you'll be treated better.

in my effort to become a wannabe ex-patriate, i scheduled an appointment to submit my passport application along with 2 photos, application, expired passport, and $100 fee. a forty-year old woman helped me. "where are you going?" "i don't know," i said. "oh," she said, "well, it'll be good to have your papers in order if you do travel." her other coworker, also an older female, piped up. "now's the time to travel. gas is so expensive, it's worth it to get a one-way ticket anywhere. i could go to burbank for like $80, go to disneyland or something." "that's true," said the woman helping me.

as she made notes on my application, she told me that she wanted a moped. "i should do it, you know, while i'm young." the other clerk said, "yeah, but you'd have to go down watt. that could be dangerous." the woman helping me agreed. "it'd be so much better, though, rather than spending $300 a month on gas just to get to work!" "yeah," i said. feeling a little stand-offish, i decided to participate, as best i could. "my cousin has a moped. it's not that dangerous, i don't think. he took one spill when he was trying to go over some railroad tracks, and he hit the rails at a parallel level. but he was wearing a helmet, so he was alright." "oh," she said.

she continued to look through my profile. at last she found the employment section, which i had left blank. no work, no travel plans. why is this guy getting a passport? "i noticed the employment section is blank," she said. "are you working?" "no," i said. "that's okay," she said. "are you a student?" "no," i said. "well, that's okay," she said again. she seemed interested in my dilemma, though. what to make of an individual who doesn't work and doesn't study? "well, have you gone to school?" i told her i did, and that i have a degree, but i don't know what to do now. "maybe i'll do peace corps or something," i said. "that would be cool," she said. "you know, missionaries come here all the time and send stuff out to people." "they do?" "yeah," she said, "all the time."

"national guard members come in here, too," she said. "oh." suddenly, she began to whisper, as though some invisible force was listening to our conversation. "you know what you could do...this is what my father did. he had his degree and went into the air force, and he got to go all over the world." "oh. he was in the national guard?" "no," she said, "he was in the air force, the military." i didn't like where this was going. "you're still young," she said, "you could sign up for the air force, travel the world. and because you have a degree, you know, if you go to iraq, you'll be treated better than the other guys. and when you get back from service, you'll still be young!" she stapled my expired passport to my application, then continued. "me, i'm 40. i wish i had done something like that when i was younger." i held my breath, wondering if i should say something, since i was pretty sure that her duties as a postal employee didn't include military recruitment.

"am i free to go?" i asked. "yeah," she said, "you're all done."

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