October 30, 2000
starting to deal with the government; I may become a criminal; buying my car; trip to Half Moon Bay; story of a jumpy halibut, potato soup, and smelly Cecilia.
Tuesday we ventured to the office of Social Security Administration, to make them assingn me a number. Social security number is the equivalent of Czech birth registration number and you do not really exist without it.
The government clerk was bored and told us they will not issue a number for me. Then she re-focused somewhere over our heads. Lo, we permitted ourselves to ask her, why not, and she told us (again, gazing somewhere into a distance) that there is a new regulation, and socialsecuritynumber gets issued only with working permits. So we moved on to DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), which is an equivalent of Czech Traffic Inspectorate.
A DMV clerk showed much amazement at social security not having given us a document stating that they would not issue the number to me, because without this document I cannot be issued a driver license, which would make me commit a misdemeanor, for a Czech license is acceptable here only for six weeks and then I am REQUIRED to obtain a California license.
Meanwhile we managed to add me to an account at our bank, and I got an ATM card (in mail), which we activated over the phone.
|Cecilia's back||Cecilia's front in front of the front entrance to our house|
We also managed to buy a second auto. After two days discussing we concluded that
I arranged with Tony (our court car mechanic) to professionally assess that honda. He originally gave us the tip, or rather recommended his buddy/neighbor mechanic. Buddy is from South America, has an unpronouncible name and deals in wrecks. Tony said that honda was OK, and so we were buying it for about two days, which consisted of us coming for the car, waiting a few hours for Tony's buddy, who eventually showed up pulling his hair and cursing idiots at the DMV, and telling us he would have to go there again.
In the end I drove off in a little car that misbehaved on a freeway and insisted to pull to the right. And so I drove it back to complain, buddy assured me that his greatest wish in his life is to make his clients happy, and swapped wheels. I named the little car Cecilia. Since then it behaves, perhaps it just needed some kind hand.
I went again to the DMV and applied for a driver license, just to get denied, but with a document for social security administration, which would make them issue their document stating they would not give me a number. Clerks at the DMV pushed me from one counter to another, until I suddenly stood in a compartment with test papers. I got ready to protest that I won't take any test, as I did not know California driving rules, but they I told myself, why not try it? I won't keep you suspended. I flunked it in answers to questions like, how many feet before an intersection may I enter into a bike lane? How much percentage of alcohol in blood may I have, or what is the maximum speed when crossing railroad tracks? Well, since not passing the test meant only I could get back to my car and keep driving until I decide to have a look at the regulations and within a year coming back to finish the license up, it was not so bad. Only I would need to come back to DMV, which is a hassle.
I also managed to learn how to shop, which was another hard routine. It is important to know, that the first sentence the cashier says is a greeting; the second is a question if I want any cash back (it works with the ATM card, you can get up to $200 in cash with purchase of groceries, which saves you a stop at a cash machine). Third sentence is a question whether I want my stuff packed in paper or plastic bag. These are very important to know, as the cashier may be a black or Hispanic, who's accent seems worse than my mom's English, so I can't tell what she's saying. So I worked through all this (besides having lunches with my husband, one trip to a climbing gym, and some household care), while Sid had been to work.
That's why we wanted to get out on the weekend. We planned to visit ocean side of San Francisco on Saturday, but as we approached SFO, it rained more and more. Eventually we turned south to Half Moon Bay, where we had a great lunch at Italian Mezza Luna (I had a halibut with capari) and since the weather looked worse still, we turned home over the hills. Our house is separated from the ocean by a small mountain range. Going through one switchback turn after another for about an hour, my halibut expressed its opinion, that is, it wanted to see the world outside, too. I tried to keep it behind my teeth for the rest of the trip, eventually succeeding, but it was no small feat. In the midst of this struggle I realized that since it never rains in California, I had left Cecilia's rear windows rolled down, to prevent it from being stuffy (besides not raining, older cars don't get stolen here). Yet now it had rained for several hours and very strongly at that. So now my rear seats had been taken out and brought into our living room to dry, while Cecilia smells like a wet dog. (And since the seats smell worse still, I had spent a one whole day looking for an expired skunk under our carpet, until I figured out whence that smell drifts from.)
Yesterday, that is, on Sunday, we hiked a hill, where a forgotten forest road leads to a pretty spring, and then we visited a redwood grove. Redwoods are similar to sequoias, just huge trees, very pretty, and they have one peculiar property. Their wood does not burn... so you can easily spot a blackened tree, which comfortably keeps on growing. We found many mushrooms and Sid busied himself in the evening by cooking a mushroom/veggie/potato soup (while I fell asleep on our couch... yes, marriage is a wonderful arrangement!!! :)). We obviously managed to not collect any deathcap (there were plenty of them there), as we both enjoyed good health even on the morning after.
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