G needs a visa to go to Spain. Being organised by nature, I called the embassy two months ago and was brusquely given an appointment, a month later. 11:40, on the said day which was the ‘earliest possible’ I was told by the man on the phone, busily. The day was last week.
We had checked the website and read up on the hundred-million things needed, got them all together, filled in forms in duplicate, photocopied them, photocopied the photocopies, had pictures taken (turn left, turn forward, face front), showing her ears, in colour, 0.2mm white border, no-more-no-less, photocopied them, drew blood from her finger to smear on them for DNA, cut a lock of her hair to stick on the visa application, put her toe nail clippings in the envelope provided***, got all the letters from the people we’re visiting in Spain declaring their allegiance to the country, etc.
We checked and rechecked and arrived at the embassy’s big wooden door in the city and rang the bell in the wall, early, at 11:20.
The speakerphone seemed to sigh. Bzzzzt. The door was opened by a smiley, very unSpanish-looking (pure South African) man who welcomed us through. Let’s call him Ben, so as not to get confused. Ben ushered us through the doors, through the metal detector, which obviously doesn’t work as it was stonily silent despite my knowing I have metal in me that sets them off, and through to a large room with seats around the edges and a post office-style counter with two windows at one end and a door on the side leading to some fancy stairs. There was a very Spanish-looking man at one window, the other was empty.
A couple was at the window with the man and the room was otherwise empty. Ben pointed at the seats and told us to wait our turn, we’d be called, smiled, and disappeared through the door. A minute later he popped up at the window looking oh-so-serious. Another minute and G was called by him. He showed no sign of recognition as he bureaucratically asked for the forms, toenail clippings and the gazillion South African rands this whole process costs. Dead pan. It was at this point we realised we’d left half the forms on my desk at home.
G and I tittered to each other, trying not to get too stressed by this situation while Ben very seriously stamped what forms we’d given him. Finally we admitted our error. I phoned B, asked her to bring the forms and Ben told us it was fine (still unsmiling), as long as everything was there by close of day. If all was fine, the visa was to be collected a week later, between 11:45 am and noon. This I am not exaggerating. The window of opportunity is small.
We took ourselves out and over the road for a cup of coffee while we waited for B to return with the errant Important Documents. About fifteen minutes later we saw the big wooden embassy doors opening and out popped Ben. He saw us, waved, and smiled, friendly as can be. Then he walked down to a very large BMW with diplomatic plates, got into the driver’s seat, and sat. G and I discussed what we were going to do when the Important Documents arrived – give them to him in the car or take them to the other dude inside? It was a wasted conversation because another ten minutes later he drove the big BMW to the wooden doors through which an important-looking Spanish man emerged and climbed into the back seat. This all happened within a meter of us, his driver’s window open to us. He looked at us, unrecognising, and did up his tinted window.
A multi-tasking man. And so serious in all his official roles! Thanks to Ben, we are now in possession of necessary visa and ready to leave for Spain on Sunday!
***Some of these requirements may be slightly exaggerated.