Thursday, September 02, 2010

Homeland Security - Revised

I recently noticed that the post linked to as one of "My favorite posts" is sort of unorganized; it takes awhile before the reader gets to the part that's actually about homeland security and makes it "my favorite post." It was sort of a mishmosh "things that are going on" post, like some that I wrote last week, with the notes from a never-finished 2006 blog post pasted in at the bottom. That 2006 story deserves to stand alone.
So, originally published in 2007, originally written in 2006, here's a four-year-old story.
Homeland Security
My great-grandmother, who will turn ninety-five this December, has been in the country, legally, for about three decades. She is still a French citizen. She has never broken a law or done anything to give anyone reason to be suspicious of her. She is from France, she is nearly one hundred years old, and she does not do much other than garden, go to Corrado's, and boss around my grandmother. Yet in recent years, the Department of Homeland Security has been making her fill out complicated papers and, at one point, selected her at random as a non-citizen who had to get a retina scan. The only government building in which this mandatory retina scan was possible was in Newark (for my non-NJ readers, that is a busy city with horrible traffic) and had no handicapped parking or access, because of some construction that was going on. What did they think my great-grandmother was going to do? Attack people from bed? Throw magazines out the window? Hurl cutting insults in French at people who don't understand French anyway?
Prior to the retina scan debacle, during my senior year at Douglass College (aka the place where I got my first undergraduate degree), Mima had to fill out some kind of new paperwork for her green card. It was rather complex, so she and my grandparents enlisted the aid of my parents.
I took a break from working on my senior thesis to write the following:

While working on my thesis at my parents' house, my mother and father are filling out some papers for my great-grandmother's green card. They decided to try doing it online. They have since given up and decided that filling it out on paper would be easier; they couldn't even get past setting up a user account.
First, I overheard the following between my father and my mother:
"We have to pick a user name, password, and password question. Which question do you want?" (Reads a list)
"But we already set up a password!"
"I know. We have to set up a password question. What is your pet's name; What is your mother's maiden name--"
"But why are we replacing the password!"
"Oh oh oooooooooohhhhhhhh."

A little later, I heard the following:
"OK, I'm going to make the username her first name, and the password her last name."
"Why not?"
"Make her user name her full name, and we'll make a password."
"It has to be 8-15 characters."
"We'll make it the village she's from."
"How do you spell 'Villedieu'?"
She tells him. He enters in "villedieu".
A few seconds later, an error appears on the screen. The password must include a special character.
"ville-dieu," they write. They click OK. The page takes some time to load.
Another error message. The password must include both capital and lowercase letters.
"Why didn't they put all of this information on the page, BEFORE you entered the password?" they both cry. They type, "Ville-Dieu."
The page takes even longer to load this time. Ville-Dieu is a perfectly good password, with three character should work.
"WHAT!?" This time, the password failed because there were two of the same consonant together in the word "Ville". Apparently, you can't have double letters in your password. I have never seen anything like it!
I hear slamming on the keyboard.
"FINE!" exclaims my father. "F.  PERIOD. U-" I hear the pounding of each key.
"Why not?"
"Because it is for my grandmother! For the government!"
"Who cares? She won't know what it means!"

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