Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Shit We Live In

I often complain that the society I live in is shit. Most people here appear beholden to the inherent nihilism of American mediocrity, including the systems of power and bureaucracy. Case in point: fingerprints.

After several years of avoiding the inevitable, I am now legally changing my name. In addition to paying $300+ for the privilege, I must drive all over the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex to pass forms and documents from one hand to another. The process also requires a thorough background check by both the Department of Public Safety—Orwell much?—and the FBI.

But all fingerprinting services have been outsourced. I guess my tax dollars weren't good enough. Gone are the days when you could stop by your friendly local police station to have your fingers dipped in black ink.

Instead, you must first try to read the entirely illegible document provided by the District Clerk's web site. Here's a sample:
After driving to the northern hinterland of the county to file your petition, the clerk just might hand you a proper instruction sheet for the fingerprinting procedure with the two fingerprint cards required. And the necessary information from the District Court just might already be filled out for you. If so, then these kindnesses will surely be overshadowed by the lack of necessary information: do not fill the rest of the card out before getting your fingerprints taken.

After spending about an hour on the unnecessarily complicated web site and getting nowhere because of the circuitous links and pop-up requests for information I did not have, I settled on calling the toll-free number. My phone records confirm that I was on that call for 11 minutes; at least 8 of those minutes I spent navigating my way through the (again) circuitous menu options and waiting finally to talk to a human.

The woman took my information, practically scolded me for having problems with their web site, and wished me a happy new year. My appointment was today at 9:10 AM, a forty-minute drive in the opposite direction of the District Court.

The first mistake: I had filled out the fingerprint cards. Both of them. Of course, I wasn't supposed to because the machine itself will print out my information. After a painless few minutes of paying $9.95 for the privilege, sanitizing my hands for probably the first time in my life, and having the clerk grab, press, and roll my fingers across his glowing computer pad—a glow that only accentuated the florescent glare of his chilly and windowless cinder-block cell—I was about to walk out when I discovered...

... an even bigger mistake: my eye color was wrong. The clerk had input the wrong data over the phone. While talking to the clerk about this mistake, I found...

...yet another—and greater—mistake: my birthday was wrong. I proofed the cards further—you know, because the privilege of paying $9.95 only grants you so many privileges.

The clerk shredded the first cards and printed out two fresh ones with the correct data. I decided to enjoy the privilege of proofing them yet again to confirm that someone could at long last perform the most basic duties of his or her job. And thus, I was granted the privilege of filling out the remainder of the data that the District Clerk had already filled out on the original cards.

You see, kids, American citizenship has its privileges. Lesson: learn to love the name your parents gave you.


  1. have you decided on your new name? i would sadistically suggest to switch your first and last names and wait for the bureaucracy and the databases to implode with confusion and impossible paperwork.