parking in the poetry garage, trembling at the visa office

i couldn’t sleep last night and i could hardly breathe this morning from anxiety.  my legs felt a little wobbly. i was going for my indian visa appointment.  the website was quite stern in its directives:   no cell phones.  no bags.  no backpacks.  no strollers.  all documents to be carried in a single ziplock bag.  two passport photos, must be black and white.  one photocopy of designated proof of residency–DO NOT CUT OR FOLD PHOTOCOPY.  persons subject to security check.  must arrive exactly ten minutes before scheduled appointment.  money order preferred but no guarantees that you’re getting that visa.

i parked in the poetry garage. really, there's a poetry garage in chicago at 201 w. madison. i ended up on the eighth floor, one floor below langston hughes and one floor above emily dickenson. however, poet of the people my ass--parking on carl's floor cost me thirty smackers.

 

a lot of the questions on the application related to pakistan.  specifically, was i of pakistani descent?  did i have family members who were pakistani?  had i visited pakistan, ever?  if the answer to any of the above was yes–heaven forbid i scrawled “pakistan” on the “country of origin”–an extra six weeks were to be allowed for review of my application.  i want to see my two facebook friends–anto prashanth and rahul guru, whom i met through taskseveryday.com–in mumbai.  but as i approached the visa office, i knew i carried a deep, dark secret.

i briefly had a "thing" for imran khan. he's the pakistani cricket player turned politician. we didn't actually meet. he has no idea who i am, but you would have to agree he's something.

 

at the visa office, nobody was interested in my ziplock bag.  nobody cared that i had a ten twenty appointment and it was already ten fifteen so therefore i was officially late.  i stood in line behind a man holding a backpack and in front of a woman who had a baby stroller.  there was a wide screen television on which was playing a movie with a lot of dancing punctuated by tearful embraces.  i was turning red with anxiety hives.  i had left my ativan and my inhalator in the car.  with the dead poets.

imran's ex-wife jemima had a fling with hugh grant after her marriage broke up. i would do hugh grant. not only is she beautiful, but she's smart and a respected journalist and heiress to a large fortune. jeez, i'd take any one of those attributes. including the doing hugh grant attribute.

 

at last, it was my turn.  i approached the window.  i handed over my paperwork.  the woman said “we’ve got your credit card on file.  next.”

“does this mean i actually filled out all the paperwork correctly and i’m going to get a visa?”  i asked.  “on the first try???”

“ma’am, i can’t hear you.”

“DOES THIS MEAN I ACTUALLY FILLED OUT ALL THE PAPERWORK CORRECTLY AND . . . ”  i looked around.  oh, boy, major stand in line bureaucracy faux pas.  nobody was watching the wide screen.

it was time for me to shut up and find my way back to the poetry garage.

i can’t say i actually have the visa.  i don’t know yet.  but if i am this scared applying for a visa to one country, it’s going to take a lot of desensitization before i can play the jaded world traveler.

i then paid a visit to jay the amazing verizon dude who reviewed the list of countries where i will meet facebook friends and declared i needed a new phone which he will order for me.  tomorrow i strike east for cleveland and then north to michigan.

i stopped at st. peter's church on madison street because the franciscan friars were doing an eleven forty mass for the solemnity of st. francis of assisi. he's the patron saint of, among others, upholsterers, poets, and florists. he was also one of the original christmas pageant producers!

by next friday, i think i’ll be in alaska.  oddly enough, i don’t need a visa.

 


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