Time: May 21st 09:45
Nobody asked me to do it. I walked into the tulip trap myself. Like Dorothy and the Lion in the land of Oz.
“Thanks a lot. Have a great day”. I smile, thanking the lady with red rimmed eyeglasses and azure blue beads behind the glass. What I want to say though is not recordable. I shall leave it to your imagination. My wife is sweating perceptibly from afar. I noticed she too has a gritty plastic expression on her face. It was the same one that she wears when her patience is wearing thin and she is struggling to keep in check her abuses.
The lady shoves back our carefully curated proofs of travel and accommodation through Europe with a shrug and says,
“I have integrity. I cannot allow it”.
Maybe I am being too sensitive when I say I hear a contemptuous tone lacing that statement. But we have poured a lot of hard earned money, money that any prudent family would have put towards better use, or then again, maybe not, into this venture. I grit my teeth again to smile at that face, resisting the urge to explode and ruin the whole expedition.
Sometime earlier this had happened.
Time 9:25 – Not much of a jump by time traveling standards but I revel in my pettiness.
After having precariously justified our trip to Europe to ourselves, booking appointments and spending considerable time gathering the documents to substantiate our intent of travel and means of support, we were finally sitting in front of the Visa Officer handing them over one by one.
On perusing an invitation letter from Netherlands which my friend had sent me, she peers over her glasses.
“How long in total are you in Netherlands?”
“But the document asks for a 45 day visa”
“That is true. I had asked my friend for the invitation before we finalized the travel plans because I knew it takes time for the document to reach us.” I am sorry. I would have corrected it if I could read dutch. Needless to say, I did not say the last part.
“So that is not true. Hmm”
I realize this is headed the wrong way.
Earlier this lady had asked my wife, who unsurprisingly is traveling with me, to obtain her visa with the Swiss Consulate. That conversation was simple.
“Sorry madam, you have to go to the Swiss Consulate”
“But me and my husband are landing in and departing from Amsterdam. We have friends there with whom we are staying”.
“Sorry. Those are the rules. You are spending the most time in Switzerland. I cannot change the rules for you.”
Fair enough. In keeping with the letter of the law we understood that even though it sounds slightly preposterous, she was just following the law to the letter, like a Stephen Leacock-ian bureaucrat.
But now I am wondering if she is just stone walling and deriding us. The denouement showed that maybe I wasn’t too off the mark.
All this trouble was because I had insisted we be truthful and tell the dutch embassy people that we are travelling within Europe, and we need to show them that we are not planning some scam. So much for being a stickler for honesty.
Soon, after having been summarily rejected (with relish that too) by the imposing lady, as we were licking our wounds thinking of plan B, there was a knock on the pane of glass from the next counter.
Apparently, the other visa officer could not help listen to our exchange without feeling sorry for us and took the papers in with the most beatific smile on her face. She even cracked a couple of jokes, to which we both dutifully laughed.
If after we exited, the two ladies happened to remark about our docile nature, it is very well they did not hear us dig out our choicest epithets to shower on the first Visa Officer.