The Memorial Auditorium, nestled sweetly between the AT&T building and P.F. Chang’s, hosted this auspicious event. The line formed down J street, wrapped around 16th and continued all the way through I St. (which is where I began my journey). While waiting in line at 8am to enter the auditorium, a lovely gentleman, who very obviously did not own a hair brush, with his three best teeth hanging on for dear life in his mouth and a beard that was half wavy, half straight welcomed us all into this great nation by telling us, “why don’t you do us a favor and all go kill yourselves!”
His hospitality and hygiene made me want to take him seriously. When the line inched closer to 16th Street another lovely gentleman shoved a flyer in my face attempting to recruit me into the Peace and Freedom Party.
I though maybe this was some sort of test, since I spent a long interview with a nice officer, not only renouncing my allegiance to my mother country, but also convincing her that I am not a prostitute, I have not ever been a member of, nor have I been affiliated with any members of, the “communist party”, and I have not been to rehab. I don’t know if she was dubious due to my thick eastern European accent, or the fact that two men with gold chains, black suits and berets escorted me around, but I assured her that at the mature age of 7, I was not affiliated with the communist party and even if I were, I was so mentally strong that I would have severed all ties immediately.
I began to space out somewhere between the corner of 16th and J when suddenly a man with a thick Spanish accent yelled, “Cover! Cover!” My immediate reaction was to duck and cover, because I thought we were being bombed or attacked, maybe by the gentleman who wanted to help us kill ourselves since we didn’t take his offer earlier. It turned out to be a false alarm, and the man was holding a green leather cover for the naturalization certificates, which he was selling for $10. Whew. After this mini scare, his promise of, “the best protection in town” was quite tempting. A good marketing ploy.
When I could finally see the front of the building there were 10 lines formed with numbers from 0 to 9 on each of the columns in front of the auditorium. A lady with a clipboard asked to see my invitation and green card, asked me again if anything had changed since my interview (i.e. had I rejoined the communist party I never joined in the first place) and marked ‘4’ in a black sharpie on my paper, pointing me to the line behind the number ‘4’ on the column. Guidance is key.
From these lines, ushers at the front would allow about 10 individuals at a time from each of the 10 lines in through the front door. Yes! I thought, I’m finally in, only to be redirected on the inside of the building to another set of 10 numbered lines with tables at the front.
I waited in line 4 again and when I reached the man at the table he took my green card and found the certificate of naturalization in his pile, showing it to me, while firmly gripping it, to see if that was me and that all the information was accurate on it. I scanned over it, surprised to see my height and the word “SINGLE” in large capitals over my picture, (I thought, maybe now I’m an eligible bachelorette for a new dating show titled, “New Citizen Seeks Love” to air on VH1 this fall, but that was not my luck).
After I approved it, he tossed my green card in a blue bag and instructed me to come back to this line after I took the oath to claim my certificate. I must admit, I felt a little panicked that in case of a natural disaster or potential bombing of the auditorium, I would wind up like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal” with no country and no documents. (My country of birth, Yugoslavia, is no longer in existence).
Now it’s time for the ceremony? Well, almost. After being ushered and seated in the main auditorium to background music blaring “Born in the USA” (really, I mean , really?!) the processions began.
First the 94 countries in attendance were announced one by one, along with the number of immigrants being naturalized and loud bursts of cheering and whooping following. When they called Yugoslavia it was a little like the Olympics and I felt like we were there to participate in archery. Mexico had the largest turnout of 169, with the Phillipines a close second, and Kazakhstan, the smallest, with 1.
A surprisingly large turnout from Fiji, with 48 … I think you get the idea.
Either way, we all clapped and clapped and we heard a speech from the President of Sac State. Worth noting is that the girl sitting next to me was playing Jewel Quest on her phone and intermittently texting the whole while. Another honorable mention goes to the lady in the hot pink mini dress with her bright orange and green sequined purse and hazardous heels, which were not only about 4 inches off the ground but her toes that were hanging over the shoes were dangerously low to the ground.
After promising to renounce our countries of birth, be faithful the USA, promise to bear arms to protect her if it is asked of us, and give up our first born, the judge accepted our plea and deemed us Citizen worthy.
As we exited the auditorium some lovely people were handing out voting registration papers to each of us. Now armed with a Certificate of Naturalization, a voting registration and a small paperback pamphlet about the Constitutional rights of Americans, I can conquer the world!
For now though, it’s back to line 4. This time the line moved quicker, and magically the man at the desk had my certificate as soon as I got there. With this certificate and a paper we filled out while waiting for the ceremony to begin we were instructed to go back outside and wait in line to resubmit our social security status for updating. This time the weather was slightly more abusive at a nice 93 degrees. I’m sweating all over my certificate and contemplate briefly about getting the best protection in town, which is now half off I might add!
While in line, a Republican Party representative walks up and down the line explaining to each of us why we should register Republican immediately. I heard him tell the woman in front of me, “if you don’t want taxes, register republican, vote no on all the proposition in the upcoming election, if you want taxes register Democrat”.
For some reason he saved me the spiel, and smiled while passing over me. I think he may have heard my chuckling and seen a roll of the eye or two and deemed me a ‘damn commie’ who will never change. On the other side a Democratic Party representative urged each of us to let her help us fill out our papers to register democrat while we wait in line. “You’ll be done by the time you get to that tree”, she promised. I told her I prefer to do it at home with my special pen I use on really important documents. She wasn’t amused, but their approaches did amuse me.
I finally reached the front of the last line and handed my citizenship update to the lady from social security. She thanked me, smiled and said, “Well that’s it!” Now I would have to go and celebrate, with a Budweiser and hotdog while watching the local minor league baseball game. Go Rivercats! Oh yeah, and I changed my voicemail greeting to “Thank you for calling Kristina, US Citizen, I am currently unable to take your call because I am voting and serving in juries, please leave a message.”