Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Shayne's Day #59: The one with the fingerprints

Two weeks before we left for London, both Jake and I needed to get our fingerprints taken in order to obtain our work visas. I was in Phoenix and he was in San Diego. So, we googled 'fingerprinting offices' and were given a list of about 100 places in each state that took fingerprints. I called the one closest to my mom's house in Phoenix and made an appointment for the next day. Badda bing - Badda boom. I arrived to the office and waited behind 10 people in a barricaded queue much like a Disneyland line. Within 5 minutes all 10 of us were escorted one by one to a big room where an attendant quickly took our prints and sent them off. At the desk I asked a few questions about obtaining a visa in the UK. The lady didn't know the answers, so she did some research and found what I needed. With 20 minutes of arriving at the office, I had my prints, paid 20 bucks, and I was back in my car singing to that week's 'Glee' hits. One week later, we had our visas. Easy as good ol' American apple pie!

When I started researching the possibility of supply teaching here, I was informed I needed to obtain fingerprints for a U.S. FBI background check. I told everyone that I had just had them taken for my visa, but it didn't matter. So, I googled 'fingerprinting offices' thinking the experience would be the same. But, Scotland Yard kept coming up. I couldn't believe that there was only ONE place in this entire city that took fingerprints, but sure enough that was what it seemed. So, I called Scotland Yard and they informed me that they were REALLY busy (No shit! You are the ONLY ones who take fingerprints in a city with 8 million people) and that the next appointment was about a month away. Laughing, I booked an appointment just in case. Jake did not believe me when I told him there was only one place to go. He said, "You need to research this! There is NO way!" So, he did some research and found a few places that seemed to offer the service, only to find that when he clicked the link, they all rerouted him back to the Scotland Yard. He did, however, notice that there was small print that said you could do your own fingerprints if need be. We thought, "Hey, we can do this! We'll save some money and have fingerprints by tomorrow!" So, I went down to our local stationery store the next morning and purchased some ink.

The next day while Jake was at work, I sat down to take my prints yo! (Yes, I realize this makes me sound either really tough or like a serial killer). After about 2 minutes I had permanent ink on every finger, up my arm, and even some smudged on my face. After scrubbing my fingers with nail polish remover, I emailed Jake and let him know I was going to need some back up. He printed another fingerprint card and that night, we went for round two. Here is how this went:
* Jake tries - he can do it - yay Jake!
* I try - smudges everywhere.
* Jake says, "I don't understand why this is so difficult?"
* Jake shows me again, I try again, black splats all over the card.
* Jake tries to hold my finger and roll it with me - success.
* We try finger number 2 - splat.
* We move to the top of the fridge (remember our fridge is really small) thinking a higher level surface will help.
* We smudge permanent ink ALL OVER the top of the fridge - fridge is ruined.
* I am mad.
* Jake is frustrated.
* We try again, success!
* Finger 2 - success!
* Finger 3 - success!
* Finger 4 - Spppllllaaaaat in a crazy line across the page. We learn the hard way that my gimp finger just doesn't move like the rest of them. The weakling strikes again!
* We look at each other and realize there is a reason that they have services to help with this process.
* We are both covered in ink, the kitchen is covered in ink, and we decide to prioritize peace within our household over waiting for the Scottland Yard.
* We take a shower in nail polish remover.

Needless to say, I kept the appointment at Scotland Yard. So, fast forward one month...Today was my appointment! I arrived at Scotland Yard a little bit early and found a massive building absolutely surrounded in policemen. It honestly looked like a high security prison. I checked in with the cop outside the 'Visitor Entrance' door and he asked to see my passport (I wasn't even in the building yet). He found my name on a list and let me through door number one. I got through the door and was met by another cop (I could still SEE cop #1 from where I was standing) who asked to see my passport (I was thinking, "Ok, I haven't killed anyone since I was outside!"). Cop #2 led me to a metal detector where my purse was searched. I had to remove my sweater and send everything down the belt. It seemed we were on red alert today. I went through the metal detectors and found cop #3 on the other side. Sure enough, cop #3 needed to see my passport too! Yes, if you are counting, that is three cops so far who have done the same thing, all of whom were still in my line of sight. I was told to head inside and find the receptionist. So, I sauntered through the glass doors and am simply stunned by the noisy scene in front of me. There was a mob of 20+ people all trying to get to the front of the receptionist desk. I looked around to see if this was some type of an emergency. But, the 15 cops standing around were acting like this was a common scene. I observed that this was literally a free-for-all push to get to the one receptionist behind the desk. No joke. There was no line, no barricades, just ridiculous pushing and shouting. It was a mad house. I was in the epicenter of the municipal police department in the city of London and wished that I had a whistle, a plan, and group of bodyguards to back me up. Apparently, all of these people had waited for a month too and they were pissed!

So, I finally got real aggressive and fought my way to the front where I, once again, needed to show my passport (that's four). The lady found my name on a list and gave me a visitor's badge. I waited in the lobby for another 10 minutes. Finally, a lady came out and called my name: Cheyyne Singglon. The lady didn't speak English. Fab. As we walked, I tried to make small talk - that didn't work out so well. She just smiled and nodded the whole way. She took me through about 8 hallways, through a rotating door, and finally, we arrived at a door that said 'fingerprinting.' Guess what, she asked to see my passport (that's five). I went in and found myself in a shoeboxed sized room with three government employees. There was one lady who took my name and wrote it in a guest book, BY HAND! It felt like some B&B sign-in sheet from the 1700's. Next, I was sent to another lady about 2.5 feet away who collected 63 POUNDS (yes, you heard correctly), IN CASH, and deposited it into a ziplock bag. High school bake sale anyone? Finally, lady number 3 was fingerprint lady. Her first comment, "Oh, so you're clearly American. We don't have an American card." She said this is a whiney voice as she wiggled her head back and forth - it was like playground taunting, "I know you are, but what am I." She used a brayer (literally, the kind I used for printmaking with my kindergartners) and rolled ink onto the top of her desk...HER DESK! She dabbed my fingers in one by one and smashed them all over this card. When she got to gimpy finger number four, she looked at me with a scowl, and said in her whiney sing-song, "Well, this finger doesn't move well does it?" I tried to explain my glass incident and she just grunted.

Side note: The whole time I am in here, I am the ONLY one getting fingerprinted. There was a 3:1 ratio going on, 4:1 if you count the lady who walked me from the lobby and was just standing by the door. And, the entire time my prints were being taken, the employees were trying to bully the ESL (English as a Second Language) employee into trading days off.

They would say, "You will trade with me next Monday right?" and she would respond with, "I no trade."

Then lady number 1 would try, "Why can't you work my shift on Monday? I NEED it off!" and the ESL lady would say, "I no trade!"

Finally, lady number 3 (the bratty one) said, "Will you just call down and ask if I can have the day off." Basically, "Will you just do my dirty work?" Of course, ESL responded with, "I no trade!"

At the end, I tried to ask a question about how to ship the prints to the states and bratty lady number three just said, "Look, we take prints, that's all we do."

After 30 minutes, I was escorted back out to the mob in the lobby, where I again had to shove people down to return my badge. When I got to the front, they needed to match my badge with my passport (that's six) before I could turn it in.

When I got outside, all I could think was, "Damn that Scotland Yard!" Comically enough, there were about 20 tourists out front with cameras and camcorders photographing the outside of the building. It seemed this hell hole was famous! I quickly realized why security was so high! If tourists saw the mob inside and photographed it, this country would be overthrown within minutes! If the hub of the police force was organized like that, I'm not thinking that our 85 year old queen would be able to do much! I mean, really!

Ok, now let's review the important stats from THIS paragraph:
1. One month out for the next appointment
2. 63 pounds in cash
3. Life flashing before my eyes in a lobby mob
4. 4:1 employee ratio
5. OH YEAH, I almost forgot - I will have the results in a mere 16-18 weeks. In 4-5 months, my prints will be cleared.

Lessons the Scotland Yard SHOULD learn: 1) The reason we are so "busy" is because we take one person's fingerprints every hour, 2) We should not pay someone to sit at a desk and hold a bake sale collections ziplock, 3) The lobby of our building is not the Japanese Subway. We should use Shayne's 63 pounds to buy some barricades!


  1. Jake is right ... you are a talented writer Shayne! Which is APPARENTLY a good thing since you won't be working for a while ... LOL ...

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog ... it's not the same as seeing you the 3 times I will be in California and Las Vegas in the next two months ... :( ... MISS YOU BOTH MASSIVELY!!

    Much Love ...

  2. I recently sent my fingerprints off to the FBI also. We'll be moving to Japan in July where I'll be teaching ESL. Here's my blog about irrationally stressing-out over the results:

    My wife is planning on finding a job after we move, but after reading this maybe we'll apply for an FBI background check before leaving the states rather than rolling the dice with fingerprint services abroad. Good luck on your job search!