Sunday, August 03, 2014
home is the hunter/home from the hills
And this hunter returns bearing quarry.
One of my major reasons for visiting Guadalajara was to obtain extra pages for my passport. You know the story. I am heading to Red China in April. No empty passport pages will result in no visa.
When I contacted the American consulate in Guadalajara about the procedure, I was told I did not need an appointment for extra pages. All I needed was a completed application form, my passport, and $82 (US).
The fact that I now have a Lane Bryant size passport is evidence enough that all went well. Handing over everything took less than a half hour. I then returned in the afternoon to pick up the finished product.
That was the boring (even though fulfilling) part of the trip. The part that made for a good tale was the security.
Let me start with several givens. There are evil people in the world who would like to do some rather nasty things to any property that represents the United States of America. Just think Benghazi.
And nothing in Guadalajara represents the United States more than the American consulate.
As a result, the place looks like a medium-security prison with its protective walls, fences, and concertina wire. When I buzzed at the window of the security shack, I felt as if I was about to visit one of my homicide clients.
I flunked fist contact. Because I did not have an appointment, I was told to leave -- until another guard brought out a form. He also told me that I could not take my backpack inside -- or anything electronic. I would have to leave all of my electronics in my car -- that was parked on the street.
I completely understood. Benghazi.
So, I stuffed my goodies in the Escape and returned to the building with only the contents of my pockets and my application materials. The only annoyance was sitting and waiting with nothing to read and no ability to start writing up this tale.
It wasn't until Kim and I returned for my passport that I noticed the sign* at the top of this post. It is on the fence in front of the consulate. I missed it because I was caught in a downpour when I arrived, and reading signs was not high on my to-do list.
Please remember, I know the importance of security. But take a close look at that sign. Unlike airports that prohibit dangerous objects, the good bureaucrats at the State Department have decided to ride their regulatory horse off in another direction. The legalistic list.
Firearms and sharp items, I understand. And electronic devices have been used as beards for explosive devices. Probably a smart call.
But you get the idea that some soul with a sensitive nose was given too much power. Perfume. Cologne. Cosmetics. Now, it is possible that the sign is not referring to items actually worn by visitors. But it certainly does not say that.
Umbrellas? Well, the KGB was known to poison defectors with poison balls shot from an umbrella stem.
And toys? The very thing that a mother needs to distract a 4-year old during long hours of waiting. Of course, the Russians were well-known for dropping explosive-laden stuffed toys in Afghanistan to terrorize the population.
But books and magazines? Maybe the consulate was afraid people would turn their DMV-inspired waiting room into an annex Christian Science reading room.
Or gel pens? What about regular ball point pens? Or my fountain pen that could easily be turned into a stabbing weapon that is easily driven into the brain?
And no medication? Except for one pill. Would that be the cyanide pill that all agents are supposed to carry with them?
Here is the great irony. I went through the security machines twice. Both times I brought in my automobile remote control and my house keys. Both of them strictly prohibited. And none of the guards said a thing.
There are enough absurdities in the sign for each of us to have our own little piece of pie. And I suppose some of us will.
As an American, I find the sign embarrassing. And it is mostly embarrassing because it reflects a growing governmental trend that circumstances can be controlled to desired ends. But that is just not how life works.
I thought of driving past the consulate and pelting it with gel pens. Partly out of curiosity. They must be far mightier than I thought.
At least, I am going to Red China. Or, I was, until I posted this.
* -- By photographing the sign, I disobeyed another sign that prohibits photographs of the consulate. Of course, the IRS has no problem in deleting email in violation of the law. I an see my defense developing now.