Yesterday I had to go to the US Consulate, something I’ve managed to avoid in all the years I’ve been in and out of Mexico. I needed a document notarized for the US and they offer the service – for a fee of course. Not cheap, it was $50us for one seal and signature.
It’s not an attractive building, more like a 1950′s nuclear safe house. You can’t just drop by either, you have to have an appointment which you make on line. We showed up with our US passports, our printed copy of a confirmed appointment along with the appointment password.
There were quite a few people waiting out in front, they appeared to be trying to get a visa to visit the US. At our appointed time we were let in the first of the secured doors. Inside it was a TSA set up with xrays and walk through booths and armed guards. They gave us wooden file holders for our cell phones (not allowed), gum (where are we, Singapore?) and anything else forbidden. Mimi hadn’t planned on coming and she had her pack with all sorts of stuff in it, it took quite a while for them to go through it all. The woman behind us said that Mexican nationals were not allowed to bring anything into the building, not even keys. We felt suitably honored that they were willing to root through our junk, I guess that is one of the privileges of being a citizen.
Then you walk through another bunker like room, get your appointment letter checked again, and are allowed into the …waiting room! Yes, all that to get to a big room full of plastic chairs and numbers for who is being served like at the DMV. Then you sit and you wait. After about 15 minutes I was really ticked off that they took my nicorette gum. I started walking around and reading all the signs posted on the walls. Most of them were price lists, they charge for everything, even answering the phone, and sometimes they get 3 or 4 hundred dollars an hour for it. I think I made them nervous but I was not feeling the love.
After an hour, we spoke to the first native english speaker we’d seen and she took our credit card, and moved us to another line at the next booth. In all of our time there, the only native English speakers I saw were behind bullet proof glass. The visa interview process was quick for some, longer for others. They wanted to see everyone going on the trip, so there were whole families sitting around waiting for a young kid who looked like a mormon missionary to talk to them through bullet proof glass. Charming. The only personal touch I saw were a line of rubber ducks sitting on a desk behind the glass at the notary window. I wish I’d been waited on by that person, I tried to comment on them to the women waiting on me and she scowled and wouldn’t answer. I guess I should stop bitching about the place, I have to go back next year to renew my passport. I don’t want to be on the ‘do not fly’ list.