Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Phone Saga

I tried and continue to try getting a phone at home.
First I called up the local phone company from a friend's office here at work. It is very quickly established that due to my complete lack of credit (due to my existence being "virtually non-existant" on a scale of "non-existant" to "citizen") I would not be able to have a phone set up. But I had checked online, and they seemed quite content online (with the same phone company) to set up a phone line with just my SSN. So I thought I'd go back to the checking online business, and I inform the lady I'm speaking with about this. She asks me where I am in California, and I tell her Bakersfield. She's like, oh wow! I'm in Bakersfield also! What brings you here? And I tell her I'm teaching at the college (perhaps this will help establish my existence?). Oh! She exclaims excitedly, my son has just enrolled there! What do you teach? I teach Geology and Earth Science. Oh, my son would LOVE Geology, I'm sure of it - what's your name again and I'll tell him to enroll in your class. Okaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy...
It continues... My niece goes to Bakersfield College too - but she only takes classes at night due to her schedule, do you teach anything at night? Yes, Earth Science is an evening class. Can I get a phone?
By the end of the super bizarre phone call we were able to determine that:
1) Her family might really like taking my classes and
2) I would not be able to get a phone by phoning until I had a drivers license

So I went online. I ordered up a phone line activation. All went smoothly, I printed off the confirmation, and at the end of the day that I was supposed to have phone action I picked up the line and heard no dial tone. SOOOOOOOPER! So I call, from my neighbour's borrowed cell phone between classes on my busiest day from my office, which is surrounded by construction, and enquire as to why my promised phone line is not working.
They need to see my passport they say. My passport? Could you have mentioned that at ANY point during the process of requesting a phone? Or perhaps before sending me a confirmation that my order was completed successfully when it CLEARLY wasn't. The guy I'm talking to gives me a fax number where I can send a copy of my passport in order to continue with the order. Then he asks if he can interest me in any of their other great services today.

-much needed interruption-

I also tried to get internet set up by this same company. They offer phone services and internet services. Much like Bell/Bell Simpatico in Canada. Could I get internet set up? NO. Why? They needed:
1) a working phone number
2) CA driver's license

And so we continue with the phone conversation. Well, since you can't set up my phone line until I fax you proof of my existence, I don't think that you actually CAN interest me in any of your other great services, CAN you? They guy didn't get it.

Today I faxed my passport over to the phone people and attempted to get back to work - although all I've done today is DMV stuff, faxing, phoning, and now, blogging - absolutely no lecture prep whatsoever... Anyway, I get an e-mail from the secretary at the Dean's office (where I've been doing my phoning and faxing, due to lack of technology in my office as of yet) telling me that they received a phone message from the phone people, and that they want me to call them back. So I trudge on over to the Dean's office again and call back that damn automated phone system AGAIN and after they continue to not understand me, I'm connected to an actual human, and I give my order number, and the situation and that I've been asked to call then back. Did my fax not go through properly? Do they want a blood and urine sample? What? What could they possibly want now?
The lady checks... apparently they were calling to thank for sending the fax and confirm that my order is now complete. Yeesh.

Good Car Karma

After the unbelievable swimming pool hassle and all the warnings I got from everyone in California about the hell that is the DMV, I was terrified of even trying to get car stuff sorted out. I went to AAA first to organize myself and get insurance so that if I die in a car accident on the way to the DMV, at least I won't get arrested for not having insurance.
They inform me that going to the DMV will be an extremely torturous process and I should prepare myself.
I get an appointment for this morning at 9:30am for my written test, fully planning to arrive at 9am and study the book before hand. I also get an appointment for 10:30am to begin the registration process for my Canadian vehicle... I had been informed that I would probably not be able to register it, and that most likely I would have to send it back. I was warned, I was petrified.
So, I arrive at the DMV at 9am on the dot, get in line for the ticket window, explain what I'm there for, I'm told to fill out a form and that I will be called shortly. So the studying plan didn't really fall into place - and I had finished writing the test, done the vision test, had my prints taken and photo taken long before 9:30am happened. Luckily common sense prevailed and I passed the test just fine.
Then I get back in the line for the ticket window for registration this time. I have already filled out the form. I give the lady all my stuff, explain that I don't have a smog because I have a diesel, turns out the next car she wants to buy is a diesel because they're cleaner and more efficient... I explain that in Canada our registration is also our title. she does this and that, makes me sign this, types here and there, flips through this book and that, and asks me to pull the car around to the car port on the back of the building. So I do, she asks me what brings me to Bakersfield, checks out my car, fills out more forms and tells me to meet her back inside at her window. So I do. She tells me my registration will be $165. Oh, I say, I pay already even though my registration isn't complete? It's almost complete she tells me, I just need to give you your new plates and stickers. What? I don't need to fill out more forms? I don't need to go to San Diego to do more government stuff? No - here's a screwdriver, you need to bring me your old plates. So we do the plate trade, and she keeps my old crap and suddenly, 15 minutes later my car is registered.
When I get into school I tell my registration story, and evidently the service I received is unheard of. Oh did I mention? This lady also booked my driving test for me. It was easier than getting into the pool.

Going Swimming

I wanted to be able to swim at lunch time some days in the beautiful Olympic sized outdoor pool we have here on campus. I enquired at the phys ed center. The secretary looked at me like I was insane and why on EARTH would I think that SHE could POSSIBLY help me with that. I am confused... After all, am I not at the phys ed center? Is the pool not directly behind me? I can see the glorious sparkling waters beckoning to me, taunting me, as I speak to this useless woman. The best I can get from her is that I need a pink piece of paper from Human Resources (also signed by HR) that I then fill out and bring to the business office. What on Earth? I do this, and then ask the business person if I can get into the pool. She says that this pink form doesn't allow me access to the pool, I will have to contact the phys ed people about getting into a swim class. HUH?????
I go another route - I e-mail the pool manager directly (her office is accesible only from the pool, so if you can't actually get ONTO the pool deck, you can't actually talk to her) and explain that I would like to be able to swim in our beautiful Olympic sized swimming pool some days at lunch time, and what's the deal with what I've been told? She apologizes that the phys ed people weren't more helpful and tells me to come by at 10:30 the following morning and she will sign the appropriate forms and give me a locker. GREAT! So I go and find her (this was not without more unpleasant encounters with phys ed secretary lady from hell, but we don't need to get into that), so I now have 2 more forms, both signed by the pool manager, both I have to fill out and then bring to Admissions and Records to get signed. So I head on over to A&R, where I have gone several times because an ANGEL works there who has been helping me from day one get things sorted out - she is THE most helpful person that might exist on the planet. So, here I go to beg assistance again. She checks over the forms, forges the approprite additional required signatures in the appropriate places so I don't have to run around more, and informs me that I am supposed to fill out an online form as well. MORE FORMS???????? I exclaim much too loudly, aghast at how freaking impossible it is to get into the pool here. She says not to worry, she won't make me go through the horrid computer system, just fill out this bubble form and bring it to window 1 and we'll scan it through and get you in immediately. Besides that it took me probably 20min to fill in all those bubbles (and I still did some of it wrong), she was right, and the next day I was swimming.

Bank Account Joys

It took me 2 hours of sitting around in the bank and saying the same thing over and over again to get a bank account. Here's the problem: when you arrive in the USA after not having lived there before it's like you never existed. It's like you were just born - that's how much credit you have. Except that you have less credit than that because you were just born an adult with no parents or family or history or anything. Luckily I had the foresight to carry with me massive money orders with all the money I could borrow against my Canadian investments, between the "I have money to put IN the bank" arguement and my wiley charms I was able to get a bank account despite the following:
-no american ID
-no proof of my address
-no valid SSN card ('cause after all I had only just been assigned a number, I didn't have it printed on a "fancy" wallet sized "card")
-no phone number
Thanks to Senor Bank Guy* at Bankopolis* I got sorted out so that I could do other things, like get a drivers lisence, auto insurance, and a phone...

*names of people and places have been changed to protect their identity, in case you couldn't figure that out, or actually believed I would open an account with a bank called Bankopolis - I'd sooner open one called Tomato Bank that is represented by dancing tomatoes...

Social Security

The very first thing I had to do when I arrived in CA was get a SSN. Naively I thought that the Social Security office would be some suite in some government office building. I was wrong. I was extremely wrong. The social security office is a big ol' building unto itself filled with immigrant families and divorcees and punk children all needing something immediately and none having any of the right documentation. Then there's me, I have all my paperwork, what I need is to be assigned a number. So I wait in the line, see the guy at the window and he says "this stamp says you're a tourist" while looking at my passport. Those of you who know me will also know that my passport has several stamps in it from being a tourist - say for example from Italy and Germany, not to mention the SW USA trip I went on not too long ago - or any of the regattas I went to that were in the US. There is also the stamp I received when I went down to CA for my interview. NONE of these stamps are from a date anywhere NEAR the date that I received my work Visa. So I say, "that's not the right stamp that you're looking at, it's this one" and I point to the one that has the same date as the stamp on the card I got at customs that IS my Visa. The guy points to one of the other stamps "this stamp classifies you as a tourist, SEE? It says "class B-2" on it, that means you're a tourist". I point out again that he is still looking at a stamp with a different MONTH AND YEAR from the one we are currently in, and thus is not the stamp that corresponds to my work visa. He's not getting it. Eventually I get told to sit down and wait again and then I am sent to a different window. Luckily the girl at this window is WAY more on top of things, looks at the right stamp, the CURRENT one, types some stuff in her computer and tells me that my card should arrive in the mail in less than 2 weeks. See how easy it could've been?

Things in my office...

Here are three interesting items that I unearthed in my office at school. Those are rat fetuses... rat fetii? And in the paper bag is a mummified arm. Yes, a mummified arm. The pork brains more or less explain themselves - to the extent that pork brains can be explained. The can has puffed up due to it's age and the inevitable kabillions of bacteria that are just DYING to escape when someone braves opening it.

The dirty, broken, ugly teal recliner

Of course Kiki has taken to this chair immediately. He'll be in for a shocker this weekend when I put it in the trash. It's been over a week since I contacted the movers/guy who owns the chair, and they still have not called me back (on my neighbour's phone, since I don't have one still). So I can only assume that the guy received my missing box with my hammer and screwdriver in it, and has decided that was a better deal than his chair and he doesn't want to trade back.

My spare room/office/studio

This is the room that the moving van threw up in. Until I figure out storage, furniture, whatever... the floor will remained covered in stuff that I can't put away because I don't have anything to put it away into.

My bedroom

and my neato showercurtain, which isn't in my bedroom, but rather my bathroom...

My livingroom

This is the most live-able of the "disaster" rooms. Mostly it's just lacking furniture. But note my exciting corduroy ottoman!

My Kitchen

Here's a few shots of my kitchen as it is currently... yes, that is a double sink. Yes, that is a dishwasher. Yes, that is a patio off my kitchen. Tee hee!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Part 6: to Bakersfield, California HOME! (Friday, Aug. 12)

Finally, the last day of our nearly 5000km drive (4800km, then if you count coming to LA for the weekend, it's a good solid 5000km) arrived. I suggested getting the hell out of Baker ASAP and eating breakfast in Barstow, which is a real city. We ran out of gas (well, diesel actually) not 10 miles from Barstow and had to put a couple bucks worth at some place that had a Mobil with diesel right before Yermo. I like the name Yermo, it's fun to say. We had a delicious buffet breakfast at the flying J in Barstow, fueled up the car, and began the last 3 hr trek to Bakersfield. At Mojave my bladder was about to explode and the hills were alive with scads of windmills. While I took a pee break, mom took photos.
Suddenly we were in Bakersfield, home! We found the apartment with little difficulty, met the manager who had been so helpful in organizing everything long distance, she's great! Signed the lease, and "moved in". Well, I moved in the stuff that was in my car anyway... not much. Kiki defended his new territory from some grey furry cat, and although he was furry with all claws and Kiki is naked with no claws, all it took was some weird warning meows from Kiki on my front step for grey kitty, who has been master of this apartment complex for 7 years, to step down. It was pretty funny to watch. Things are nearly settled, I should get a social security number Monday or Tuesday, then I can get a bank account, then I can pay the movers, then I can get my stuff...

Part 5: to Baker, California (Thursday, Aug. 11)

This was a long, long, long day. The day started by getting unto Utah and taking a small detour to go visit the infamous town of Cisco, from whence the Cisco Kid originates. I had been there once before and distinctly recalled it being a ghost town, a ghost town that I desperately wanted to explore. There was one resident as far as we could ascertain, and s/he ran the convenient store (which contained a random assortment of animal carcasses and chocolate bars covered with a layer of dust). There was an outhouse with no roof, and lots of ruined ghost-town type huts and trailers that I desperately wanted to investigate and photograph. My opportunity arose! See section below for that... By the way, the outhouse was "out of order" this time around - how is that possible?
Following Cisco we had lots more Utah to drive through (note the spelling of Utah on the Cisco sign in the section below), sadly cursing the lack of time to leisurely hike through all the national parks, but I insisted that my mom see Bryce Canyon - it wasn't THAT much of a detour... Until we had to backtrack that is... Ah well, Bryce National Park is amazing, we went to Fairyland Canyon, where you don't have to actually enter the Park and pay the (fairly pricey) entrance fee.
Our plan was to make it past Vegas ('cause I informed mom that we definitely did not want to stay there) for the night. We got to Vegas, it was getting late, we had to stop. Alas, the hideousness, loudness, smell and sketchiness drove us away and after an icky pee stop, we continued on to Jean. Jean is the next city on the I15 in Nevada, and as it turns out, it is mini-Vegas, only with fewer options of places for people to stay. Clearly I had forgotten that these places are NOT FOR SLEEPING! You stay awake gambling or you nap at your slot machine, what need would there be for a roadside motel? We continued on to Primm... Primm was also mini-Vegas, but is was also bordering California, so we knew that not too far ahead there would be some town with a motel for us. There was. 60 miles away. That town is called Baker and it sucks. It was like 10 million degrees there due to all the neon lights and trucks sitting on tarmac with engines running full blast with air conditioning. We found a motel "Bun Boy" (sadly, I forgot to take a photo) and a place to eat "The Crazy Greek". The motel didn't take "pet's" so we plead ignorance and snuck Kiki in. I took no photos of this place, except Kiki in road-kill position on the tile floor to escape the heat. It was horrendously overpriced...

Cisco, Utah

We stopped at Cisco, which, unlike many other ghost towns, is not marked as a ghost town on the map. To my great surprise, while the town still appeared dead, there was an amazing amount of traffic passing through. Where could all these people be going??? They all seemed to know convenience store lady, waving their hellos as they drove by. Great convoys of vehicles passed through, I nearly got in an accident and Kiki nearly got run over because these cars just came out of nowhere! Anyway, I took lots of photos at Cisco, pop. 6, where there is a resident pet crow named Pretty Boy - photos coming as soon as I connect my own computer to the internet...

Part 4: to Glendale Springs, Colorado (Wednesday, Aug. 10)

We took a scenic route today to see Chimney Rock (one of many, this one in Nebraska) after starting our day with the most delicious cappuccinos from the coffee house near the Super 8. The coffee house was run by two older ladies; the one serving us called us "gals", it was too perfect. Anyway, along this scenic route we got to see small town USA instead of the standard no town USA we'd been seeing on the highways. I mean freeways. We turned off the freeway at Ogallala, driving past "lazy J liquor" to get to the country road. The first little town we passed was called Lewellen, it advertised being "a little town with a big heart". The school in Lewellen is located on School St. It had a big water slide-type chute coming out of the back of it, presumably a fire escape. As we were leaving Lewellen, seconds after we entered it, we found traffic slowing - can you imagine what it was held up by? Did you guess farm equipment? That's what I guessed, and then as we approached the farm auger-tractor thing we see that the guy who's driving it is... pause for dramatic effect... TALKING ON A CELL PHONE!!!
Ok, done with that. At this point I am starving (as I usually am around lunch time) and I declare that one of these towns MUST have a cafe, and as soon as I find one, we're stopping at it. In Osh Kosh (I am not making up these town names) there was the S&S cafe. It was located nearby to a motel with a sign that read "bikers welcome". The special was chicken fried steak and the cafe was filled with delicious looking freshly baked pies and cinnamon rolls. We knew it must be a good choice.
From there we continued on the road, driving through another small town called Broadwater. As we drove through I said "oh my god" about 15 times and not 5 minutes down the road I had to pull a U-y and go back for photos. Please see next section for those...
Getting back to the freeway we had to wait for a train wiht 129 compartments (I counted them and was feeling quite dizzy afterward) to pass, going less than 50mph, and when it finally was gone we saw on the other side of the tracks these giant egg things in these giant egg catapult things. I have no idea what they are, but there's a photo if you care to hazard a guess. We finished our day at a lovely little (expensive) motel in the mountains. We snuck Kiki in.

Broadwater, Nebraska

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Part 3: to York, Nebraska (Tuesday, Aug. 9)

Due to the time change, I woke up alert and ready to get going by 6:30am - so I had a long shower and tried to be patient and quiet while my mom slept... We were still on the road early, and our plan was to stop at one of the many travel plazas hosting Starbucks that we had seen the previous day in order to caffeinate ourselves. Of course, as luck would have it, we didn't pass by anything that remotely resembled a place that would have coffee until about 4pm, and that was something that called itself "Little Red Espresso Hut", the sign was immediately before the exit for it, which was under construction, and we missed it. No major weather this drive, only many, many cornfields and caffeine headaches - or rather, lack of caffeine headaches...
We stopped in York, a small sleepy prairie town marked by a rainbow coloured hot air balloon structure. We're staying at a Super 8 again, but they forgot to charge us the pet fee tonight (woohoo!), had dinner at a sleepy country diner and I couldn't resist the "apple dumpling" dessert, even though I certainly didn't need it at all. It was amazing! Coming out of this diner with the soft 50's diner music playing in the background, where everything took place in slow motion except the devouring of my dinner, here came this whole tart apple baked inside it's own flakey pie crust, served with cinnamon sauce and vanilla ice crea. Miles, you would've loved it!!! And by "it", what I mean is the whole package of atmosphere and apple-y goodness.
To top it all off, I was just about finished up eating when a "woman" walked in. Or should I say waddled? Yes, it was definitely waddling... Ok, so I'll start at the feet: bare foor in yellow leather loafers, no ankles, knees lost in a sea of fleahy thigh fat, too short shorts... XXL T-shirt snugly hugging a spherical sagging bugunt - that's a word I just made up to encompass bust, gut, and you know what... In one hand, a gallon-sized travel mug. Giant 80's style glasses, mullet. I could barely look away! Oh how I cursed myself for not bringing my camera! Not that I could've been discrete - but oh! It was hideous!!!
One final note, there is an adorable little coffee house near the Super 8. It is literally a little house!!!

Part 2: to South Bend, Indiana (Monday, Aug. 8)

After breakfast, we meandered our way through construction and detours to the Rainbow Bridge so that I could get my TN Visa and we could get en route through the grand ol' U.S. of A. Let me just say that I was distinctly recalling the million foot high sign descriptions of Liam's from our rowing excursion to Orlando a few years back... Why are those billboards so darn huge anyway? And why are all the signs for every amenity on such tall poles?
We hit up the worst rain/hail storm during the drive by Cleveland too - oh wow! I had to pull over for a while due to not being able to see anything at all.
Anyway, the customs guy was awesome, and the whole procedure went quite smoothly, he looked over my stuff, asked how I found out about the job, told me that I'll love it there, that it's a geologist's paradise, what I should do when crossing the border in the future (i.e. xmas). That if I want to renew my Visa, I should just pretend like I've never had one before, told me how to go about bringing my car across... etc. etc. I was not expecting such treatment, that's for sure! Let alone advice and tips and tricks!!! Kiki was amazingly well behaved on the trip - on the road for close to 9hrs, and virtually no meows, mostly just quiet sleeping! No accidents!!!

The trip: Part 1: to Dawn's parents' B&B (Sunday, Aug. 7)

Well Kiki was right at home at our first stop - Ridley Gate Manor. He had a kitty's dream garden of wonders to roam, with delicious pots of catnip to munch... He was also spoiled rotten with treats, love, pets, and attention from Peter, Sean and Jen Kellett - lucky Kiki! Befor departure we were of course treated to the most luxurious of breakfasts: eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast, coffee, fruit, yogurt, muffins, fresh tomatoes and basil and all good things! It was a firm beginning to the day. Mmmmmm!