I know things have been pretty pizza and apple tart cake around here this week, and the following story is not going to fit in at all with that model, but I hope you won’t mind if I tell it anyway because, to be honest with you, I had a heck of a night last night. When I came home, pulling out lemon-sage-garlic chicken to reheat in the oven, I thought how perfectly wonderful it is to have home-cooked food to turn to, especially on awful nights like that one, and I figure you probably feel that way too sometimes, so we might as well be open about it.
I’ll start by saying that here in America, we have these really good, really important laws about being authorized to work in the country—laws that are no big deal for natural-born citizens with documentation like birth certificates and social security cards, except when those natural-born citizens lose their documentation, like I did, a couple years ago. Mostly this has been OK since I have a current passport but, come October 14, that passport is expiring, and my current employers want current proof.
So three weeks ago, I applied to get a new passport, filling out all the paperwork and getting new passport photos taken and mailing the whole package of info over to Pennsylvania somewhere via certified mail. They got the package, but I am still waiting.
I also figured I should replace my social security card, just as a backup. It’s free the first time you replace it, did you know that? Go in person to your local social security office, during daytime business hours, and, after filling out more paperwork, request a new card. Perfect. I had this past Monday off, so I planned to go first thing in the morning—until I realized you have to have a birth certificate in order to prove your identity and replace your social security card.
Getting a certified copy of my birth certificate shouldn’t be a big deal, right? After all, they are public record and, can I just say again, I WAS BORN HERE. So I go online to request a certified copy of my birth certificate, one that will hold up for employment verification purposes, and I pay the $43.00 WHERE $20 OF THAT IS JUST SHIPPING CHARGES and the system says it will arrive in a few days.
Wednesday afternoon, yesterday, UPS tries to deliver my birth certificate sometime around 2 PM. I am at work at 2 PM. So they leave me a note that says, Hey! We’ll try again tomorrow! at which point I will also be at work at 2 PM. I call the number on the back of the slip and a voice recording tells me I can go pick up my package, TODAY! if I want to, and all I have to do is leave my number for someone to call me back within the hour. I wait anxiously by the phone the whole hour, plugging it in the wall because it is almost out of battery, and I do dishes and start a load of laundry and bring the phone with me to the bathroom because I am so afraid of missing this call and not getting the chance to get my birth certificate TODAY!
At literally five minutes before the hour is over, someone calls and tells me I can drive about a half hour away to the UPS distribution center and they’ll have my package waiting. I ask him how late they’ll be open, and he says, Oh, we’ll be here until 9, so I grab my phone from the wall, jot down the address he gave me, hop in the car and set out to get my birth certificate TONIGHT! I still haven’t eaten dinner.
I get to the center, driving in darkness the whole way because, you know, it’s October now, and I pull up to what reminds me of the heavily industrial areas when you cross from Chicago into Indiana: large warehouses with not a lot of windows, lots of cars, huge semis driving in and out. I follow the signs through this industrial center and to a teeny-tiny office way at the end where the customer service center is located. I bring the note that was on my door, and I go up to the counter where a guy tells me some other place actually has my package because apparently it’s not at the well-lit office where customers come to get things. He asks me if I’ve been to the west wing guard house before? Why no, I tell him, no, I have not been to the west wing guard house before.
He says, pointing in darkness, Go to the stop sign and swing right, then go all the way down to a little beige building. The little beige building turns out to be practically identical to a men’s prison yard, I kid you not, with 40 or 50 men smoking and talking outside of it, all in a huge huddle, next to this little beige building with white walls and fluorescent lights inside, surrounded by darkness and empty cars and NOT A SINGLE FEMALE AROUND—except for me, of course. I pull over a little ways from them and call the number on my sheet, trying to see if there’s another way to work this out, and I get bumped back to the recording and hung up on. I curse myself for being single. I curse the time for being dark outside. I curse UPS for sending me on a wild goose chase to a crazy little building surrounded by creepy men at night time WHEN I PAID $20 FOR THIS STUPID PACKAGE TO BEGIN WITH.
I drive home.
I know there are a lot of you reading this right now who are saying I am a wimp or hysterical because, hello? it’s UPS and nothing bad is going to happen there, and to you I just say I WAS TOTALLY ALONE AND I WAS SCARED.
When I get home, I call UPS again and talk to a very nice girl who tells me she would have been scared, too, and she doesn’t blame me at all, but, sorry, she doesn’t know how things work at that facility, and now my package is stuck there for the rest of the week. I can go anytime before next Wednesday, but, fyi, they’re not open on Saturdays and Sundays.
So again, I am not sure how to make this more clear, but I WORK DURING THE WEEK. That’s how I got into this whole problem to begin with: my job—the one that is Monday through Friday?—needs proof that I can work here. The Monday I had off? That was this week, before my UPS package had made it to Illinois. She asks me if I have someone who can go get it for me, and I say usually I would, but they’re all busy or working their own jobs, and I really don’t know what else to do, and she says, Well, you have until Wednesday! And I say, OK, thanks, and I hang up.
I try very hard not to cry while I pull my leftover lemon-garlic-sage chicken out of the refrigerator, the chicken that I made for dinner Saturday night when Jackie came over, while we laughed and talked and then tried watching one of the worst movies either of us had ever tried to watch. I stick it in the oven to reheat and I go on Twitter and tell UPS how really rotten they are. this makes me feel a little better.
Then I eat some leftover chicken, and that makes me feel better, too. In fact, eventually I am calm enough to realize that, just like every other situation that seems like it won’t work out but providentially always does, this is going to be fine somehow, too. I will get my UPS envelope. I will prove I am a US citizen. I will keep my job. Or, I won’t. In either case, at least there are constants like nice things to eat. I guess that means everything will be all right.
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2002
This recipe uses bone-in chicken breasts, rather than whole chickens, to achieve the same delicious, roasted flavor and golden brown skin as when you roast a whole bird. It’s perfect for me, as I like only white meat, and it’s so economical! Credit goes to my brother, Adam, who’d made it last month and raved about it—he’s always finding good recipes like these.
4 or 5 chicken breast halves with skin and bones
8 very thin lemon slices, seeded
12 fresh sage leaves
Fresh lemon juice of one lemon
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups chicken broth
Preheat oven to 450°F. Slide fingertips under chicken skin to loosen. Arrange 2 lemon slices and 3 sage leaves under skin on each breast; smooth skin over to enclose. Place chicken inside dutch oven (I used two because I was making five breast halves, and they are large; the original recipe suggests using a rimmed baking sheet—what’s important is that it’s an oven-proof material with rims to prevent oil leaking); brush with oil. Drizzle lemon juice over each breast; sprinkle with garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup broth onto sheet around chicken.
Roast chicken until brown and cooked through, basting once or twice with pan juices and extra squirts of lemon, about 25 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter.
Place dutch ovens or cooking sheets directly atop 2 burners; add remaining broth. Using back of fork, mash any garlic into broth and pan juices. Boil over high heat until broth reduces almost to glaze, scraping up browned bits, about 4 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.