Today I went to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Application Support Center (ASC) in Newark (24 Commerce St, not to be confused with the local office at 970 Broad St) for biometric services as part of my application to adjust status (I-485) filed concurrently with an immigrant petition for alien worker (I-140) filed on my behalf by the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. For me to receive biometric services is for them to take my fingerprints and photograph.
As I waited outside the building with a growing line of people, it occurred to me that the immigrant experience would make for good interactive fiction (IF). This thought began with my conversations with interesting people from Egypt and Haiti, then strengthened as we passed through big room after big room of mostly untouchable furniture and mostly unresponsive people—features that simplify IF development. As in the most enjoyable game Christminster, the player character I imagine should start with a letter in hand, which I just received yesterday for a 1pm appointment today. Gosh, I’d have to cancel class, I thought. Happily, they took me in early with no complaints—it helped for me to arrive at 7am; the door opens around 7:30am and appointments begin at 8am. Thus Matthew and Doug and so many others could remind me throughout the rest of the day of why I go to the trouble of permanent residency at all.
The in-game hint system is excellent, but here are some more tips. Don’t arrive too early (freezing cold) or too late (missed appointment). Wait to show your letter to the lady out shepherding lines, rather than grabbing a clipboard for yourself from the table near the entrance like the brash accompanying young American woman who guessed loudly but incorrectly that the lady shouts. Don’t follow the arrow upstairs but join the line inside the door to the right. There’s no scanner, so feel free to pack a cell phone or camera, but turn it completely off and keep it bagged. Tough luck if you are too handicapped to see the sign halfway up the stairs telling you to ask for elevator service. Each room is a new puzzle combined with scenery to explore: fill out the form, follow the line, listen for your number, hold out your fingers.
Throughout the process, both the applicants and the workers were well-informed, orderly, helpful to each other, and generally in good spirits. From its atmospheric prose evoking the 1980’s to its triumphant finish in the corner of a snow-dusted parking lot, this game will inspire you with the resilience and generosity of the human spirit.
Today also marks the first day I see New Jersey Transit’s new double-decker trains in person. I got a brief taste of one on my way to Newark in the morning (the accessible space confused me enough to block an exit with my bike). I almost got to experience “that new train smell” again returning from New Brunswick to New York tonight, but they said “no passengers” and meant it.