Being a by stander in American society has been interesting to say the least. I’ve had months to sit, ponder, educate and discover the world around me. Some good and some not so. Whatever MY opinions, they are simply that. Mine.
America is different in so many ways and slightly lazy with some of their ways and advanced in others. Their social security office is somewhere caught in the middle.
You apply online then you have to carry your life’s worth of paper work to their office to finalize it all. Better hope you remembered it all.
So Friday afternoon saw me venture out kid free to the wonderful world of the SSA. It was as scary and daunting as you could imagine for this small town chicken. My first greeting as I walked through the front door was an armed security guard abruptly tell me to stand behind the red line! One. nil.
Once I made it to the machine which asked you questions as to the nature of your call I had to ask the security guard which answer was mine. I later read on the screen they’re not allowed to help with answering questions. One. all.
I sat down and the guy next to me was dying of swine flu or something epic. He would cough for ages and finally get a breath in. I decided after ten minutes to offer him my spare water bottle which he very gratefully accepted. Apparently people don’t do that over here.
As I turned back to mind my own business, the guard grumpily yelled to everyone to turn their phones on silent including games. There was a man with disability playing Tetris and it must have been annoying her by this stage.
In the meantime a gentleman of silverinng age sat opposite me. We smiled at sat in that ‘I want to ask you something but don’t want to intrude’ awkwardness. Eventually he said to me ‘you’re wearing a claddagh ring’.
It’s an Irish wedding ring for those playing at home. Worn one way means you’re married and the other means you’re single. After some long discussion about the history he told me his wife wore on with green oyster marble as the heart and diamonds in the crown. It sounded amazing.
We got to talking (any chance to practice beloved) and I asked how they had met. ‘I got snowed in in bad weather at an airport. Next door was a rollar rink so I went around and she was there.’
As I asked more questions he explained that they both loved to rollar skate and they were ballroom dancing champions… On skates! His wife wore a beautiful ballroom gown as they skated around- he wore a tux.
Epic imagery flashed through my mind and I could see his memories flashing in his eyes as he smiled away to himself distancing himself again. I left him to his memories.
Another gentleman had since sat down and asked how long id ‘been here for’. Stupid me said 9 months not realizing he meant waiting In the social security office. Haha. After some embarrassed giggling and readjusting my answers the new gentleman told me he had met many Australians during his Vietnam service.
I asked a couple of questions that I realised upset the man and had to take a big step back and start gently again. I asked which service he was in- Army and about his family now. We again approached Vietnam gently and he opened up a little. He said the countryside was beautiful there but could never imagine going back. The first gentleman interjected that it was indeed beautiful but he had only seen it from the air. As a B3 Bombing regiment he likened their raids to converting forests to confetti, then going back weeks later and realizing that the trees had regrown so quickly that you would never have known they were there.
The second man said the only time he had seen it from the air was when he was lifted out by helicopter once and the ground appeared like Swiss cheese. Pot marked by mortars and mines. Incredible imagery.
As my number was called I pined to know more about these two incredible men. I heard their coversations carry on well after I had been called and smiled to think they had come into that room possibly thinking of keeping to themselves and distracting the time with their thoughts but ended up conversing about their life experiences.
I wish my camera was with me, I wish I had my cards refilled that day I wish I had been able to sit for days with them and know their stories.
My grandfather died without telling any of his stories from the war to our family and it was such a waste. My dad kicks himself he never knew more about his dad. I wish I had captured these men for their families in imagery and words.