January 3, 2008
I woke up on the wrong side of the country again this morning, Stamford Connecticut to be exact. I flew out here a few days ago to prepare for a business trip to India, this morning I was headed into The City (New York) to pickup my Visa. It’s an understatement to say that I regretted leaving my winter coat as I strolled out the front door of my hotel and was embraced by the consequences of my indiscretion.
Outside I was greeted by a cold gust of wind that chilled me to the bone. …Somehow I’d forgotten how cold the east coast was in January at 6am. My Hurley hoodie wasn’t made for this weather but it would need to suffice.
Putting the thought of the cold out of my mind I flagged down a taxi and whispered something about going to the train station between my jittering teeth.
You’d think people on the east coast would demand train platforms that protected them from the elements. Apparently they’re too cheap to install those wonderful outdoor umbrella heaters.
To make matters worse, it was just my luck that all the trains to Grand Central were running late. Fortunately I’d remembered to bring a pair of full-sized/real headphones. Slapping those on over my hoodie doubled my warmth and the Metallica pounding between my ears helped distracted me while I wanted for the tardy train (emphasis on the tard in tardy, pun intended…with malice).
Arriving at Grand Central I found a warm taxi on the curb and pointed him in the direction of the Indian embassy. Have I ever mention how much I enjoy NYC taxis? I’d love to see a Nascar driver race a NYC cabbie. …But I digress.
A few miles later I was at the embassy. Exiting the cab I took a deep breath of the freezing air and reassured myself that this ordeal was almost over. …If only this had been true.
Posted on the door of the Indian embassy was a notice. Composed using a sloppy default Word 5.0 format, the notice informed me that India has outsourced their Visa processing service to an Indian firm on the other side of the city. …Fighting back the disappointment that almost consumed me I laughed at the irony and frantically started looking for a taxi.
By this time I was starting to get worried. It isn’t recommended that you wait until the day before your transatlantic voyage to apply for a visa. I knew I needed to be there before they opened if I wanted a decent chance of getting one. …Somehow I’d presumed this was already taken care of, my bad for not following up on it. This was something I could have easily done sooner. Owning my situation I resolved to make the best of things, took another chilling deep breath and pushed on.
Eventually my eye caught a cab and I bolted for it with one arm in the air. The cab was empty, but would you believe this taxi didn’t know where 316 East 53rd ST was? Fortunately I had my “smartphone” with me. I pulled up directions using Micro$oft Live Search and passed the pda to the driver. Minutes later I was at the outsourced Visa processing center.
But of course there was one final thing I needed to do before applying; get a passport photo. …Yep, the outsourced Visa processing center is too cheap to buy a digital camera and/or support it. Fortunately the Walgreens around the corner had one, $6 and 5mins later I had my photos.
I have to admit, I was impressed with the service at the outsourced Visa processing center. I was greeted warmly, treated respectfully and promptly. There was a long line, but it moved fast. A few forms and questions later I was relieved of my passport and told to return for it (and my Visa) between 5:30 and 6pm.
Back on the street I walked with a confident step and earned feeling of accomplishment. I procrastinated again, things almost blew up in my face, but somehow it all worked out in the end.
Adding to my fortune I ran into a Starbucks a few blocks down the road. I ordered an extra-large green tea with honey, grabbed a table and whipped out my laptop to write this post.
Well, I should get back to my regularly scheduled life now. I think it’s going to be a great day. I have plans to meet a friend in the city, we’re going to stroll through grand central and catch some authentic NY pizza.
PS: I wrote this on my laptop and uploaded it using my cellular broadband connection. This is the first time I have ever had 100% reception, my bandwidth is rated at 41Mbps. …Not bad!