13 October, 2007

US Consulate

Spent most of yesterday at the US consulate getting my visa for NY. The security around the place has rendered all the staff humourless, brusque and officious, even the ones you have to deal with on the phone to pay your visa fee, who from their accents are sitting about 400 miles north of the consulate. This is in marked contrast to the staff at Heathrow who have to deal with similar levels of security threat and far greater volumes of people, but succeed in retaining normal levels of humanity.

They have dug up the road in front of the embassy and the whole place is surrounded with barricading, so you have to walk round and round the embassy to even approach the first queue. This is the queue to have your appointment letter checked and to be told which security queue to join. You then join your security queue and wait for up to an hour. Outside. Luckily it was not cold or rainy. When your queue eventually moves, you join the queue to actually go through security. After that - no electrical equipment at all is allowed, not even your ipod, or those fobs that they use to generate security codes - you walk round the building again and join the queue to get a number. You then finally enter the building and sit in a waiting room, waiting for your number to be called. When called, you get fingerprinted, hand in your application and wait for your visa interview. After the visa interview, you join the queue to book the courier for your passport to be delivered back to you. You then exit the building, walk round it again and join the queue to pick your stuff up from security.

I spent 3.25 hours at the US consulate. 10 minutes of that time was spent at security, being fingerprinted, being interviewed, booking couriers etc. The whole of the rest of the time was spent queueing. Luckily, on the way to the consulate I had happened to buy the Time Out guide to Eating in London, so I spent most of the time going through it working out which restaurants in Balham and in Central London I shall be eating in over the next few weeks.

After that massive queueing exercise, I treated myself to a little detour on the way back to work. Work is a sponsor of the Royal Academy, so there are free corporate tickets to the Zoo Art Fair. So I fell by Vigo Street to pick up the tickets. This involved a walk down New and Old Bond Streets, which I had actually never walked down before. My gosh, it was posh, everyone walking down it had the sheen of wealth, and were all tanned and gleaming with Euro-affluence. All made me very aware that my shoes haven't been polished since the day I bought them. Anyway, it was fun to be out of the office and my element, during working hours.

Bought an Evening Standard and read it at Square Pie while I ate a mince and onion pie, mash and mushy peas for my lunch at 4pm. The Standard claims that London is now the greatest city on earth. And who am I to disagree? I love being back in London.

13 Comments:

Blogger bobbie said...

You could have come and said hello! I can't believe you've never walked down Bond Street before - how have you managed to avoid that?

I also can't believe the bank can't pay for some hapless visa courier to do all the queueing rather than have one of their not lowly paid managers queue for themselves. Seems like madness.

7:42 am  
Blogger SMW said...

Vigo Street is, I think, is named for a town in Galicia. Someone told me the story once but afraid forgotten.
Word verification: xxvrcuio, which is very Gallego!

8:12 am  
Blogger FBT said...

you have to go to the visa appointment yourself - because the Yanks are so bloody paranoid. Mind you, just because they're paranoid doesn't mean that everyone isn't out to get them.

10:29 am  
Blogger random.thoughts said...

I have nothing to comment on this entry (except something possibly about the Standard or US paranoia which I think has been done)but noticed I am slipping down the charts and wanted to make amends. Should I say something controversial to stop the slide? I'm quite good at profanities...

11:16 am  
Blogger Troika said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:57 am  
Blogger Troika said...

I read this post and then picked up my book, The End of the Affair, to find the main character going to Vigo Street to visit a private detective. It's funny how these things happen.

Veeraswamy's is around there, isn't it? You should have popped in for a curry.

I'm off topic, aren't I?

I do hate queuing.

11:58 am  
Blogger FBT said...

I'm thinking of reading some Graham Greene. I saw that movie with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts and thought that there was enough of interest in it for the book to be probably better - and certainly it would have the advantage of not having Edward Norton in it, who is NOT a good-looking chap.

10:11 pm  
Blogger MacDuff said...

.................London is now the greatest city on earth
Thats why I avoid it like the plague.

10:12 pm  
Blogger dgny said...

Do you not have a UK passport? I'm not surprised they might make a Malaysian passport queue for 3.25 hours - Muslims, dontchaknow. I have a friend who returned to the states after spending a year working in a Montessori Preschool in Jakarta and she wasn't allowed to work in the US for 6 months. US citizen. She had to wait to be cleared. They're so silly.

11:36 pm  
Blogger Andrew said...

Silly isn't the word. Frankly I think they've got everything they deserve. They are number 1 in my rudest nation list. They are also numbers 2, 3, 4 etc. Xenophobic nincompoops.

2:49 am  
Blogger Tiny said...

There's a stopover in Anchorage for the flight between Hong Kong and Toronto. I was forced to be fingerprinted and have my photo taken at the Anchorage airport. I wasn't happy about this at all as I didn't expect this. I would have considered other airlines if I knew this would happen to me.

While we were waiting to get back on the plane, a US custom officer raised his voice when scolding one particular passenger. He was so loud that everybody in the transit area could hear what penalties the passenger might face. That's very rude as he should have kept his voice down so as to respect the passenger's privacy.

10:09 pm  
Blogger 962 said...

of course this is how you win hearts and minds.

3:10 am  
Blogger Troika said...

Edward Norton?

6:29 am  

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