11 am on a Sunday morning, my first real day in the U.S & groggy from the jet-lag I suppose I could be excused for the steadily wilder ideas rushing through my noggin. My imagination, never one to be accused of sobriety at the best of times, decided that this was not one of the best of times and promptly went on a joyride of possibilities... everything from plague hitting the city to something straight out of 'Night of the living dead' (yes, yes it was the morning & you are welcome to take that up with my imagination at your leisure). Anyway, welcome to glamourous Birmingham, folks... biggest city in Alabama, don't you know. And not a soul to be seen as far as the eye could see. And not suffering from any ocular problems, my eyes were working fine thank you very much.
The chaps I was staying with no doubt had gone through the same set of emotions. Its hard not to abandon the popular ideas of manhood... you know... the steely glare and the equanimity when one is taken from the streets of India and rudely chucked into a city with an atmosphere more reminiscent of the better class of mausoleums. The guys were understanding, I must say. In a few brisk sentences that left nothing to either imagination or chance, I was asked to:
- Pick up my fallen jaw, idiot
- Lump it
- Erase the look of disbelief on my face, while I still could
- And yes, pick up my fallen jaw, idiot
As everyone knows, it's nice to have an on-campus job. Apart from the fact that money changes hands in your favour, a job is the one way to get yourself something called a social security number (ssn). Apparently, getting one is the only way to get yourself a house, an electricity-water connection and a phone line, for starters. You also need the ssn to get a job. The readers who haven't fallen asleep at this point will no doubt raise the eyebrow, go "Haan, but..." and point out to the second sentence of this paragraph that suggests the opposite. Wah, wah... take lessons, Sherlock Holmes.
The bright-eyed boys in the upper echelons of administration decided that if one wants to get a ssn, one has to have a job, while at the same time decreeing that one cannot get a job without the ssn. Hmm... right... I was consistent, I assure you. I did all the things on the checklist of 'things to do when frustrated' barring tearing my hair out.... sighed... and once again, lumped it. Because.
Eventually, I did manage to get a job on-campus as a student tutor... and another one soon after that. The experience of getting my second job as a student assistant will stay with me till the end of my days. That macabre story will also be told eventually... rest assured.
So then... I walk into the local grocery store a few days after my arrival here and once again, reached down and picked up my jaw. Why ? Beer is sold openly at grocery stores here... all kinds of it. Lots of it.
" Hallelujah.... Hallelujah.... "
The rest, as they say, is history.