Friday, January 4, 2013

Getting places, or "You almost had us there"

"I'm not going to do that for you. You have to go to San Francisco."

The woman stared back at me as she paused deliberately, adding to the finality of her response. She was young, only a few years older than me, and her eyes were an earthy green than complimented her skin. I thought it reminded me of a rich coffee. Under different circumstances I imagined she would have an inviting look, the kind that encourages nervous strangers to introduce themselves at a party. But not today. Not at all.

"Are you sure?" I asked. I knew what she would say, but what else could I do. Her face was expressionless. I had to have been the hundredth person to ask her this month. "C'mon, my friend was just here last week and he was done in like 10 minutes."

"Sir, India is jurisdictional."

"..." I said.

"It's jurisdictional."

"Yes I understand that, but-"

"Then what is the confusion?"

"Okay I don't actually understand that but-"

"It means that Indian consulates have jurisdictions."

"..." I repeated with furrowed eyebrows.

She didn't seem to register my response. Maybe that was the wrong face. I tried raising my eyebrows instead, and emphasizing my frown a bit more. She squinted her eyes with a subtle frown of her own. Ah, confusion, that's what I was looking for. I squinted my eyes back at her, and deliberately looked up to the left, then to the right to be sure she got it.

"I see I may not have been clear." Success. "Your permanent address and passport are registered in California."


"This is DC."

"Of course."

"DC is not California."

"Indeed." She grinned. I looked to the left and the right again. "Wait... noooo..."


"No way."


"That's ridiculous!"

"That doesn't matter. India is jurisdictional. You need to apply for your visa through the consulate in your region."

"You see, I feel like that's not right." I said. "I feel like my friend, who is also from California, just got his visa from this office."

"That's probably not true."

"Are you saying that there's no way for me to get a visa in person through this office?"

"I'm saying that it's probably not true. But regardless, you are not going to get a visa in person through this office. You need to apply for a visa through San Francisco. You can do that through the mail, but since you don't have a lot of time, I recommend that you do it in person."

"Wut... No that doesn't make sense. My passport is issued by the federal government, not California, and it shouldn't matter what consulate I go to so long as I have residence there." I opened my bag to sift through my bills. One of them surely had my DC address on it.

"You think so?"

I felt like this might be a trick of some kind, but I was pretty confident that I was right. "...Yes."

She said raised her eyebrows.

"Probably?" I corrected. "... I mostly think so."

"Nope. Anyway, aren't you going home for the holidays?"

I was. "Maybe...?" My confidence was slipping.

"Well you can just stop by the office then."

"Well, what if I'm not going to be in San Francisco?!" I exclaimed

"You said earlier that you needed this visa in time to fly back to San Francisco." I did. Damn. "Just take this application to the San Francisco Mission and they can process it for you there."

I could feel the defeat washing over me but I wasn't quite convinced. "You're sure that they can take care of this for me?"

"Yes," she said confidently.


"Yes, of course."

"Because this is the third time I've been in this office with nothing to show for it. So just to be totally clear, I can take this application," I held the papers up and shook them for dramatic effect, "this application right here, I can take it to the consulate in San Francisco and Travisa* will process it for me in a day?"


I stared at her face for a moment trying to find any telling emotion on it, but she stared back blankly - the way that only a front end customer service representative could. It reminded me of the DMV, and I gave up. "Alright," I finally said with a sigh. "Alright, I'll go to San Francisco."

*Indian consulates in the US have outsources their visa processing to an American company called Travisa. The irony is not lost on me.

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