I looked in my mailbox yesterday looking for my credit card bill, and instead, much to my surprise, there was a check for $600 from the US Government!
I received a notice about this economic stimulus package a while back. I read it over and decided I wouldn't be getting any money. That's what government handouts are like. You read them and come to understand them as best as you can, then move on. I don't remember why I decided I wouldn't get money. Maybe because I don't live in the US? Or maybe because I don't actually pay any taxes? I haven't paid taxes in about 15 years. In America, it was because I was too poor for taxes, and they always gave me back everything my work had taken over the year. In Turkey, I take the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, which means as long as I don't earn over $80,000 a year, I don't owe them anything. At this rate, it looks like I will NEVER have to pay any taxes, which is fine with me. But I still dutifully file. Tax returns are the best way to reassure the American government of your continuing existence.
Aside from the miracle of Free Money, the other miracle is that the check was actually in my mailbox. Not disappeared forever. Not sitting in some office for eight weeks waiting for someone to figure out what to do with this foreign missive. In my mailbox, and not a single tea stain on it. Foreign mail is tricky here. Once my grandmother sent me a letter. I kept getting these notices on my door saying I had foreign mail, and they would attempt delivery again at such and such a time. Usually, you have to sign for foreign mail, and provide ID, and sometimes you have to go to some office and stand in line and fill out a few forms only to receive a bit of junk mail from Publishers' Clearinghouse or whatever. But for this letter from my grandmother, I was never home at the times they wanted to deliver it, and there was no phone number or office or anything for me to try to contact them and tell them this. Finally, I was out sick one day and a very harried delivery guy came with my letter. He was actually angry at me for not having been home all the other times he tried to deliver it. After telling me off, he really wanted to know what the letter was, because the address had been scrawled on the envelope by my uncle with Down's Syndrome and it looked interesting. I told him and he felt gratified and left.
The letter was about three months old. My grandmother had died the previous month.
Now that I'm home most of the time, I'm there to get my foreign mail. Usually it's absentee ballot stuff. Not that I got anything in time to vote in the primaries, but I've gotten every single local election and referendum that I neither know about nor care about. It's sweet of them to send them, and I try to vote sometimes as a way of saying 'thank you,' but I also think it's not right to vote on something you're uninformed about, even if it is just the fire chief or the superintendent of some school board. And it could be that I didn't get anything for the primaries because I'm still registered in the Greens party. I'm pretty sure, though, that I registered Republican to make sure I'd get my absentee stuff. I figured I'd be like a Republican mole. Infiltrate their ranks and mess with their statistics, make them think they've got me on their side and then bam!, vote something else and really mess with their heads.
Here's another thing: I pretty much got paid just for being an American. In a way I think I deserve this because of how often I have to make the snap decision about whether to tell the truth when asked where I'm from, and risk hearing about how evil we all are for supporting Israel and blowing up Iraqi children and trying to take everyone's stuff and putting AKP into power and making all these movies and music everyone has to go to the trouble of pirating and secretly making plans with Europe to sabotage Turkey so we can divide it up amongst ourselves and every one of us is responsible for George Bush and then there's Paris Hilton on top of it all, and by the way, can you help me/my son/my cousin get a green card? I'm tired of being told, as though it's comforting, that even though LE is half American, he can be all Turkish and we can just forget about that whole American thing. Sometimes it's just easier to pretend I'm from Canada. That way I might only get in trouble for clubbing baby seals.
But really, I don't deserve it. Aren't Americans privileged enough for doing nothing more than having the dumb luck of being born there?
Still, I'll be in America in a couple of weeks, with $600 of Free Money burning a hole in my pocket. What shall I buy? How shall I stimulate the economy? It's my duty as an American citizen to do so.