Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The wheels of bureaucracy are grinding...

I spent a pleasant morning today at Pike Place, doing some shopping for the big relocation. I purchased a half pound of my favorite tea to bring comfort on those lonely, grey sky English evenings. ("Sunset in Seattle" -- buy it now, or you will never know what real tea tastes like. Ever.) It smells delicious, but it also unfortunately looks quite a bit like a giant bag of pot. I pointed this out to the clerk, and she grabbed a big marker and wrote "NOT DRUGS" on the label, just to help me get through customs. Somehow, I think I might have trouble explaining this to airline security personnel.

I also purchased a photograph of the Seattle skyline at sunset so I can look up at my city when I miss it most. It does not include the Space Needle, but it does have the long-gone Kingdome in it. After all, no one from Seattle actually wants to spend money going up the Needle to see the city they already live in, and everyone misses the Kingdome in a sick, twisted way. Afterwards, I stopped in at Le Pichet to have a croissant and a cup of hot chocolate, and then I made the Fatal, Irreversible Error of the Day: I went to the King County records office to obtain certified copies of our marriage certificate.

The clerk seemed helpful at first and prepared two certified copies. I took them, paid, and started to walk away -- then I glanced down at the certificate. The certificate was for a Megan Matthews. From Hawai'i. Married to some guy from Lubbock, Texas. Five years ago.

Foolishly, I assumed this had to be a quick, easily remedied mistake. The man at the counter looked at the certificates with consternation, clicked a few things on his computer screen, and said cheerfully, "Well, you're right - this isn't you!" (Thank you for that, sir. I sometimes forget and think that I am an older Hawai'ian woman married to a Texan.) Then he furrowed his brow and said, "The bad news is that you aren't on file. We don't have a record of your marriage."

I blinked. He waited for a response. I continued blinking.

Eventually, he realized that my stunned silence was a reaction and told me to wait until he could ask his supervisor about what to do. It would have been nice to know that she was on the phone with the world's most ponderous, agonizingly dimwitted customer -- I might have left, gone up the hill to have a haircut, purchased a week's worth of groceries, returned home, put them away, and come back in time for her to hang up the phone. Instead, I stood in an incredibly ugly lobby by some deceased pointsettias, unsuccessfully attempting to rest my back against the 45-degree angles of the nearest kiosk.

After several years passed, the supervisor hung up the phone, and my assistant went over to discuss the situation. She apparently decided they couldn't do a damn thing, because they told me to go back upstairs to marriage licensing to ask them what happened. I wanted to point out that this wouldn't accomplish anything, since the whole county is on the same computer system with the same freaking records, but they called the next customer and that was that.

Upstairs, they told me I needed to find the commemorative version of the marriage certificate, bring it in, and beg the General Records Department to accept it instead. The commemorative version was in Snohomish, what with it being a completely useless, symbolic piece of paper.

After a breakneck drive to Snohomish and back, I made it through the door of General Records just before closing time. Everything was set, and then they told me that it would cost $34 to record it...because it was double-sided and they had to charge by the page. And they only took cash, but their ATM was broken, so I'd have to sprint up the 30-degree slope of James Street to the nearest bank two blocks north because it was 4:21 and they closed at 4:30.

At that point, I picked up the nearest blunt object and smashed every monitor in the room to bits before stealing their scanner and doing the job myself.

I sprinted up the hill and made it back in time, though I was unable to speak for several minutes after running for my life up a fricking mountain and narrowly missing being crushed under the wheels of a red-light running Metro bus. So I paid $17 PER PAGE (plus $12 extra for two certified copies!) and thus: my marriage became legal. Or will be tomorrow at 9am, since they mysteriously stop registering new certificates at 3pm.

As I turned to go, I cautiously asked, "So, this certificate will be legal tender in other places, right? Because we're moving out of the country..."

The customer service agent waved her hand blithely and said, "It should, yeah."
Should? SHOULD?!?!!

For all of these hassles, we should have just stayed single and waited for common-law marriage rules to kick in. It would have taken about the same amount of time anyway.