One of my pen pals who goes by the name Delphic Oracle, has a quote at the bottom of his e-mails that says: “Most of the things people worry about never happen.”
Yeah, sure, Oracle.
This week the showdown began and buoyed by Carol’s pleasant experience, I was off to the American Embassy to renew my passport.
I haven’t been to the embassy since I had to replace my stolen passport. In 2002 I went to a relatively small waiting room and had something to read while I waited, and was soon explaining my situation and getting a new passport.
This time entering the embassy involved a checkpoint where they took most of my possessions and sent them along while I went around the detector arbor. They kept my keys and cell phone. I got a ticket to retrieve them on my way out.
Next step was to get my picture taken, then go through a door that was labeled for U.S. citizens. Inside was a large room with more than a dozen windows. The room was filled with men, women and children, a confused me and not enough chairs for me to sit.
“I have a 9:30 appointment,” I said, and was directed to take a number and wait near Window 5, which I did. My number was D14. D6 was being served. I looked at the picture they had taken. I looked like Jimmy Durante’s mother. “Can I go through the rest of my life without ever showing this passport,” I asked myself. The answer was “Probably not.” So I asked to be released to get another picture taken. This move did not seem to surprise the doorkeeper, nor the “photographer” who was about to make 1,000 more colons.
Re-armed with a barely better photo, I reentered the room. Still standing room only. The D numbers had disappeared. So I asked the door keeper.
“Just wait by window 5,” she said. I did so. Five young people were at the window. I could only guess that one was getting served and the others were moral support. After they left, I said to the man in the window, “I have a 9:30 appointment to renew my passport.”
“It’s only 9:25,” he said. Right. While I waited I walked over to the Window 3, the cashier’s window, to read the sign next to it. It said, “To begin the process of obtaining a passport start at Window 3” So I asked the woman behind the window if I should start there. “No,” she said, smiling. I pointed to the sign and said the obvious. She smiled again and shook her head.
At 9:45 a loudspeaker voice said “Nine-thirty appointment go to Window 7.” I staggered past Window 7 until a young man stopped me, and said, “It’s back there, sweetie.” I swear he did.
By now, I realized I had totally lost my smile, and I know a smile can help you get things done, but I just couldn’t find it.
“I had a meaningless 9:30 appointment,” I muttered, not smiling. The man behind the window said, “Don’t worry; we will take care of you here.”
Then I noticed a sign that said I needed to have filled out the correct form.
“Do I have to do that?”
“Yes. And we need another I.D.”
I read the description of the different forms. None applied to me, but the light blue one was the closest, so he gave me a light blue one. It was front and back of those squares to fill out with your name and everything else they could think of. There was no flat surface on which to write except an empty window shelf or my knee.
Form completed, sort of, I waited behind a big gentleman. He seemed unreasonably grateful and happy. Then I was sent to Window 3 to pay my $110 and back to Window 7 to get my old passport.
I left the room and walked to the final exit. (There is an exit, Jean Paul). On the wall next to the exit door were sheaves of light blue, tan, and brown forms with a notice that one should accompany a passport renewal request. As I turned in my ticket to get my keys and cell phone, I said to the man, “It not very smart to put those forms next to the exit when the only way a person can get an appointment is via Internet.” He said he would see about that, and I nodded, solemnly, not believing him.
Outside an alert taxista across the street honked and gave me a lift to Plaza Mayor. As I got out of the taxi, I found my smile thinking about the good news I had received the day before. My friend Ann had called and said in her very British accent, “Jo, I have found your cédula!”
It was under the passenger seat in her car. It must have fallen the day we went to lunch. This meant my governmental tramites were done!!
Well, Oracle, you just may be right.