Hanging out in Rockford: Go where you wanna wanna go; do what you wanna wanna do—Part Two

Hanging out in Rockford: Go where you wanna wanna go; do what you wanna wanna do—Part Two

By Mike Leifheit, Columnist

I am at the regional office of the INS on West Jackson Street in Chicago, trying to get my green card reinstated. I have been waiting for a total of about four and one-half hours. The process is accepting (according to an Indian man who is sitting across from me) about 25 persons per hour. There are 10 windows; only two are open. Finally at 2 o’clock, two more windows open (That makes a great deal of sense, seven people to watch the metal detector, but only two people to actually process the people who pass through it. What’s wrong with this picture? It’s like not being able to operate the satellite jail but having a similar number of officers watching the metal detector at the courthouse in Rockford. Ah, government!)

It is now 3:30 in the afternoon. There are only 12 people ahead of me. I am getting excited that I may get this accomplished today. Guess again. A slender, attractive black woman with a British accent walks to the center of the room. “Anyone who needs to make a payment needs to do so now,” she says. “The payment window is closing.” I rush to try to make my payment. One window is already closed. The woman with the British accent argues with the woman at the window, but to no avail. I step up to the other window, but they will not take my check. No number and no signature.

I go to the window where the black woman is working. She takes me out of order. She tries to look up my old card but is unsuccessful. I show her the envelope with the number on it, and she types it into the computer, but nothing comes up. I will have to come back. I tell her that I live 100 miles away, and that I have been waiting for more than five hours. She gives me a pass for the following day so I will not have to wait. I leave and go back to Rockford.

The next day I have to go to the market. After I complete the downtown part of my shopping, I return to the INS. The lady at the reception position is rude as usual, but I show her my pass, and she grudgingly lets me through. I stumble my way to the window of the day previous. My person is not there. I show my pass to another woman working at the adjacent window, and she goes to get her.

Then she calls New York. I see her talking on the phone. She comes back to say she has found me. I came in through Ellis Island, not Chicago, and that is what caused some of the confusion. I had no idea. The number on my envelope is indeed my number, and it will take a few minutes to process me after it is put into the computer. I will need an additional $55 for fingerprinting. She signs my form and sends me to the payment window.

At the payment window, they will not take my check. It is an Irish Rose check, and they cannot accept company cheeks. I have to leave the building, go to a bank for a cash advance and then to a currency exchange for a money order. Then finally back to the INS to pay for my card and fingerprints. When the agent is fingerprinting me, I ask if she is Jamaican. (I lived with Jamaican people in New York; they taught me to eat curried goat and drink 180 proof rum.) She says no, she is Nigerian. I tell her I heard her British accent.

And then I am legal after more than 50 years. The agent tells me that if I want to go somewhere right away, I can bring my passport to her and she can stamp it. I can finally leave the country. While I am waiting for her to complete her work, I look at my mother’s passport, and there it is, New York, and on another page my given name, Michael Waters (Leifheit is my adopted father). The agent makes copies of this and the original envelope with the number to include in my file.

I am so excited that I forget to go to Wabash Seafood to pick up my fish. I am almost to the Edens Expressway when I remember and turn around. That weekend, I hang out with Angela and Dawn, two of my waitresses. We go to the drag show at the Office. The place is packed. The show is great. How many Rockford people would do something like this if they were in San Francisco, but won’t go to the Office Tap?

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his Web site: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on the Chris Bowman Show, WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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