Friday, February 27, 2009
I wanna have a J-O-B in the M-S-P
104 days. That’s how long I’ve not worked for, and I have probably another 50 or so to go. The first two weeks are great fun; you can lie-in everyday, watch daytime TV, stay up late on a school night. Then the rot sets in; you realise that daytime TV only teaches you how to sue people, file for bankruptcy and buy insurance. American TV in particular I find, instils a feeling of entitlement amongst the viewers: the car accident was not your fault, your debts should be minimised, you deserve to spend your tax refund on financing a new car, the list is endless.
Times are tight for Wamby and me, but we’re by no means on the breadline. We have plenty of things to hawk before we get evicted from our apartment. I firmly believe that anyone who bangs on about how broke they are when they have a Wii console and a gym membership deserves a good slap on the noggin. It’s all relative, and I have to say that we’re not doing too badly for getting by on one income. Apparently Minneapolis is also the easiest city to get wealthy in the USA (admittedly according to the Minnesota tourist authority), so once I’m allowed to work, we should have it pretty cushty here.
Minneapolis is great, it’s Chicago-lite, and I have to say that I’m actually really enjoying the current recession - it’s an amazing time to be a consumer. Macy’s had an 80% off sale last week, you can buy a 2 bedroom house with a garden for $50k and Toyota Tundra are offering buy one, get one free on trucks - I kid you not! As long as I can make it through the rest of my enforced unemployment without going gouging out my own eyeballs with a spoon just for something to do, my prospects are rosy.
I recently had my biometrics appointment, where they photographed me and took my fingerprints for my moustachioed friends at the Department of Homeland Security. The lady commented on how soft my hands are and I can only credit this to not working. I didn’t realise they were distinctly smooth and may consider adding it to my resume: ‘Detail oriented, strong interpersonal skills, hands like a baby’s bum’.
I looked around the waiting room at my fellow fingerprintees, wondering if me and my digits were really distinctive or if perhaps it was a chat-up line from Ms Mullet. In a crowd of 50 or so, there was only one other white woman (I would guess Canadian because of the polar fleece and orthopaedic shoes).
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis, St Paul have the second largest Hmong (pronounced ‘mung’) population outside of Laos at 17,000 -behind Fresno, California. Bizarrely, the state of Minnesota also has the largest Somali population anywhere outside of Somalia at 50,000, mostly in the Twin Cities, according to the 2000 census. The Hmong were allocated housing in Minnesota in return for helping US forces during the Vietnam war, but I believe the Somali community has simply grown as it has established itself here. I think the only state less like Somalia they could have chosen to relocate to would be Alaska, with our record low temperature being minus 42 degrees.
These were the two major groups who filled the waiting room and yet I knew that I would never be subject to the same branding they would be as a foreigner. As a Brit, or any kind of European in the US, you are a charming oddity and an accepted minority. The term ‘them immigrants’ for whatever reason does not include me. I’ll be able to pick up my career where I left it in London after the upheaval and disruption that is the immigration process and hopefully won’t have to work long hours in a job I’m overqualified for purely because my qualifications are not recognised in the land of opportunity, and for that I am well aware how lucky I am.
I have actually considered doing TV voice overs, such is the US love affair with the English accent. Minnesota has a particularly jarring twang, with one local landmark, the St Croix River being pronounced Croy, to rhyme with Troy, NYARRGGHH! It’s French - what’s so hard?! Another favourite is New Prague being pronounced New Praig, to rhyme with plague. It’s like fingernails scraping across a blackboard to me every time I hear it!
Anyway, everyday a new advert pops up with a British voice over, and I have already been asked to be the talking tree of a friend’s engineering company phone system. You know the kind; ‘If you hate these answer phone systems and just want to speak to a human being that may have some interest in and/or capability of answering your very simple query, please press one’; ‘To speak to an operator who has a distinctly thick Indian accent and calls himself Ian, when you really wouldn’t mind just addressing him by his real name so long as he can help you, please press two’ and so on. My friend seems to think that people would be less irritated by my dulcet tones guiding them through the labyrinthine phone system than the current voice, provided by his South Carolinian receptionist. I know which I’d prefer to hear, but if he’s willing to pay, I’m willing to take his money - and what could be more American than that?