1. A complicated combination of work, a doctor’s appointment, gigs and kids’ activities makes it impossible to go to Houston the next week. Then a letter from the school district arrives, reprimanding us for the kids’ unexcused absences while we were in NY.
ARG. Fine! We’ll go to the consulate the first day of Spring Break.
2. Sunday night: Rob and I double check all of the paperwork.
2. Monday morning, 7:15am: Arg! Fifteen minutes late! And stuck behind an accident! Panic-drive for 2 hours. Arrive just minutes before our appointment.
3. Blanch at the hot, crowded, dreary room with the “Now Serving” sign perpetually blinking 72 and only one human behind the bullet-proof glass window.
4. Paste on smiles, hand the young clerk our 4 packets of neatly organized applications.
“You cannot all apply at one time. You must apply at different times,” she says in a slight Spanish accent.
“The website only let us sign up for one person. We’re one family. Can we possibly do it today?” I plead.
She sighs. “Yes, but you must wait for all the others with appointments.”
We cheerily agree.
5. “The computer cannot accept this form,” she says of the first page in the first file. “There are no boxes.”
What?? “But… that’s the way it printed from your website…”
She sighs again. “Here. Please fill these out.” She hands us the same forms, WITH BOXES. We fill them out AGAIN for ALL 4 of us, spread out on a tiny table in front of the room filling with even more people.
6. Suddenly realize that my neatly organized application folders are neatly organized in the WRONG WAY. All the copies are in a separate folder, clipped together by type rather than person. Madly scramble to re-org, the paperwork now spreading over the tiny table and onto the floor.
7. “The copy of this form has only the first page,” she says of the second page in the copy section.
WHA??? Note to self for next time: Do a last-minute file check of the copies as well. Glance at the giant sign on the window that says “WE DO NOT MAKE COPIES”. Look pleadingly at the clerk. “Oh no! I’m so sorry! Um… what can we do?”
She sighs again. Grits teeth. “I will make copies for you.”
8. “I need 52 dollars for this form processing fee.” We look in our wallets. $45.
“Do you take credit cards?”
Sigh. “No. There is an ATM down the street.” Rob gallantly contains his rage, heads out the door, down one elevator, up another elevator, drives down six parking garage stories, down the street, withdraws cash, drives back up the street, up six parking lot stories, down an elevator, up another elevator, then back into the Office of Doom and hands over the fee.
9. “You do not have bank records from the last three months,” she sighs.
“What?!? Um… that was not on the list. We have proof of future employment, like it says. We also have our W2s from last year.”
Long sigh. “Yet, you need three months of bank records.” We stare at her in disbelief, unable to speak. “Well, maybe you can email them to me, and maybe I will be able to attach them to your file.”
Maybe. We nod, grimly, visions of travel fading.
9. “Now finally you need your money order. Please write all of your names on it.” We comply, relieved at the thought of being finished after two hours, and hand her the fee. “Wait… this is not a money order.”
“Oh, it’s a cashier’s check,” I reply. “My bank assured me that it’s the same thing. Safer, in fact.”
“We only accept money orders,” she says, very firmly. We look bleakly at each other.
“I am going to kill that bank teller,” I mutter. Then louder, “What time do you close?”
“Okay, it’s 12:15 right now. We’ll be back.”
10. Throw files and papers into our bag and rush the kids out the door, snapping and cursing at the world, bureaucracy, our children, and each other.
At this point I highly suggest throwing in some comic relief. For example, have the kids “forget” to get out of the elevator, forcing them to ride all the way back down to the bottom while the parents pace and describe in detail the throttling they will give the children when they finally find the correct floor.
Arrive at the closest grocery and run to the customer service desk. Approach the extremely grouchy looking employee with trepidation. Leave the store 5 minutes later with a shiny new money order, an optimistic attitude, and a deep love for the grouchy-looking-yet-extremely-fast-and-friendly grocery store employee.
Speed back to the consulate.
11. Pay! Leave!
12. Panic about the bank statements. We really really need those today. They’ll never get “attached” to our applications if we email them. Google the nearest branch of our bank. YES! It’s a mile away! Thank you, technology!
13. Return the consulate. Drop off bank statements. Thank the young lady behind the bullet proof glass profusely. She smiles vaguely and sighs. Turn to leave. It’s almost 1pm. The room is still full of people. Mostly the same people.
The “Now Serving” sign blinks 72.
14. Eat loads of Mexican food. Drink a large margarita. Take the kids to an awesome Children’s Museum and buy them ice cream. They really were amazing throughout the ordeal… reading and drawing and not complaining at all. Drive home.
And now we wait. And wait. And wait.