I thought that I should write something more about the experience of being an Englishman in a foreign land. Occasionally there’s stuff I miss, like certain kinds of cheeses I was particularly fond of. I’ve been watching Pie In the Sky with my wife, and Henry Crabbe’s signature dish is steak and kidney pie, which has me drooling. I was not so fond of the kidneys in those pies, guess I lean more towards Steak and Ale. And once you start down that path, Shepherd’s Pie, Cottage Pie (hey, I could probably manage to make one of those. Hmmmm….)
Rats, now I’m hungry.
And just having been through Candy Day, sweets/candy are different. What’s called Smarties in the US, those from the UK would recognise as Refreshers (weep with me, people).
But other than inconsequential stuff like that, there’s not always that much noticeable difference. The flags everywhere one gets used to. The politics is several decibels louder, but is otherwise much the same: people I wouldn’t want to vote for, against other people I wouldn’t want to vote for. I mercifully don’t get to vote over here, so I am freer to ignore as much as I can. Which is nice, because so many people are extremely uncharitable to differing viewpoints.
On that note, that reminds me of an incident from a year or so ago. It seems that the pool for jury duty is pulled from the Department of Motor Vehicles’ list of people with a driving license. I’m pretty sure the application form for the driver’s license asked about my citizenship status, but I can’t find the form online. If it did, and if the person working there entered the information accurately (so, pretty big if), then the system wasn’t clever enough to disqualify me there.
I got a questionnaire about jury service. Question 18 was (and I truncate it somewhat): “To be eligible… you must… be a US Citizen… do you meet these qualifications? If not, why?”.
I took the questionnaire back with the relevant portions completed. Handed it in to the people behind the desk, said I wasn’t a citizen so I couldn’t be on a jury. They told me that not being a citizen didn’t automatically disqualify me to be on a jury. Well it says right here on the form… We know what it says.
I believe I have mentioned on this blog before, my intense dislike of forms (especially ones with stupid questions). Imagine how much I don’t like the form and all my research saying one thing, and people who have to deal with the form saying the exact opposite. Lying to my face, whether they know it or not. I must confess, I have a hard time being charitable.
Had I ended up on a jury, I’m sure one lawyer or another would have had a field day with that.
Anyway, I happened to know a guy… my neighbour used to be the Justice of the Peace, and so when I saw he was around, I took the form round and asked him about it. He didn’t think the issue had come up during his time (and who knows, may not have since: could go some way to excuse the desk jockeys). He said I should fill in question 19 and get it notarised.
Question 19 was:
“Do you feel you should be excused from serving as a juror because of undue hardship or because you do not meet the eligibility requirements for jury service? [yes/no] If you answered “yes”, please complete the Affidavit For Excusal on the reverse side and have your signature notarized and return to the address above.”
“Do I feel?” That’s a really weird way of putting it. It is not lawful for me to be on the jury, what on earth do feelings have to do with it? Or excusals? If I’m not allowed to do it, and they would open themselves up to legal trouble if they made me do it, “excusal” is a funny word. I’m not let off the hook, as it were, because legally, I’m not on the hook.
See what I mean about stupid questions. Which then continue.
On the affidavit mentioned towards the end of Question 19, there was a space for “Permanent Exclusion based on incapacity due to illness or injury”, and a space for outlining “undue hardship”, but there was no space properly designated for any of the grounds for disqualification/ineligibility from Question 18.
As the “illness or injury” part said “Permanent Exclusion”, the neighbour, and later the notary, thought that might be the right place for saying why I couldn’t do it. The notary was surprised that the people I’d dealt with didn’t seem acquainted with that part of the law.
When I took the form in this time, it was a different person at the desk, and she was dealing with someone when I got there. When I could, I handed the envelope over. In the envelope, I’d also enclosed a note that suggested it might be good for the affidavit to be amended to include an appropriate space for the disqualifications. I seem to recall mentioning that the envelope was about jury duty, and that I couldn’t do it because I’m not a citizen. She said she’d give it to the judge or JP or whoever it was that deals with them. Whoever it was, I was surprised it was someone so high up the food chain who had to deal with it. On my way out, I heard the envelope being opened.
This was over a year ago, and I haven’t heard anything back, so I assume it went ok.
I think that’s the biggest thing that’s directly relevant to my experience of being an alien (“whoa, I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien…”). I had to take a long trip to have my biometric information recorded for my green card. I had to carry my immigrant visa everywhere, and now I have to carry my green card everywhere, but I’ve never been required to show it.
So, that’s what springs to mind about being a foreigner. Feel free to throw me some more questions about the experience, in the comments below.