Curse of the Renegade "H"
Still working on redrafting the storyboard for "The Peithosian Gift". It looks like, three quarters of the way through working out how many new scenes I have to write and how many of the existing scenes I have to re-order and substantially edit, most of the first draft of the next book will have to be re-written taking into account the first round of editorial comment. So far only two scenes of several dozen do not require a point-of-view character change. I definitely won't meet my next deadline.
Notwithstanding how daunting the task of the second substantive draft is, I have been feeling wonderfully inspired. I want to write a short story about stones as an allegory for people's emotions. These geological beasts are (for the purposes of my story) actually soft creatures that only harden when people touch them. I have an image in my head of a group of stones in a group therapy circle complaining about how stressed they are because their human owners are far too tactile for their liking. Strange how ideas for stories pop into my head when I am procrastinating about the major story that is my main project at the moment.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that has happened to me in the last few days which I swear is true is a personal experience on bureaucracy gone mad. One that I have to share because I have found it so funny though most of my friends and family to whom I have told cannot believe I have not been frustrated by it. I have well and truly mastered Zen to have laughed it off.
I wandered into the post office on Tuesday morning to submit an application to renew my passport for travelling. Not planning anything major in the next few months, only want to be ready should I decide to do what my boss would like me to do - which is to hop on a plane and phone him the next day from wherever I happen to find myself. (Attempts at travel for me have been a bit of an epic fail the last few years to the point where I no longer attempt to plan them.)
I carried with me all of the usual identity documents - birth certificate, Driver's license, Medicare card, and current passport - which the lady behind the counter scrutinized for several minutes. I could tell immediately I would have to do something I have spent far too much time doing over the last 25+ years every time anyone has needed to look at documents that prove who I am.
The counter lady then said, "your current passport has a different spelling of your first name to the rest of your identity documents. Are you Cristina or Christina?" "I am Cristina without a 'h' - that's my legal name, that's what is on my birth certificate."
"I can't process your application."
"It's because of the renegade 'h" isn't it?" I lamented. "My first ever boss added that letter to my name because he didn't listen to me when I spelled my name to him and that misspelling somehow found its way to my first official passport. Surely you can overlook that one document out of the many I have given you with my actual legal name correctly spelt and accept my renewal application."
"Your current passport is the most important document."
"More important than my birth certificate?"
"Even though the spelling in the passport is wrong?"
"What will I have to do to get you to accept my application?"
"You will have to go to the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages and submit a form to change your name to get a piece of paper that has Cristina without a 'h' and bring that back to me."
"You are asking me to go and pay to change my legal name to my actual legal name?"
Perhaps because I have had so many similar conversations in the past with officials explaining the misspelling, the curse of the renegade 'h', I decided it was not worth arguing the point. So I headed across to another bureaucracy to change my legal name to my actual legal name. A few hours later, armed with signed application and a bank cheque to cover the cost of officially changing my name, I lined up in a queue to get to a point where I could then take a number to wait in another queue to have my identity documents certified so that I could then submit my application another day (because the Office does not accept name change applications after midday). I have chosen to arrange a cheque with an extra $110 paid so that my application can be 'priority' processed within five working days - it will otherwise take at least 72 days for them to surgically remove the 'h'.
When I reached the point in the first queue where a lovely lady could help me decide what number to take, she said - "you'll have to wait another hour and a half to get your identity documents certified or you can go to a police station and they'll certify for you provided you are who you say you are." It is at this point I wondered if either institution would accept me changing my middle name to something completely random like "El Guapo" even if I have not a single scrap of paper with that name on it. Best not to risk anything even remotely challenging. It is also at this point, I noticed that one of the queues in the Office is for those people seeking to "change the documents sent by the Office with incorrect spellings". I worry for a moment that I will send in my name change application and get a certificate with the letter 'h' somehow finding its way back into my name. Because there was a whole category of people waiting to get documents already sent corrected.
I decided to chance the police station, pondering the prospect that they might find the fact that one of my identity documents had the letter 'h' in it a tad confusing though certain it is not an arresting offence. I walked to the nearest police station. Emblazoned in bold capitals on the bullet proof glass was a sign that the station would only certify documents before 9am and after 5pm on any given day. Outside of office hours. On this deliciously warm summer's day, I laughed out loud thinking that most police stations are usually busiest outside of office hours - night time is when the crazies come out...I doubted I would find any officer in a good head space to sign documents for me, or to have any patience to hear my explanation about why I am changing my name to my actual legal name.
I decided to head back to the Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages ready to stand in another queue for the rest of the afternoon. By the time I returned, the earlier queue had miraculously vanished and a different lady at the handing out numbers station offered to certify the documents right then and there. She hand wrote her certification statement on every document I gave to her (10 in total) lamenting that she needed a stamp for this task (I concurred). She also told me she had to change her legal name to her actual name for the same reason I did. It seemed the renegade 'h' was a wider curse than I first thought.
I returned to work with my afternoon intact to resume a normal work day and popped my name change application in the post. Who knows what will come out the other end. I grinned at the day's adventure. I smiled that I survived without any thought to rage about the amount of time I spent standing around to do what can only be described as the strangest of things - completing paperwork to change a name to a name I already am because of a single renegade 'h'. Strange but true.
Feel free to call me El Guapo until my piece of paper arrives after which I will revert to my legal name, Cristina, with (hopefully) not a 'h' anywhere to be seen.