Yesterday I wrote about ‘bureaucratic torture.’ I anticipated it and remembered it with little joy. Today, I experienced it.
I showed up on time at the consulate’s office (or rather, the office of the company to whom consular services have been outsourced.) I stood in line, dealt with the usual gruff security guards, was ushered upstairs (on a manually operated elevator straight out of the 1930s.) As I stood in line again, waiting to have my forms checked, I felt my heart sink as I watched the interactions taking place ahead of me: gruff, brusque, rigidly adhering to the template I had described in yesterday’s post: the missing form, signature, documentation; the appeal for flexibility; the brisk denial.
My turn came. I had prepared this set of forms and documents carefully; perhaps all would be well. Soon enough, I was disabused of that fond hope. Some forms were ‘missing’; others were ‘incorrectly filled out’; additional signatures and notarizations were needed. I argued briefly about the confusing and incomplete directions on the website, then shut up and took notes. I left in a rush, hoping that I would be able to return in the afternoon to submit the forms again. First, back to Brooklyn, to my wife’s office to print out forms, obtain her signature and a notarization. Then, to my daughter’s day-care to obtain her thumb impression. (Yes, you read that right; I needed to color her thumb with a marker and then control her squirming while I pressed it down next to her photograph. Apparently a parent’s signature would only work on page 2, not on page 1. ) Lastly, back home to find my wife’s passport and make copies.
Then, back on the train, heading into Manhattan, hoping to make it before the afternoon deadline expired. I was light-headed with hunger, thanks to the lack of breakfast and lunch. I made it on time, and was mercifully allowed to go up without standing in line all over again. Upstairs though, I waited again. Finally when my turn came, I handed in the forms and came the closest to praying that I have in a while.
To no avail. My wife’s signature on a notarized form apparently did not resemble, to the officer’s satisfaction, the signature on her passport. My form was ‘regretfully’ returned to me. I needed to get it re-signed till the resemblance was adequate. Now, I groveled: Surely the variance in signatures was normal? Surely I had been subjected to enough of a run-around? Again, to no avail. I had hit the dreaded stonewall.
I was beaten. I asked for confirmation, several times, that everything else with the forms was copasetic, received several meaningless assurances, and left. Tomorrow awaits.
My trials and travails are trifling and insignificant compared to the cruel mistreatment of those–like the Palestinians I mentioned in yesterday’s post–for whom such a day is a commonplace in their lives. This fact provides me with some comfort, some opportunity to consider that I still have it better than those whose lives are beaten down on a daily basis by a particularly cruel mix of opaque regulation and intransigent officialdom.