December 16, 2014 – the date it dawned on me that five kids was somehow getting ever more expensive, what with them suddenly listing electronics and college education fees on their Christmas lists instead of Barbies or Bionicles. It suddenly felt urgent that I find a job. Not a babysitting gig, either – rather, a real, paycheck-inducing, button-your-bra, work-till-you’re-raw kind of job.
But I’d been home with kids for fifteen years, and my skill-set had not improved much above changing diapers and rinsing dishes. My one viable career – teaching – formally ended back when people were panicking over Y2K.
Still, teaching was the only career-ish entry on my one paragraph, twenty-year old resume when I typed it up. So it seemed the logical place to try to break back into the fray.
Before I could even apply for a job, though, I needed to update my teaching certificate for Washington State.
After perusing the http://www.k12.wa.us website the process seemed straightforward: fill out the online form; pay the fee, then TA DA – I could legally apply for a substitute teaching job! Go Me!
Towards the beginning of January, 2015, I dutifully filled out the online form, typing out the names of past references long since retired or actually dead. Laboriously I searched through old paper records, retrieving forgotten addresses from far-away places, land-line phone numbers historically obsolete, even as a feeling of futility washed over me, as if my mere vital statistics were so ancient as to make me unemployable. Finally, ten or so pages later, I gave them my credit card number and hit submit.
UNKNOWN ERROR popped onto the screen immediately. PLEASE SUBMIT AGAIN it read.
My husband, a computer professional, tried to resubmit the completed application while I panicked and wailed like a colicky babe. Unknown Error reappeared. We rebooted. All my personal information was gone. Every line of every page was blank. OMG! Damon inserted his French horn custom-made ear plugs while I wailed in despair. Dutifully he logged a terse yet polite help ticket to tech support. He then implored me to calm down, go take a tub, the world was not ending. We would wait until tech support returned our call.
A week passed. No call.
Ten days later Damon relented and called tech support’s phone number. A recording informed him that “the eCERT team is currently answering messages from January 4”; they would follow up with us when they got to our ticket. The current date on the calendar – February 2.
In early MARCH we received a call back, wherein Damon politely explained my problem (which was now his problem as I was unfit to speak on the phone). Their reply was (I’ll paraphrase): oh no, sorry about that, simply redo everything and try again. Miracles happen!
So Damon painstakingly redid the entire ten-page application, while I snarled and spat vulgar obscenities into the nether regions of our home. At last he hit submit and glory, glory hallelujah – ‘thank you for your submission’ appeared on the screen.
Fast-forward nine months and I’m an elementary school teacher! All is excellent. I’m well paid, I love my students. The only issue is I can’t seem to pass the new teacher-combat training course that’s required in order to receive my Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S, which legally I’m supposed to carry on my person at all times while teaching.
April 3, 2015 – the date I received a letter from eCERT informing me that my application for license renewal could not be processed because I’d failed to send in fingerprints along with the online application/credit card info.
Oh.My.Word. If you’ve ever visited Little Red before, you’re fully aware of my computer ineptitude AND my dismal report card on dealing with people in stressful situations. But, you must know….NOWHERE ON THE FORM WAS THERE A REQUEST TO SEND IN FINGERPRINTS. It wasn’t that I overlooked it, or just blatantly ignored that step…the REQUEST WAS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND ON ANY OF THE TEN PAGES.
While I puttered in circles, speechless, Damon dove into ‘save-Kristine-from-meltdown’ action mode. Quickly he looked up office hours/directions. We could simply drive down to Olympia the following week for fingerprints at the state office. Spring Break was beginning, we were conveniently heading to Ocean Shores, “It’ll just be a quick stop. Soon this debacle will be behind us. Breathe, darling,” he crooned, pouring gin directly down my gullet as if I were a badly injured baby bird.
During the long drive to Olympia I privately stewed. Why? Why was every single thing one tried to do so much harder, longer, more difficult than it needed to be? The entire ‘get a job’ process seemed wrapped in red tape, and I found the process of ripping off piece by tiny piece exhausting, expensive, demoralizing.
At the District Office I turned to Damon and all the children lining the car’s backseat to proclaim in lofty tones that for the record I was morally opposed to beginning (or ending) any vacation by having my fingerprints taken. Then, my chin still high in the air, I stumbled out the car into my future, slamming the door behind me.
Inside the building, disaster brewed. I could smell it thick in the air. All was eerily quiet and clean, there was no line to wait in, and the lady who took my check was smiley and nice. Hell awaiteth me, this I knew.
Almost immediately a pleasantly plump, middle-aged woman named Pamela called me back to her cubicle to take my fingerprints. As soon as she grabbed my hand and splayed it across the electronic inkpad we were on our way. Her face grew cloudier by the second. Rolling my fingers firmly side-to-side, the computer insistently flashed one word over and over – INVALID.
After five or ten minutes of stone-silent, awkward hand manipulation, I said, “What’s the problem? Are my hands deficient or something, ha ha…” Pamela said nothing, merely concentrated harder on squishing my fingers around the inkpad. Finally I blurted out, “Is there some way I could make this easier for you?” (That’s honestly what I said, because she looked like a rain cloud about to burst at this point).
She sighed. “It’s just that your fingers are extremely sub-par.”
“What does that even mean?”
“It means your deltas are missing! I’m probably going to have to send you to the state police to let them try.”
Angrily now she rolled my deviant fingertips a few more times back and forth for good measure before giving up for good.
“You’ll have to go to the state police right now,” she commanded.
I walked back to the car feeling a lot like Charlie Brown after a run-in with Lucy.
I informed my still-silent crew that my delta’s were missing and that it was now urgent that we drive straight to the state police! Boy were their eyes big. Damon took the news as if it were ordinary fare – mere everyday minutiae – punching in the state police headquarters to his Waze map app happily enough. I sat rigid, riddled with irritation, so incensed I felt lightening bolts coming out my head. It seemed even my fingerprints had decided they’d have better luck hanging around somewhere else.
At the state police I was led to a back room by another friendly woman – Thuy. I told her my plight, how my delta’s had deserted me in my hour of need, that the last time I had had my fingerprints taken, twenty years previously, they had discovered I had two licenses issued under one name from two different states. Theoretically I was already on the FBI’s ‘known to us’ list, and this snafu probably wasn’t going to help matters. Thuy laughed. She placed my big, pudgy fingers onto their black inkpad, saying, “No worry. We find them! No worry!”
Almost immediately the computer flashed to life and began to speak aloud into the room. “Invalid Response!” it quavered in one of those creepy, synthetic voices. “Unreadable! Unreadable!” Thuy’s sweet little laugh quickly disappeared as she rolled my fingertips first one way then the other. “No good!” she finally sighed, shaming my poor fingers once again.
“What do I do now?”
Thuy handed me my doomed fingerprint card. “Send these in. FBI will reject, mail back to you. Send again, second time. FBI will reject again. Send back third time. Now they study records then say, “Ok! You pass!” Here she smiled and patted my hand as if for good luck.
As I prepared to leave it seemed obvious I’d missed my true calling. To think I could have been a well-paid spy this whole time instead of staying home washing dishes. I probably wouldn’t have any children, true, but think how much better I’d be at going through airport security! I’d have nicer hair, wear make up all the time, maybe my bladder would function properly once again! Surely I’d have seen more of the world and wouldn’t find myself falling asleep at 7 pm every night if I were out conducting espionage. Ugh…if only I had paid more attention in German class!
April 12, 2015 – the date my fingerprints were taken and mailed in to the FBI. As of today – December 17, 2015, I’ve not received even a FIRST rejection. What if I NEEDED this job? What if all the regular teachers had been shot in combat training and school shootings and they needed credentialed substitute teachers to take their place?
December 14, 2012 – the date a young man walked into a local elementary school with three guns on his person and shot 26 people dead within eleven minutes. Twenty of them were children. Since that atrocity roughly 82,033 people have been killed by guns here in the United States.
And our collective response as a nation has been…nothing. UNREADABLE. SUBPAR. INVALID.
We’ve not voted out of congress any and all representatives who veto sane and decent gun legislation.
We’ve not boycotted all movies, video games, and cultural events that glorify and normalize violence.
We’ve not tightened regulations to ensure that it’s a frustratingly long, arduous, ten-page with references, online struggle for people to register to buy guns.
We’ve not marched en masse through the streets to ban assault weapons with high capacity magazines.
What we’ve done is prayed, and wept, and wrung our hands – which, frankly, is an INVALID RESPONSE!
As a nation we have in fact made it easier to buy guns since 2012. We’ve made more of our public spaces lawful to carry guns into. We’ve got companies popping up selling ‘armor’ our children can wear to school while we sit home, heeding nifty little videos on facebook or youtube titled, ‘Active Shooter Scenario – How to Survive’.
Talk about subpar.
Guns in this day and age are asinine, and we all need to start saying that, loud and clear. Men walking around brandishing weapons on the off-chance they’ll ‘protect’ you or me by annihilating some ‘bad guy’ is not bravery – it’s bedlam. Brandishing weapons that can shoot round after round of bullets in mere seconds – that’s the opposite of what the word bravery means, that’s butchery and COWARDICE. And we – WE – the people, waiting day after day for some miraculous answer – need to start shaming gun owners into admitting their bravado, feeling it in public, in the media, in person down to the tips of their toes. There’s no bravery in walking around with a weapon. The bravest men in all of history are not those who brandished handguns or AK-47’s – they’re those that relied on reason and integrity, wit and intellect, perhaps most importantly of all – PATIENCE – to get themselves and others out of harms’ way. They’re not those that in the first seconds of adrenaline, fear, or passion blow someone else away with the push of a finger.
Regardless of my personal gun beliefs, most men like, want, even covet guns. Somehow they feel safer with one on their person, or in their home or car, even if statistically this means they or their loved ones are astronomically more likely to actually be shot. And I’m not certain of much but this one thing: little, delta-less me is not ever going to convince my fellow countrymen of the greater good in giving up their beloved weapons of mass destruction.
So – let’s not take away the guns. Instead, let’s dream a little dream wherein we simply take away the bullets. Make ammunition illegal to bring into this country, have on your person, buy in the store. Make carrying unlicensed bullets a heavily punishable offense. At the same time, issue every gun owner ONE bullet. This licensed, identity-coded bullet would be loadable in THEIR gun with THEIR fingerprint, just the same way you utilize your fingerprint now to enter your car or become a teacher. Then, let our countrymen walk around all day with guns ready. Fire away, sir, if you’re pissed at your boss or coworker! Go get ‘em, cowboy, when you’re mad at the little lady! Fed up with Obama and all his socialist policies – wave that gun in the air and shoot it like you don’t care! You’ve got ONE shot, my friend…make it count!
Oh, there will still be gun violence alright. Even death. But not very much of it, because after those men fire their one, personalized bullet, if they’re still mad and wanting to fire more shots, guess what? They’ll have to FIND said bullet and reuse it. Dig it out of the body they just shot dead, even.
And therein lies the beauty of this reverie: Because we all know men can’t find shit. And a wee, little bullet? Just picture it – men wandering the neighborhood for days, months even, whining to their sweeties – “Please, Eleanor, help me find my bullet! I’ll be nicer, I swear!”
December 17, 2015 – just another day, wherein we can read more tragic headlines, pray ad infinitum, receive emails and phone calls from our kids’ school informing us that our innocent babes are enduring yet another bomb threat or school lockdown. But let us agree that on this day, this horrifying state we’re in is by no means an Unknown Error that we, the people, can do nothing about.
Stop supporting gun culture and any and all entertainment that glorifies violence.
Stop using the 2nd Amendment as a cover for sane, legislative action, unless you’re carrying around a musket as a documented member of a well-regulated, yes – I said it, red-taped – militia.
Stop defending gun ownership. Be loud and proud in vocalizing weapon intolerance!
Then, if you want to dream a bit…remind everyone to go ahead and keep what they value most – their guns. But for humanity’s sake, let’s legislate the hell out of bullets. Let’s wrap those shiny suckers in so much red tape that they’re damned near unusable.
And just for good measure, let’s legislate that every person that wants to buy a gun must first get an eCERT and FBI clearance. That should slow things way down for awhile.
Let’s make this a country where EVERY SINGLE PERSON is finger-print reliant, not just me.
Because a girl can dream, right?