"Look, Rick, do you know what this is? Something that even you have never seen. Letters of transit signed by General de Gaulle. Cannot be rescinded, not even questioned."
So says Ugarte to Rick referring to one of filmdom's great MacGuffins. In this case, the letters of transit that propel the plot of Casablanca, and have had fans debating for years whether Lorre's accented speech refers to General de Gaulle or Marshal Weygand.
I am in the de Gaulle camp. As implausible as that reading may be.
So why I am rattling on about 1940s film arcana? Because I have my own MacGuffin. Or, rather anti-MacGuffin.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
On Monday morning I got up early enough to head off to Manzanillo in an attempt to be first in line to talk to an immigration clerk. When I applied for my permanent resident visa, the professional clerk who helped me told me I could get a temporary exit letter if I needed to leave the country temporarily while my visa was being processed.
At the time, I thought I would wait for my new visa until I headed north. But, as all plans do, that one crumpled with its first contact with reality. I need to get the Escape out of Mexico before my new visa arrives. Thus the need for the storied letter.
A contributor to our local message board told me he had done it twice. And the process was same-day service easy. One photo, a copy of my passport photo page, a copy of the receipt showing my application is being considered, and $320 (Mx) was all I needed.
When I told the clerk what I wanted, and that I most likely would not leave Mexico for another week, she told me I should wait the full week to see if my permanent resident card would be issued by then.
Even after I pointed out that I had applied only last Monday and her office had been closed for the weekend and three week days, her answer was optimistically Mexican. "It's possible."
And she thought it was possible enough that she asked for my mobile telephone number to let me know when the visa arrives.
I was not that optimistic. So, I asked her to process the letter.
And, unlike Ugarte, I walked away with my letter of transit in hand.
Dealing with the visa and vehicle bureaucracy has stolen far too much time from my visit with my family. But, I at least have some target dates for the rest of their visit.
I need to get the Escape out of Mexico by 13 April -- the day the Mexican insurance expires -- and hopefully before my permanent resident visa is issued. Darrel and I will turn the evacuation into our own road trip adventure.
Mom will fly north next week.
Probably the day before we leave. I was fortunate to find a seat for her. The airplane was almost completely booked with snow birds migrating to their lands of origin.
That means we still have almost a full week to see a bit more of Mexico. Even though they seem to be happy relaxing in the garden with their respective Kindles.
But there are things to be seen before this chapter of our lives together ends.