Wednesday, September 23, 2020. This will be short and rough. Today I applied for an FBI background check. First step: fingerprints. If I were in the U.S., I would go to a post office that provides this service. The FBI website says there are 81 such post offices in the U.S. But I am in France. How do I get fingerprinted in France? Patrick and I both asked around. The U.S. Embassy in Paris said no, they don’t do that, try the local police. The local police said no, try the gendarmerie. The gendarmerie said no, try the police.
I googled around and found a website for a private agency in Paris that promised to make digital prints and transmit them directly to the FBI. The agency's main office was in London. When I called the London phone number, a man with an Asian accent said the Paris office was closed and could I come to London?
No, I could not.
Okay, he said, then he would come to Paris and meet me there. But by now I had cold feet. I told him I would find another solution, thank you very much.
One morning Patrick woke up and said, “I’m going to find somebody to do those fingerprints today” and left the house. An hour later, he came back and said he had found a nice lawyer in town who would oblige, but we would have to do the prints ourselves, in front of her, and she would give them an official stamp. So we ordered a kit from Amazon.
There is a knack to making fingerprints. Too much ink and they are indistinct. Too little ink and you don’t get the whole print. The FBI wanted both rolled prints and flat prints of each finger. Patrick ran off 10 sheets of the form and said, “You better practice.”
After filling all 10 sheets with smudgy prints, I finally got the hang of it. You have to relax the finger that is being printed and guide it with your other hand. Maybe because I’m a Gemini, I had no trouble, once I figured out the trick. (I can also pat my head and rub my belly at the same time.) Fingers that are crooked need special treatment. I have two crooked fingers on each hand. You have to press the crooked part into the paper, but not too forcefully. You also have to place the paper on the edge of the table and a little to one side of your body. Don’t hold your breath or tense up.
At the lawyer’s office, I aced it. I had two extra sheets with me in case I messed up, but I didn’t need them. Patrick paid the lawyer 250 euros, and we celebrated with coffee and croissants at the outdoor café opposite the Jardin de Dian. I paid for the coffee and croissants.
This afternoon, Patrick went to the post office with the fingerprints and mailed them to the FBI. Now we wait up to 12 weeks to get something that says I don’t have a criminal record.
This is all a step toward becoming a French citizen.
This afternoon, I listened to a Washington Post podcast with some sketchbook artists who are keeping journals about the year 2020. Most of them said they were going to leave the country if the election turned out badly.
I realized, not for the first time, how lucky I am to have a choice.
Off and on this week, I have been trying to write another rant, like I did last week, to express my fury and outrage about the collapse of democracy in the U.S. I even read Cassandra’s monologue (Aeschylus) and passages from King Lear in search of inspiration.
After listening to the sketchbook artists, I tried to illustrate my fury.
Nothing I came up with, in words or images, satisfied me. It just all seemed trivial and juvenile by comparison to what is actually happening in the world.
My googling finally landed me on a speech that the actress Glenda Jackson gave in Parliament lambasting Margaret Thatcher--obviously, this goes back a few years. The House of Commons was debating whether to pay tribute to Thatcher--I think she had just died. Glenda went on for a good 7 minutes about all the terrible things Thatcher had done. Meanwhile, Thatcher's accolytes were trying to drown her out by yelling “Shame, shame!” It was ripping good theater. Somebody had made the point earlier that Thatcher should be lauded for being the first woman prime minister. After naming all the heinous things Thatcher had done, Jackson paid tribute to all the woman who raised her and to all the fine women who ran the country during the war, and ended her speech with the statement that Thatcher, though of the female gender, was not a woman by her definition of the term. She was livid!
So in the end, I realized, that there is no substitute for genuine female fury and that if I wanted to write a good rant, I would have to work harder, like Jackson obviously did, and rehearse my rant several times.
I always did love Glenda Jackson.
Above: Jackson talks about playing King Lear on Broadway. Watch it: the still photographs by Brigitte Lacomb are fabulous. And here’s her speech to the House of Commons.