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Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanks, Kmart Lady

Thanks, Kmart Lady

New Zealand is going to give us the boot. At least, that’s what I’m thinking as I try, for the third time, to print passport photos of my PAHT-nah, Pete. I need the pictures to include in our residency application, which my immigration advisor will submit ASAP. Pete and I swear we’ve already sent her these pictures, and yet – they’re not there. No matter, I’ll send my beloved to the mall for new, white background, official passport pics.

Only the weekend’s passed. We left town and FORGOT TO GET THE PICTURES. During the work week, Pete doesn’t stop for anything – not lunch, not errands – bathroom breaks? Not sure. Not asking (He and Finley may have more in common than I thought).

You can see why I’m nervous these pictures won’t happen. If we wait another week to get them, well, that’s another week we delay the residency application. It’s another week closer to my work visa expiring (end of June). We’re told it may take a year for Immigration to process our residency. And though we can extend our visas – it’s more time. And money. Possibly another round of medical tests. I’m not keen to wait. I’ve passed the exit for Neurotic City en route to Crazy Town.

So I stand Pete against a wall at home and snap a shot of his handsome, unsmiling pilot mug. I can print the pictures myself. Almost done.
Whatever you do, don't smile, mate. Good job.

Except the woman at the mall’s copy and print kiosk isn’t quite sure how this passport photo program thingamabob works. I print one small picture on a single glossy sheet. I tell V, the employee, “The screen told me I was printing six.” V tries to print the pictures and fails. “I could copy them,” she offers.

V copies the pictures – which I now see as the difference between deportation and staying in NZ with my beloved – on flimsy, matte paper. They look as if they’ve been duplicated on a home copier. By a three-year-old. V refunds my two dollars and suggests I try the Camera Corner or Kmart.

I slink from the kiosk in defeat. This is 50 shades of impossible (without the leather restraints and blindfold). I want to cry – from frustration, fear and a gnawing sense of incompetence. Maybe this is a sign – a bad one.
Help me out, big K

At Kmart, I seat myself before a computer, input my camera’s memory card, and upload the photos. I press “wallet,” which is the smallest size I find. The screen tells me to go to the counter.

That’s where a big woman with long, dark hair and dour expression says, “You’re supposed to bring the receipt.” I return to the computer and fetch the receipt which says Photos will be ready in one hour. Argh. It’s noon and my stomach is trying to eat its own hunger pangs. Kmart Lady says she can print the pictures straight away. I pay her $1.20. Then she adds, “I’m sorry I was so harsh the first time. That didn’t come out right. Just one of those days.”

I know the feeling.

“Thanks,” I say. “It’s okay.”

The pictures emerge from the machine – two times too big. Argh.  I tell Kmart Lady I need passport-size photos. She says, “We don’t usually do them here, but I can fix you up on my machine.”

She spends several minutes uploading, then selecting and re-checking the picture. In two more minutes, my precious pictures slide down the printer’s tray. They look – just like passport photos. I have accomplished something. Maybe I’m not a total idiot. Maybe we’ll get our residency, after all.

“How much?” I ask Kmart Lady. She replies, “It’s okay. Merry Christmas.”

This random act of kindness morphs my entire morning from woe-is-me to wow-how-nice. A simple gift from one stranger to another; Maori (or Pacific Islander, by looks) to Pakeha (white chick); Resident to foreigner.

It makes me wonder – when’s the last time I did something nice for a stranger? For someone with whom I’ve no affiliation, and stand nothing to gain? When did I last help someone of a different race or economic standing, beyond writing a charity check or throwing coins in the Salvation Army’s Christmas kettle? Aren’t we supposed to enrich the lives of those beyond our circle?

I got my photos. The residency application is (finally) in the mail. And I’m left with the memory of kindness and the suspicion that just maybe, this little thing is gonna be alright.

Thanks, Kmart Lady.

Which random act of kindness do you cherish giving or receiving?

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