar might be able to authenticate them without cutting the thin peppermint-striped string and paper seals which bound the dossier. Somehow this felt like a détente.
As I gathered up my documents and started for the door, Sugar C. Jones was still shaking her head and croaking, "I've never seen papers tied up in a book like that before."