The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Jean-Paul Sarte Had Obviously Applied for A Long-Sejour Visa

The French consulate in Atlanta doesn't have wrought-iron gates or Marines in white gloves. It's just a suite in a Buckhead office tower, on a floor shared with an investment-banking firm. There's a small waiting room with a single long bench facing a reception window protected by what looks to be inch-thick bulletproof glass.

There's a sign that reads Do Not Approach the Window. Please Wait Until Your Number is Called.

We take a number. It's 37. The LED display reads "Now Serving 33."

We try to make ourselves comfortable. I read some books to Boog. After about 15 minutes I'm summoned to the window by the fonctionnaire. Her accent is minimal, her scarf fabulous. She takes our passports and the 6-inch stack of paperwork I've been slaving over translating and copying for the past week. Then she disappears.

For an hour and a half.

The temperature in the waiting room is about 85. V fans herself. I fan V. V goes downstairs and, needing some air, stands outside in the 45-degree rain. I'm running out of ways to keep Boog occupied, having read all his books and crashed all his Hot Wheels.

No one else enters or leaves. The Now Serving sign is stuck on 33. There's a copy of USA Today from the previous Friday. I read it cover to cover. V calls on the cell...she's sitting in the car now.

The consul finally comes for us. I phone V to come up, and bundle up Boog's stuff into his backpack. The consul just stands and watches...I can't decide is he's bemused or disapproving. We're buzzed through thick double doors into the inner sanctum.

The consul looks like Denzel Washington's character from He Got Game, if Shuttlesworth were nattily attired in 3-piece brown suit and carefully manicured. He askes me a few questions en francais, we sign a few forms, a handshake (single-pump, Eurostyle, not too firm), and we're done.

The sign in the waiting room reads "Now Serving 33".

A pregnant lady, a toddler and I have waited two hours for a five-minute meeting. V is apoplectic. Boog needs a nap. I need a drink.

On the way out, we pay 7 bucks for parking.

When the visas come back from Paris, we'll get to do it again.


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