A Confederacy of Dunces…
Image taken from: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/urban/richmond-va.htm
Not the novel, but my journey to new employment. Oh my goodness what an eclectic ride it has been!
I’m back in Richmond for a few days, so that I can do the multitude of things I need to do to move along in my new-hire processing. While Richmond is no New Orleans, it’s wonderful to be back in the southern city where I spent my 20s getting educated and, well, pregnated. All sorts of birthing happened for me here. Plus, it’s a beautiful almost-too-north-to-be-southern (if you ask folk from Georgia) city, although hello? it was the capital of another confederacy, so southern it is. Today’s Richmond has kept its antebellum charm while mixing in a whole lot of modern art, edge and yumminess (micro breweries and restaurants galore — woo hoo!). But, that’s not what this post is about (although God Bless the food, booze and my friends!).
Day Two of being back: I finally get through to my HR specialist. We haven’t been able to connect since I got good news from her in mid-May. I told her I got paperwork from a friend and managed to get my medical check done (by 4 different doctors, but that’s part of my UAE crazy), etc. etc. Could I meet with her after I met with the security guy? Sure. Is there anything else I need to bring? Lemme check. Pause … she needs the welcome packet back that she thought she sent in May, and she needs the affidavit letter signed in front of a notary.
Um, I never got this packet.
Another pause to check, and an, oh man, you didn’t get it, well I need it. Let me send it to you.
I receive packet. It’s 45 pages long. Michelle, whom I’m staying with, has a lovely printer, but it’s not working, so her friend goes to his work to print all of it out for me — on the softest, sleekest paper ever. Win.
Next up, find a notary. No problem, it’s a gorgeous day outside and the post office and a bank are within walking distance. So two friends and I begin our three hour tour. First up: the Post Office, but it’s closed and a stationary mail truck is open instead. The lady inside barely looks up from her magazine and then looks at me like I’m crazy when I ask if she’s also a notary. She says something I can’t hear and points to the bank.
We go into bank only to get caught up in a bullet-proof glass security thing. A lady loudly says “only one person in the box please!” My friends escape outside, so I go in to be told sorry, our notary has left for the day, but there’s a funeral home down the road.
We’re not really sure where it is when a man with one of those mechanical voices scares the shit out of us by being nice and telling us which way to go.
Funeral home one: friends and I go in feeling weird because we’re too alive and too happy to be there. That notary is also gone for the day.
Funeral home lady is nice enough to call another funeral home to discover that yay their notary is in. She tells us how to get there, but then looks at us (realizing we’re a little sweaty), “you walking or driving?” Walking. “Oh lord that’s a bit of a ways.”
You see our plan was to walk to notary, get my stamp and then stop at this place called Patrick Henrys, which is an awesome lil tavern, but now we have to walk all the way back to Michelle’s, so we can drive to the next funeral home, and then find our way to a much-needed bar stool.
Funeral home two: Now we’re in Six Feet Under territory. First funeral home could pass for something else, this one was definitely meant for the dead and grieving. But, the man in suit and tie was very nice and brought me to the back room. My pen explodes and I say something inappropriate about God and me being where the dead are getting spruced up. I laugh, my notary laughs, and the other man in there laughs too. We’re all happy and giddy, and I’m thanking them too cheerfully and loudly as I get to reception area and lo and behold there is a woman in an all-fuscia pant suit crying. Why she was wearing all bright pink to mourn is beyond me, but I still felt awkward to be as cheery as her pants when she was obviously not. It’s all good because ten minutes later I’m celebrating my stamp at Patrick Henrys.
Morning of Day Three: The welcome packet email included contact information for the person who will be working on my official passport. Luckily for me she’s an early riser and gets back to me before Michelle and I leave for D.C. for my HR appointments. Long story short I quickly discover I need to turn in my regular passport, which is a problem because I’m going back to the UAE in a few days. Official passport processing could take up to a month. I won’t be back in the states until July 20, and I’m expected to begin my new job on Aug 10 — so as you can see there’s a problem. Passport lady tells me to do something online and come see her when I’m finished with the rest of my appointments. Needless to say, I am freaking out and beyond stressed but off we go.
I get to HR office and now I feel like Maxwell Smart because I have to walk my way through concrete hallways and a series of doors (including, later on, one that looked like a vault door) before I get to a security man with a big-ass gun on his lap. He’s nice and points to where I need to go next. They’re serious security dudes who take my ID and have me call my first appointment to pick me up. I’m dressed casually while everyone else waiting is all suited up because they’re interviewing. Again, we’re surrounded by bullet proof glass and all sorts of security type doors. My guy joins me, and I follow him to only, get this, I shit you not: get my back pack stuck in the revolving door. I’m like a turtle on its back just kicking its lil legs up. I’m embarrassed and joke “Oh shit I broke the DOD.”
Big-gun man laughs, the other guys try to keep it professional, but they’re definitely wondering who hired this idiot. My appointment, thank God, is getting a kick out of this, and the rest of our time together is fun — even when my damned finger prints would NOT flipping take right.
Long story longer: I enjoy everyone I meet in the security office (while Comey’s testifying on the t.v. near us) and am passed on to my HR person, who was so different in person than what I expected. We do our thing — yay most of my stuff seems to be worked out — and then I’m brought to the passport lady, who is my saving grace! She completes my processing in person, takes my pic, makes me swear it’s all true and tells me to rush my original birth certificate to her, which can take the place of my passport. Do I have my birth certificate? No, but it’s in Arizona, and God Bless my husband because he managed to find it (which I’m sure was an amusing sight) and overnight it, so my passport processing is happening — whew! — and I can fly back to the UAE to finish up my contract there.
There are a few more things I need to do before I finally receive my travel orders, but despite the craziness and the stress, I’m glad I got to meet the people behind the scenes. I liked them all and hope they’re a reflection of what my new co-workers will be like. I don’t yet have the final orders, but after all this crazy I think it’s time I finally told you all where I’m going next.
I don’t know how I managed to pull it off, but I actually got a job in Belgium. Lucky me will be working at an international high school in the NATO base south of Brussels. It’s been a stressful few months, but woo hoo! I can smell the frites, beer and chocolate now. To heck with ever getting rid of my Budha belly. Up next? Mama has to learn some French.
And, survive any more trials and tribulations that are sure to come up before I get there. But Belgium here I come — um, inshAllah!