Thursday, August 16, 2007

Queue? What queue?

Today, I went to the Indian consulate to pick up my passport and visa.


Flashback to two days ago.

I took an early lunch and headed up to the Indian consulate on Mass Ave. The visa section is in the basement of the building. I walk in and there's a ticket machine. Broken and with a sheet of paper taped to it with the instructions to stand in queue. I looked around and couldn't see a line to queue up in. Just two rows of seats, facing a glassed in booth and third row of seats on the perimeter of the room. All the seats were full and there were people standing - the room was pretty well packed. Obviously, some folks have been here before because seconds after I turned around to look for the line, someone pointed to the last available seat on the third row. That turned out to be the end of the queue. As people went up to the glassed-in booth, each person got up from their seat and moved down as many seats as had been vacated. That was the queuing system!!

It took about 25 minutes or so for me to get to the head of the line. When it was finally my turn, I walked to the glassed-in booth, handed over my passport, visa application and $60. I got back a blue ticket - the kind that you get for a raffle. I was told to come back today, between 4:30p and 5:30p on Thursday to pick up my visa. I thanked the consular officer, stuck the blue ticket in my wallet and headed back to the office.

Flash forward to today. I figured I had the system down - I'm a veteran after one visit. Couldn't have been more wrong!

I walked into the visa office at about 4:15p. There was already a crowd of people in the room - some sitting on chairs and others standing around the room. The sign to stand in queue was still taped to the broken ticket machine. So again, I looked around the room and took my place at what I thought was the end of the line. I was then told that there was no queue - just stand wherever or find an available seat. I found a seat, sat down and waited. I don't get this queue thing!

At exactly 4:30p, a consular officer appeared behind the glassed-in booth and instructed the crowd to form two lines - one line for red ticket holders who turned out to be Indian citizens needing passports and the other for blue ticket holders who were folks like me, needing visas. There were far more blue ticket holders than red so we all got up from our seats and did our best to wind around the seats to form a line. The queue thing again.

The consular officer than called out for anyone holding official/diplomatic passports to step forward - a small crowd did. About 15 minutes later, he then read out the last three digits on the tickets and each ticket holder went up to the booth and got their passport. At this point, I'm wondering why we bothered queuing up!

I watched one person after another walk up to the glassed-in booth and got their passport. I was wondering when my turn would be. At one point, there were too many people crowded around the booth so the officer instructed us to stand back in line. Queuing up again?

It wasn't my lucky day. I think I must have pissed off the God of Queues! After about an hour, the crowd dwindled down to 5 people - I was one. For whatever reason, our passports were not in the glassed-in booth. At this point, I'm saying a prayer to the God of Queues - I'll never complain again, just give me my passport back. After what felt like an eternity, the consular officer finally gave me my passport. There was a short line of people heading out of the office - I brought up the rear. This time I didn't mind being in the queue!

Next stop. The Nepalese Embassy. I hope I don't have to stand in a queue!