Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Apparently, Washington DC Marriage Bureau Is Bad At Geography

This man, Gavin Clarkson, is from New Mexico.
A depressingly large number of people
apparently don't know New Mexico is
part of the United States. 
You might not be surprised, but a lot of people who should know better are remarkably bad at geography.

This is a story that is more than a month old, but it's still worth looking at, because it's an illustration of how bad we are at it.

According to the Las Cruces (NM) Sun News, a guy named Gavin Clarkson of Las Cruces, New Mexico went with his then-finance to Washington DC, because they wanted to get married there.  On November 20 they went to the DC Courts Marriage Bureau to apply for a marriage license.

This is something that should have been a mere formality.

Clarkson was required to show his driver's license as proof of his identity. Here's where it gets weird: The clerk at the DC Courts Marriage Bureau said that Clarkson ws a foreign citizen and that he would need to provide an international passport to get his marriage license, reports the Sun News.

Last I checked, New Mexico was one of the 50 states. It is clearly part of the United States of America, right?  It's also not breaking news. New Mexico has been a state since 1912.

The DC Courts Marriage Bureau apparently does not know that. The clerk summoned her supervisor, who confirmed that yep, Clarkson is a foreign citizen who needed his passport. Nobody in this office seemed aware that New Mexico is part of the United States.

Says the Las Cruces Sun News:

"'She thought New Mexico was a foreign country,' he said of the clerk. 'All the couples behind us waiting in line were laughing.'"

I guess the fact that those couples were laughing reassures us that some people know New Mexico is part of the United States.

Clarkson has lived in the United States all is life and English has always been his language. The clerk at the marriage bureau still just had to remark about how well Clarkson spoke English, considering that he is from a "foreign country."

His now-wife, Marina was confused by that, as you might expect. She is a U.S. citizen, but is originally from Argentina and speaks English with a slight accent.

The couple tried going to the marriage bureau the next day and luckily, found a clerk that knew New Mexico was in the United States. The marriage was on!

Apparently, people not knowing New Mexico is a state is a thing. New Mexico magazine reports on many people who encounter New Mexicans in other states who think the state is part of a foreign nation.

New Mexicans bring up things and places like Alburquerque, Santa Fe, Roswell and Los Alamos to prove the New Mexico is in the United States.

But there's one reference that always seems to convince doubters that New Mexico is a state. Just mention either Walter White, who was the lead character in "Breaking Bad" or the show itself.

"Breaking Bad" was set in New Mexico.

There is a lot of confusion across America about all kinds of places. I live in Vermont. Once, when I was in South Carolina, somebody asked, "Where you from, boy?"

"Vermont," I replied.

"VER-mont!! Ain't that part of Killington?"

To make it easy on everyone, I just said, "Yes."  At least the guy had heard of Killington, the ski area.

A lot of people when I'm traveling ask if Vermont is part of Canada. No, but I'm so far north in Vermont that I can see Canada from my house (true!). Does that count?

When I visiting another state in July in August, people sometimes ask me how much snow is on the ground back home in Vermont. As if the Green Mountain State is at the North Pole or something.

Clearly, it's going to take more than a few episodes of "Breaking Bad" to get Americans caught up on their geography, though.

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