I GOT MY U.S. CITIZENSHIP after a thousand years.
Not that I applied a thousand years ago, that went fairly fast, but I’ve lived here since I was eleven (minus college) so everyone I know from Canada thought I was American and everyone I knew from America mostly didn’t know I was Canadian. I’ve felt like both forever, and time-wise my life has been spent almost exactly 50-50 between the two, so it wasn’t so much like gaining something so much as it was… feeling acknowledged? I know that doesn’t fit the patriotic rhetoric, but if someone talks shit about America I will feel compelled to talk shit about them and if someone talks shit about Canada I will feel compelled to talk shit about them and that I think, is the true test of citizenship.
Our appointment was for 7AM so we had to Uber to Baltimore at the ass-crack of dawn in the pitch blackness. I only remember getting out of the car. I was anxious Netflix-watching the night before, so I slept for about 3 hours, then was last-minute cramming civics questions like a high schooler in some stress and lack of sleep-induced psychosis.
Here’s the thing about the civics questions: 80% of them are not hard. But the other 20% are either a) so easy you start to doubt yourself, or b) so fucking vague and similarly worded to other questions you have no idea what they are asking.
For instance, there were two questions that were something like “what are the responsibilities of an American” and “what are the rights of an American” along with “what are the rights of those in America” and “what is one responsibility that only exists for Americans.”
Usually semantics is my fucking jam. I love a good game of how to screw yourself or someone else over through careful wording. I’d make a great lawyer. But I never did understand what some of the questions were, and if the corresponding bullet points were suggestions or multi-point answers.
You only have to get 6/10 questions right, but obviously this was a matter of pride. I was not going to get a civics question wrong, from misunderstanding the question or sheer ignorance, after a decade of American schooling and a political science degree.
I didn’t get any wrong.
Also, the “written” portion of the exam involved writing down a simple sentence on lined paper that was repeated multiple times. Like, “Abraham Lincoln wore a hat. Abraham Lincoln wore a hat. Abraham… Lincoln… Wore… A… Hat…” (not the actual statement.) Can children take the citizenship test? I mean it’s not a college application, but it felt very weird. You just start questioning whether you’re responding correctly.
They tell you if you passed right there. Then I went back into the DMV-esque waiting room (in furniture arrangement, unlike the DMV everyone was happy, helpful, and they had TV) and I got to hug my family who were hugging a Jamaican family who had also just passed.
We had to kill like 4 hours before the oath ceremony was to take place, so we went to McDonald’s. Obviously. Obviously! Everyone was side-eyeing my McDonald’s suggestion, but McDonald’s is precisely what you do when there is nothing to do. We didn’t know where we were, and we didn’t drive there, so we took an Uber, around 20 feet. The Uber driver laughed.
It was actually one of those nice McDonald’s they renovated to have flat screens and graphic wallpaper and futuristic seating. It was morning so I ate two McGriddles and watched that public access show with the veterinarian that brings on animals (!!!) 2 McGriddles was 1 McGriddle too many and I spent the afternoon with a huge ball of gas saddled in my colon. I dared not fart on U.S. government property, I was trying to be respectful.
There was the cutest baby ever in the waiting room the second round. She had huge eyes and looked like a doll. She kept trying to eat this big plastic label, every time her Mom would take it away from her, and she’d just find it and put it in her mouth again. Finally the Mom stuck the sticker to the baby’s forehead, where the baby couldn’t find it. The baby forgets the sticker exists immediately, and moves on to other things, until a few moments later, when she gets the sense something is not right, touches her forehead, pulls the sticker off, looks at it, and gives the greatest WHAT THE FUCK? face I have ever seen.
Object permanence is a beautiful thing.
That baby was the second best part of my day after obtaining citizenship.
The oath ceremony was adorable and kind of like a high school assembly. There was a slideshow. There was a taped message from President Obama. Everyone got to stand up when the name of their birth country was announced. We pledged allegiance. Then everyone got their name called and we got our citizenship certificates, which I had never even heard of prior to maybe 48 hours before. It’s hard to think of a legitimate, legal document in certificate form. Regardless, you want to find a bunch of happy people, go to the U.S. citizenship oath ceremony. Strangers hugging left and right. People waving tiny flags. Even the Homeland Security employees were nice, and they were government employees working on a Saturday.
Everyone was obsessed with posing behind the Department of Homeland Security podium.
They had Hermann Miller chairs. They were so comfortable.
5/5. If I had Yelp, I would rate the Department of Homeland Security Field office highly. Would return.
When we got back home, we went out to dinner and there was a ginger toddler there with her family and she wore mad scientist lab goggles the entire meal. Just wanted to note that because I want to remember it FOREVER.
Next stop, Mexico, so I can close out North America.