Thursday, October 12, 2006

AMAAAANDA! (Gittin' Hitched in the 5-4-0, Part 2)

Two days before our appointment with destiny in the State Park, my fiancee and I picked up our friends Jen and Joey from the airport and drove out to Pearisburg. Jen and Joey live on the West coast, and had been traveling for about thirty hours, so they were a little punchy. They slept for most of the ride, waking to find themselves outside the Pearisburg Wal-Mart. My fiancee, of course, told her Pearisburg Wal-Mart story, which involved a couple of straw-chewing hillbillies called her a "Shpic" for playing Mexican rap in her car. The store lived up to their expectations; Jen and Joey commented that they had never seen so many illiterates in such a compressed space.

Pearisburg is a sleepy little town in the middle of a large, forested mountain range. According to my fiancee, Jen hadn't really believed all of her stories about Southwest Virginia. Looking into their eyes, I could tell that they were starting to see the light, although they agreed that the courthouse was beautiful. When we walked into the county recorder's office, I felt a little bit of the time warp feeling. The room was pale blue, with a wall of windows, covered with venetian blinds. It had flourescent lights, fans pushing the lazy air around, and formica counters. Clearly, Giles hadn't updated much over the last seventy years. I was pleased, however, to notice that there was a whole bookcase of leather-bound scrapbooks with titles like "Deeds 1840-1845" and "Marriages 1990." I liked the idea of our marriage certificate residing in one of those scrapbooks, instead of in a filing cabinet, microfilm spool, or computer. First, though, we had to get married.

There was a middle-aged, blonde haired woman waiting at the main counter. As we came in together, she surveyed our group and snarled "Y'all here to get married?" My fiancee and I said yes, to which she replied "All of ya, or just yew two?" When we told her that we were the only two getting married, Jen and Joey were banished to a waiting area/storage closet down the hall. We later found that they bolted from the room because of a combination of unpleasant odors and uncomfortable furniture.

Once Jen and Joey left, the woman, who was apparently in charge, called out to one of her employees: "Amanda!"

From down the hall, a lazy voice. "Whut?"

"Whuchoo doin'?"

"Filin'." (Actually, Amanda had a rich drawl, so it sounded more like "Faaaaahhhlin'."

"We got some people lookin' to git married."

"'Kay." Spoken with roughly five syllables.

Amanda came into the main room and led us to her office. It was a smallish room with an L-shaped desk, on which sat a huge, 1980's-vintage electric typewriter. There then commenced a ten-minute interlude wherein Amanda tried to start the typewriter. Finally, she called out to one of her fellow workers: "Miranda?" Muh-RAAAAANNN-duh?

From another room: "Whut?"

"Come in here. I need some help with mah typewriter." Amanda smiled at us. "Miranda's rill good with the technological stuff."

Miranda looked like a cross between Amanda and the office manager. She had Amanda's round face and brown eyes, but had the same blonde hair as the other woman. Walking over to Amanda's desk, she flipped the switch on the back of the typewriter. When that didn't work, she turned on the power strip on the floor. As the typewriter hummed to life, Amanda beamed at us: "Didn't I tell yew that Miranda knows all about that electronic stuff?"

Over the next forty five minutes, we watched in amazement as Amanda hunt-and-pecked her way through our wedding certificate with two-inch-long lacquered fingernails. All through the process, she kept up a steady chatter. Apparently, Miranda was her first cousin, and had gotten her the job. Amanda was pleasant, though, although we had to repeat every name three or four times while she misspelled it. Generally, we enjoyed the experience, although we were amazed when she handed us the certificate. She'd managed to mangle my father's name (which is the same as mine), my mother's middle name, my fiancee's father's name, and a few other entries. After I mentioned these mistakes, she broke out a bottle of liquid paper, telling us "I go through about three or four of these lil' suckers a week." She whited-out my father's entire name on all five carbon copies of the form and rewrote it in broad, loopy, almost unintelligable handwriting. Watching her massacre my wedding certificate, I smiled and said that I'd take care of it for her. She seemed relieved to hand it over. A few minor changes here and there, and we were ready to go.

The next step was paying for the forms. As Amanda told us, the basic cost was thirty dollars, plus three dollars for every copy. We wanted five copies, so the whole cost was $45. When I told her this, she told me to wait a minute while the computer worked out the math. When the computer agreed with me, Amanda shot a wide-eyed look and told me "You're rilly good with the math." I, of course, smiled modestly and silently thanked Mrs. Betts, my high school algebra teacher.

To Be Continued


  • I had no idea that 4 people could wed in Pearisburg. Would have moved there a long time ago...if I had heard of it before.

    By Blogger mist1, At October 13, 2006 at 12:48 AM  

  • I'm not sure that there are many limitations on Pearisburg wedlock. As long as you keep it in the family...

    It's nice to see you again, Mist1.

    By Blogger Crankster, At October 13, 2006 at 8:09 AM  

  • Well, hell. I'd never seen so many illiterates in such a small space before going to the Pearisburg DMV. That was the first time I'd ever heard a state official instructing somebody to "Make their mark" on the signature line of a document.

    It's a strange strange world up thar.

    By Blogger misanthropster, At October 18, 2006 at 10:56 PM  

  • "make their mark"... that is brilliant.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 24, 2006 at 12:47 AM  

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