In Oakland,to teach after school classes you need to be finger printed. The law is there to protect kids from sex offenders. From kids who might find themselves alone with such a teacher. Even though fingerprints don’t change, they take prints every year in case your criminal record has changed. Irregardless of my moral behavior, I teach a chaotic class of twenty kids in a public area of the school.
This is expensive at $100. a year. The woman in charge of this is inaptly named Angelica. She emails me and gives me a half hour window on a certain day to come down to an unpleasant neighborhood and put my hands on the screen to be recorded. I email back and tell her that I can not come then and ask if I can (please) have this done at a convenient time at my usual place.
I receive no answer for weeks, after which she emails me again with another half hour slot I can’t make. She signs her email “waiting for your response”. I email back as previously. Again, I recieve no response for weeks. When I call I get a swift short recording in almost broken english.
After a month of teaching I start to feel like I really do have to get this yearly request fulfilled as I am supposedly breaking the law, although I’m feeling that I’d have a case to argue otherwise.
I go to my usual place run by a chinese couple. They also speak broken english. The wife is her usual unfriendly self and the husband is warmer and helpful.
There are three people before me in line for this process. Their IDs are mexican passports and they speak no english at all. I translate for them. The woman in charge of this group is beautiful and young; dressed in dark pinks with thick hair easily flopped atop her head. The young man has on one of the best beaded Guadalupe hats I’ve ever seen. I compliment him on it. Initially, I am unsure whether he is her mate or her son but the way she then brushes his hair (also thick) away from his face, tells me that he is her son. The other one is maybe her cousin.
They clean one of the schools. She is carefully handing over three hundred dollars! in cash. The most important part of what she wants to know, and what I am translating, is about the line with the 6 digit government number which will get her a partial reimbursement for this process. It’s only $25 but she is adamant about getting it.
When it is my turn, the wife, in her slightly sour self, asks me “So, you’re going to be a teacher?” I say, “I already am a teacher” in a tired way because I am sick of being in a room without windows. “What do you teach?”, she counters dryly. When I say “ceramics” she lights up like a bulb. “Really?! Can you teach me? Can I make this?”, she says as she touches a four inch light green ceramic pot housing a small fake tree. “Yes”, and for a few minutes we talk ceramics and it is the first time I have seen her look alive in all the years I’ve been there.
Then I go with him into the closet like area with the machine. I am amazed (again) at the comfortable and easy way he takes each finger and rolls it around on the screen. I think of how many hands he has held and how he does it with nothing extra and it is somehow actually enjoyable.
When I get home, I scan and send the fingerprints and form to Angelica.
Five minutes later I get three emails from her. The first two are auto-response explanations about how is she out of the office until some unforseen time. The third one is actually from her. She says that under no circumstamnces whatsoever will they accept fingerprints done anywhere else but the Oakland Unified School District office and that she is there from 8 to 5 every day and that I need to come down there, pay again, and have them done again.
She is waiting for my response.
She won’t get one.