As part of the name change petition to the court, I have to provide a set of fingerprints, so yesterday I visited the Bedford Falls Police Department, housed in a formidable building in the warehouse district. When I had called about fingerprints, they told me they did them for the public every Tuesday and Thursday from 1 to 4, so I arrived in the waiting room with several other fingerprint-seekers. I paid my $10 fee to the woman behind bulletproof glass and took a seat. Whether to limit access to the inner recesses of the building or simply because there wasn’t a waiting room on the upper floors, we all waited on the ground floor for the elevator to open, at which point two or three of us would be brought up to an upper floor clerk’s office, where we filled out the top portion of the fingerprint card. Several officers or detectives, both uniformed and in suits, came through this office on their way to the back rooms, and each carried a pistol on their hip. Owning a Glock 9mm handgun myself, I thought of asking one of them about the nature and caliber of their firearms, but thought better of it.

The little old man sitting next to me turned and said that he couldn’t see very well, and couldn’t fill out the form, but the main fingerprint woman came over and asked him questions and filled out his form for him. On my form, I made sure to use all my existing legal definitions, including “M” for sex and “George Bailey” for my name. After helping the old man, the sharply attired woman took both of our clipboards and looked over them at the counter, assisted by a younger woman, perhaps her intern, both women with their backs to those of us sitting in the chairs waiting. The intern looked over her shoulder at me and smiled, and then she tapped my paperwork several times while the fingerprinting officer was looking, no doubt pointing out the space where I had written “Sex – M.” Feeling a bit like Harrison Ford in Fugitive, I briefly had visions of armed police bursting into the room, demanding that I raise my hands. They both looked over and smiled, not accusingly, but perhaps wryly or knowingly, and then went on with the procedure, first calling the old man out of the office, and then me a few minutes later.

The fingerprint station stands in a large and empty hallway, which surprised me, as I had pictured it being in an office surrounded by busy detectives, coffee machines, and donuts. She told me to relax and let her control my hands, so I closed my eyes and drifted off as she went finger to finger, first rolling the digit in the ink back and forth, then grasping it firmly and pressing it onto the card. When we were finished, she picked up my purse and briefcase from the floor, pointed down the hall to the bathrooms and said, “Careful you don’t touch your clothes! Go wash up and we’ll wait right here for you.”

There was another woman in the bathroom washing the ink off her hands, so I took a sink 4 or 5 places away and worked for about two minutes to remove all the ink. The main officer handed me the card back in the hall and cautioned me not to fold it for mailing. I told her I was supposed to hold on to it, so she amended her advice to say that I needed to let it dry before putting it in a folder. We took the elevator down to the ground floor, where she shook my hand and I thanked her.

I had not expected any difficulty and I received none.