Real People vs Bureaucracy

Underlying anxiety all last week as I am embroiled in the bureaucracy that is required to renew my green card. Last month I had already been to Cranston Immigration Center – an hour drive from the ferry – to be fingerprinted and biometrically recorded. An alien seeking renewal of residence. Son and daughter-in-law re-arranged their own schedules and off-island appointments, so we had all been on the boat journey and the driving around. [Gosh – tech stuff – Wendy just says the address to her phone – it says …proceed… etc. ]

Then last week I got a letter saying that the FBI (yes them, the Feds) have rejected my fingerprints. I have to go again. The language of the officialdom is utterly appalling – they give me an appointment at a time entirely of their choosing and then say stuff like “if you do not keep this appointment your application will be disallowed”, as well as “if you sign and there is an error in your application you will be guilty of perjury”. There is no place to phone for re-scheduling and if re-scheduling is required it must be for major medical inability to attend and applied for through a form to be filled in (with perjury etc. I suppose, if you are not sick enough).

I am of course living on an island and I am supposed to be at Cranston again for this performance on Tuesday (today actually … read on… ), but Tuesday is a no round-trip boat day so I have to leave on Monday, find a hotel, go to the appointment, stay in the hotel on Tuesday night too and get back on Wednesday morning. Provided there is no storm either day and the boat is not cancelled. Luckily the weather forecast is good, or good enough. But the family are away and I am caring for Finlay the dog. He can’t come to a hotel.

Real People: BI people especially Maggie, Susan and Shannon who stood up for dog care, whatever would be required. Even more especially, Molly, (our very own bureaucrat, Town Clerk as well as humorous and perceptive writer) who said “but of course you are anxious” this is bureaucracy and it is totally arbitrary. So plan concocted – I have to leave on the Monday anyway. So take first boat, go to center, speak to real people, see what they say.

Real People: at Cranston USCIS center – took me in and fingerprinted me a day early, never mind what the form says. Explained process, and problem. Not the operator, not the machine, my fingers …aaaggghhh … are OLD. Did you know that fingerprints degenerate along with all the other stuff? So they will probably fail again, and at second failure I will be offered “alternative evidence” instead. I will have to go to Vinny Chief of Police and get a Police Clearance. (I want one of those anyway for working with the young people for the Wellness Coalition. Vinny Chief of Police is also very keen on Wellness.)

Real People: on boat yesterday, Kay and Keith offered ride all the way to Cranston. No need for two buses. After fingerprinting, already had ride from Tom, offered last week, all the way back to boat. While walking from fingerprint center to the Alzheimer Center where Tom’s tai chi class was finishing up – google said it was easy – got lost in a multi-compound of new car parks, diggers and RI Correctional Center complex (had missed that on the google eyestrain map) – met a very nice real person who showed me the way out. Feel I could be candidate for Tom’s center but must not joke about Alzheimers. But it was a beautiful walking day, just that walking from A -> B is not something americans do, I am alien indeed.

Returned home on Monday evening, dog carers stood down, lots of emails and texts. Lovely welcome from Finlay. And it was a stunning evening with a moon rise across the sea. Real people beat bureaucracy any day.


The same moon shines on us all. I am thinking about getting an extension of a visa four years ago in China.

Real people are more important there too.


6 thoughts on “Real People vs Bureaucracy

  1. Elspeth, sounds to me like the real people won, maybe even in some sense goaded into demonstrating their fine qualities by the awful-awful (bureaucracy).


    1. I had not thought about that – everyone’s instinctive dislike of the bureaucracy brings out their fellow feeling. I had cynically noticed that I am the ultimate in non-threatening persona – white, 5 foot 1, grey haired and smiley faced – I am not above playing the help me I am just a granny card. It works. i feel a whole post about transference and mindfulness coming on here…


  2. Oh Elspeth,

    What a blinking nightmare for you. It never would have occurred to me that finger prints could change with age.

    It seems all government agencies the world over act and talk in what appears, to us, to be their very own language.

    I had a document about inter-country health care within the EU. I tried to understand the seemingly contradictory contents, showed it to Terence to see if his superior brain could fathom what it meant – he said it was written in “civil servant speak”, took it away for a day and came back with it translated !!!

    I hope you find the help you need.

    Best love,

    Me and PP.



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