That's a box I had to tick to describe myself at the Social Security Office today. Legal alien with working status. It has a nice ring to it, yes?
So why was I there? Now that I have a work permit, it's time to apply for a US social security number (SSN). I've been here over a year, without a social security number. No drama, really, except for two things:
1. Every organisation and their dog inisists that they need your SSN for every single form you fill out, when in fact (I'm told) it's not a legal requirement - but so many Americans seem bogged down by their love of - and need for - bureaucracy that they can't accept it's possible to exist without a SSN.
2. The Social Security Office will not just hand out SSNs to anyone. You need to either be a citizen, or have legal working status, which I recently received.
So on this fine hot morning, I found myself at the Social Security Office in Burbank.
I walked in with Miss Pie, and was directed by Mr Security Guard to take a number and fill out a form. He complimented me on my wedding ring, which I thought was a little odd.
My number was A36, and the number on the screen was A34. Sweet! Won't be a long wait.
I sat down and completed the form. At this point Mr Security Guard approached me, and began talking about how he'd spent time in the Australian Outback, training with the Australian Army, "Those guys are crazy - they have a real death wish!"
Being the polite person that I am, I listened as he continued, "And your beer. Fosters? Such big cans - I drank it. It's strong!" He spoke about what a great time he had, and how he thought Australians were the friendliest people - so, of course I was going to be polite and and conversationalist for a minute or two.
Then as Mr Security walked back to his desk, I heard "A37", and I looked up at the TV screen to see A36 change to A37. Crap.
I began to call out to the available window, just as Mr and Mrs A37 took a seat at that window.
From across the room, Mr Security's voice rang out: "Ma'am, these numbers are not called out in unison. Please take a seat."
I explained that I was pretty sure I'd just seen my number momentarily on the screen, and he wanted to see my ticket to check the number. Then he said, "Well, you'll need to wait until another window is free, then ask them if they called your number already. This is why you need to listen carefully."
Um... WTF, dude? I wasn't listening 'carefully' because you were in my face talking about good times in Australia, and I was being a polite listener.
I sat down in disbelief, and waited for a window to become free. When it did, Mr Security walked over and I heard him enquire about my number. Then I heard the staff member reply that they'd called out A36, three times.
Mr Security strolled over and informed me that, yes, my number had been called out - and I interjected, "Which I didn't hear because you were talking to me."
He replied "Yes, ma'am, my bad I'm afraid, but you'll need to take another number and wait again. I'm sorry, ma'am."
It took all of my resolve NOT to open a can of whop-arse right there and then. If anyone has ever had to wait at such places, with bored toddlers wanting to run amuck, they'll understand how badly I wanted to scream.
However, Mr Security was also Mr Ex-Military (I'm guessing - why else would he be hanging out with the Australian Army?). Opening a can of whop-arse wasn't really an option, even if he did seem to have a soft spot for women with Aussie accents.
So I sighed - heavily - and took another number.