Friday, August 01, 2008

Living the American 'Dream'

I've often asked people who moved to the US why they like it so much. Some people confessed that they actually didn't. But most told me that life is 'convenient'. For someone who has always had groceries delivered to the door, people around to help with every difficult thing and impromptu trips home every month, I was intrigued.

I was never a stranger to this country. I was familiar with most American terms and the general life here so I definitely knew what I was in for. However, trying to move your entire life here is quite painful. To say the least.

My travails started when I landed with a dependent visa. As per the rules here spouses of some legally employed aliens (SOSLEA) are not allowed to work. Or study. Luckily for us, we were in a special situation which would get us work authorization documents in 90 days. So I set out getting my life back in order.

I applied for jobs the day after I landed, my head still groggy from jet lag. After very carefully timed interviews, i got a fantastic job on day 91. Today is day 106. No documents yet. I have the job but can't work.

To do anything here, you need to drive. So the license. To get a license you have to get a learning permit. To get the learning permit you need a Social Security Number. The hitch? Social Security Number is not given to SOSLEA. Hmm. There is an escape route- we can go to the Social Security Office and tell them we are not eligible and ask them for a reject letter which is also accepted in lieu of the number itself.

So I went, armed with everything from wedding invitations, certificates and pictures. The sweet lady at the SSN office, considering my special situation, actually decided to give me an SSN. Yeah, that means she actually rejected my request for a reject letter. (How unlucky can you get?) Getting the SSN approved wasn't a great thing since it had in big bold letters, 'Not Valid for Employment' plus I had to wait for two whole weeks for it to arrive. Which means reading that Driver's manual again till I had Stop signs for eyes.

The path to the learning permit wasn't rosy yet. I had to get a medical test done. So depending on your medical history you have a few million tests like reflex, temperature, Blood Pressure, Urine, Breathing rate, etc. Then one fine day my sun shone bright and I got the learner's permit.

I used my Social Security number and got a bank account opened. Hurrah! I was jumping around in little circles. But hold on, no credit card as yet. Apparently you need a good credit history here to get a credit card. And that credit history is built up by, no kidding, paying credit card bills. In the hope that paying electric bills on time would help, I called up the electric company today to start an account in our new place. No prizes of guessing. I apparently can't start one that easily as I don't have the credit history. Awesome. So that's the current scene. I have no bills to pay on time because i can't get a credit card or an electricity account. And I can't get those because I have no bills paid on time.

Do me a favour please. If any of you come across the 100 odd people who called me everyday in Mumbai offering free credit cards let them know how much I miss them.

Disclaimer: I do like the country and it's people, the opportunities, the places and Food network. Sometimes I just wish they would be easier on us, the ones who came off the boat a little later.