"You have got to be kidding me," I said.
"Nope," the lady at the desk replied, "No one by the name you gave me, sorry."
She rudely turned her back and proceeded to ignore me.
I was in quite a predicament! In the process of planning a trip to Caracas, Venezuela, I had overlooked the fact that I did not have a copy of my birth certificate. Since I had put off obtaining one until the last minute, I had to make a special trip to the office of Vital Statistics to acquire one. When I arrived there, I was told that no one in Marshall County bearing the birth date or my name existed in the records.
"As you can very well see, I most certainly exist." I said emphatically.
I was feeling frustrated and it reflected in my voice.
Miss I’m-Not-Going-To-Cooperate-If-I-Can-Help-It looked up, shot daggers at me with her beady eyes, and emphasized each word as she said, "I will look one more place."
"I would appreciate it.” I retorted.
My attitude was deteriorating with every hostile glance she tossed my way. While she was searching, a disturbing question was running through my mind; how was I going to prove that I really did exist? Old-Happy-Face returned from her search, and said she had found an unnamed person born on the right date, in the right county, having the correct last name—the names I gave her for the parents and attending physician matched those on the document. While standing there in my nonexistent state, I found it unsettling that my parents had failed to give me a name. My mother had mentioned that she was never able to obtain a certificate of birth for me when my father went to serve in World War II, but it was never an issue because I had never needed it for anything.
"What am I going to do?" I ask pitifully. "I need my birth certificate to acquire a passport, and I took the day off from work to come here. Isn’t there something we can do today? I have a driver’s license and credit cards. If I don’t get this done today, my birth certificate will not get to me in time to obtain a passport.”
"Is your mother alive?" Happy-Face growled.
"What about the Doctor," She asked.
"Yes," I meekly replied.
Old-Happy-Face lilted her mean-spirited voice, "Well then, we might be able to make this work, and get it done today."
Happy-Face was delighted to inform me that Marshall County was close by, and time was short, as the Statistics Office closed at four o'clock sharp. She gave me some forms that had to be signed, witnessed, and notarized. I felt defeated. It was a long trip to my hometown, and all I had to do was find my mother and Doctor Connors, round up a notary and witness, have everyone sign, and get back to Nashville before the office closed. It was not improbable; it was impossible!
Jane, one of my close friends, worked for the Governor. Her office was in the same building as the Statistics Office. I decided to drop by and ask her if she could do anything to expedite the red tape. She said she didn't think so. Dejected, I started to leave, but Jane asked me to wait a minute.
"There might be a way to pull this off." She said mischievously.
"What do you mean?" I asked cautiously.
"Did they give you forms?"
"Good, fill them out."
"Why should I fill them out?”
"Just go ahead and fill them out, and we’ll see what we can do.” Jane replied.
"OK," I said.
I was feeling so desperate and frustrated with the treatment I had received from Old-Happy-Face that I was willing to try just about anything. After the paperwork was filled out, Jane tried to look dignified and asked if she looked a little like my mother. I nodded my head and grinned. She signed the papers and left the room, returning a short time later with signed and notarized affidavits. I didn't ask any questions.
I waited until three-fifteen before returning to the Statistics Office. Making a fast trip was one thing, but it still had to be believable. I tried my best to look exhausted and stressed out as I walked in. Since I was at my wits end, it wasn’t much of a stretch. Old-Happy-Face eyed me suspiciously. Her demeanor made me extremely nervous. If I was caught with these forged papers, would I be charged with fraud, or something worse? I had to play this straight, so I assumed my most innocent expression. Happy-Face’s voice penetrated my fears and brought me back to reality.
"That was an awfully quick trip!" She noted sourly.
I just nodded my head and thought, "Here it comes; I am going to get busted.” Nevertheless, to my surprise, she viewed the paperwork and proceeded to issue the birth certificate.
With a sarcastic snort, she exclaimed, "It would be an almost impossible trip, if you ask me!"
I stood there, looking as blank as last year's Easter egg. Happy-Face handed me the birth certificate, and with a superior wave of her hand, she dismissed me.
I didn't hesitate. I turned and almost ran out the door. When I got outside and could finally breathe, I thought, “At least I have a name!" On the heels of that thought came another one, “… albeit an illegal name.” All of a sudden, it became urgent to find my car, and get far away from there. I was shaking like a rock star when I jumped behind the wheel. I locked my doors immediately and cranked the engine. On the freeway, it occurred to me that I might be nonexistent and a criminal, but without a doubt, I was going to thoroughly enjoy Venezuela!