You probably don’t want to read any further than the title any more than I want to write it. However, there are readers out there who actually follow this blog and actually take time to pray for the requests raised here. You know who you are and I appreciate both of you!
So, the most pressing item comes first.
Beth’s mother has submitted all of her paperwork, for the 3rd time, to the appropriate government office 30 miles from here so that she can receive her 5 day emergency permission to drive her car to the border so that the legalities involved can be fully resolved. Yes, it took 3 visits because the first visit to that office came as a result of at least 2 lengthy phone calls in which the list of documents required in-person were described in full. At that very first in-person visit, the official then added another document that wasn’t mentioned over the phone. So, having gone back last Friday with that FINAL document, the process was set in motion to receive the 5 day driving permission which would be issued either yesterday or today.
However, yesterday afternoon there was a phone call from that office and another official said that Beth’s mother needed to come in this morning with a copy of her driver’s license. Nothing could be done without that!
So, I drove her in this morning to do that and with hopes that the magical release of the permission would somehow take place with the appearance of the copy of the driver’s license.
Upon arrival at the impressive government building, we were greeted with a smile and an armed guard who made us give up our IDs in order to be escorted up a couple of floors to meet with the official who needed the copy of the driver’s license.
I hate giving up my driver’s license as an ID. I have other forms of ID that have my photo on it. Beth Hanna gave up her driver’s license. I offered up my photo ID from SAM’s Club…uh…no. OK…how about Costco card? Uh…no. Something official? Oh, all right then.
I dug around my wallet and found my old Texas driver’s license that has the top cut off. When I got my license renewed last year, they gave me a temporary paper license and gave me my regular, expiring license back to me but with the top 1/2 inch cut off and a threat that upon receipt of the new license in the mail, this old one must be destroyed or face penalty of death. So of course, when my new license came in the mail I decided that the cut-off license make a great Mexico ID and there was no way I was going to destroy it. Never know when a police person or someone will confiscate your ID here, and losing an expired one is a wonderful feeling!
I offered that and he happily took it. Yup, official ID. That’s exactly what he needs. Up the stairs we went.
Once with the official, she took the hardly legible copies of the driver’s license and glanced at them. She then asked, “And where is the original?”
“Uhhh…well…your armed guard wouldn’t let us up here unless we gave it to him.”
“He has it?”
“Oh. Well, that’s OK then.”
It’s a brilliant system. Believe me.
So, we were told that maybe the permission would be ready this afternoon. Maybe not. Definitely tomorrow morning. We asked why it was going to take any time at all. (This is a very dangerous and threatening-sounding question to a government official I’m sure.)
Well…she pointed with her chin to a beautiful glass windowed office a few steps away and said something about…it is not so easy. It must be SIGNED. SIGNED. That word came up several times in about 15 seconds. SIGNED. It was like we had finally arrived at the holy grail of government documents. THE SIGNATURE. Wooooo. We nearly fell on our faces in awe and wonder and shameless groveling.
So, that’s that. We really needed that permission this morning, but a phone call at 4 p.m. today will reveal the extent of our wait. Either we’ll see that permission by 6 p.m. when that office closes or we’ll most certainly see it tomorrow morning…sometime…maybe.
Unfortunately, that was the clearer of the two government…no…three government agencies that we encountered today. The next one was Immigration.
We were told two weeks ago yesterday that at that point, our completed visas would be ready in 2 weeks at the immigration office. We can check the progress online and see where the physical visas are located in the process.
So, since a week ago, the visas were listed as in the office that physically makes the visas (looks like a driver’s license…I cringe to use that terminology at this point). The online indication is that they’re still creating them. 7 days. A piece of plastic. Still working on it. Of course. It must be a brain-sucking procedure to get these finally produced. Frankenvisas.
So, sometimes the online status might possibly be a little dated and maybe, just maybe the visas have arrived in the immigration office and it’s best to check in-person to find out. We found a nice parking space just a few feet from the door. I asked my mother-in-law, “So how long does it take for them to tell me whether or not they have my visa?”
“Oh, 2 minutes. Well…2 to 5 minutes. It’s really quick. And you don’t need a ticket. They just check and if it’s there, they hand them to you and that’s that.”
So, I left her reading in the front seat, windows down, sun up. I walked in to the front desk. Actually, I climbed up the steps around about a dozen people sitting and sleeping and looking frightfully bored and eventually arrived at the desk narrowly avoiding stepping on a woman who was sitting cross-legged with a young squirmy and not-very-happy little person. OK. I confess. I might have stepped on her or him. I’m not sure. I couldn’t tell. I was too ashamed to look down and check. I’m pretty sure he was crying before I passed by him so I couldn’t tell from his squalling if that meant anything. Although, later I glanced at the mother who looked at me with utter disdain. Hmmmm…. Hard to tell. A lot of people look at me that way.
I explained to one of the two ladies at the desk why I was there. I was so grateful that I knew that I didn’t have to get a ticket for the yellow or orange LED numbers that are located on the far wall. After looking over the papers I presented and hearing my simple question asking them to tell me whether our visas were ready or not, she said…”you’ll need a ticket.” And she handed me a blue ticket. Rats. I didn’t even know they HAD blue tickets. #46. I wonder where that puts me since there are no LED numbers for blue tickets?
I looked around at the dozen or so people standing near the desk since the 30 or so seats in the room were all filled with people who looked like they’d be more excited to be attending a funeral.
Oh no. Everyone standing appeared to be holding a blue ticket! Eventually, I went outside and on the steps was a poor soul who looked like he’d been there long enough to be first in line for a Black Thursday sales event, I spied his blue ticket number: #36. Oh great. This could take hours!
I went over to the van and told my mother-in-law who decided to vacate the sauna seat there in the sun, and we locked it up and she found a vacancy on one of the steps. At least it was in the shade.
MIRACLE! A few minutes later, the lady at the desk called my name! Woo-hoo! The moment I’ve been waiting for. I KNEW they’d have our visas.
“Sir, your visas aren’t ready yet. They’ll be here in a week.” And there was silence in heaven for half an hour.
“But, a WEEK?! It’s already been 2 weeks! We started this process in early March! Our visas expired on April 9th! It’s been a long time already!”
Now, normally I don’t really care about how long it takes. This is Mexico. Time is of the essence, mostly because you always have more essence to give…and give…and give some more. However, given my mother-in-law’s experience with her car papers, I realized what was happening here.
My car papers expired on April 9th along with my visa, and after 30 days from that date I would be in the same situation as she is in. Not only would my car papers be null and void, but I’d lose the $300+ deposit, plus I’d have to go to that wonderful government office by bus and taxi and submit all those papers that she did for myself and then wait, and wait, and wait…THE SIGNATURE…and then have 5 days exactly to get out of the country by car and cancel those papers and start over! That costs a few hundred bucks just to make the trip. Oh. No.
So, I explain as best I could in my humble Spanish that this was not good because Customs would revoke my car papers.
“They’re going to DEPORT me!”
Well, I must admit. “Deport” is not the correct word here. They don’t really deport me nor my car. But, in effect that is the end result. It’s an interesting thing to loudly use the words “deport me” inside an immigration office filled with crying babies and semi-comatose people from many nationalities, and people talking on cell phones, and having conversations, and listening to the TV that serves as a token distraction next to those LED numbers on the wall.
You could have heard a pin drop. Even the babies stopped crying. There was a strange look in the official’s eyes as she looked into my soul…rather deeply I might add. I think I had just broken a sacred, unspoken rule and there was nothing I could say to atone for my indiscretion.
“Well, sir, you will need to talk to customs. You need to ask them for something.” She didn’t actually use the word “something” but since I had no idea what the word was that she used, that was all I got out of it. After a rephrasing and adding a few flowers to the explanation that she was giving me, I figured out that I needed to ask the customs for an extension of time. Oh. Extension. I see.
So, back in the van, and across the city to the place just to the side of the large army barracks that I have come to know as “Customs.” I even knew to open the chain link gate and park the van in the somewhat secure parking area that appears to be reserved for vehicles that are impounded or from the looks of some of them, simply refuse to leave the parking lot.
At the guard shack I tell them what I need. The security woman makes a phone call and eventually produces a name. I need to see “Ruby” or probably “Rubi.” I guess the “i” is more elegant but perhaps not as elegant as “Rube” with an “e.” Of course, then we’re dealing with a different problem.
So, once again, handing over our “official ID’s” (mine was the one that has a little off the top, of course), we walked the 300 yards back to the office building. Odd that they don’t let us drive in there and park in the parking lot. I guess it has something to do with train tracks, and train cars, and front-end loaders, and various trucks milling about. It would obviously be dangerous to drive amid all of that. So, we walk through all of that instead. Brilliant.
Once inside the building we sign in and wait for Rubi. She eventually presents herself and she asks me if I’m there to renew my car papers. Well, not exactly.
I explain that my 30 days grace will run out in a couple days and it will be a week before I get my visa. What do I do? I don’t want to be driving illegally and I don’t want to have my car papers expire and have to go through what my mother-in-law is going through.
“Do you have your new visa number?”
“You mean the number that will be on my visa once they create it and give it to me, but have just told me they can’t give it to me because it is still being created and it will take another week before they get that done and get it to me? (*breathe here*)
“Well, since I haven’t seen it, I have no idea what the visa number is. I have a copy of last year’s visa that expired on April 9. Will that help. No? Well, then no, I have no idea.”
She looked at my immigration papers that tell me very little. She points to a number. “Do you think that is the new visa number?”
“I have no idea. They never told me that.”
“I think that’s it. We’ll use that number.”
OK. So, she has me fill out a form. I put down a number that might be my new visa number but probably has no chance of being my real visa number and she walks me over to a cashier-like window. She hands the paper to the lady inside and she takes my application paper and puts a nice, inky blue stamp on it with today’s date. There you go.
“What do I do now?”
“Well, simple. Wait for it. It will come to your house.”
“What will come to my house?”
“The thingie.” (not exactly her word but once again, Spanish failed me)
“The thingie we’re going to send to your house.”
“Oh. Great! Now what do I do? What do I do when I finally do get the thingie and when I get my new visa?” (it always helps to counter circular reasoning with the same…it’s amazingly effective here)
“You’ll need to come in here with all your copies of documents that you had here today and do something.” (she didn’t really say, “do something,” but she never really said what I would be doing when I come back, but not to worry, this is what I need to do…and look for that thingie to come to my house)
So, there you have it. I now have a continued, indefinite wait for my visa from immigration. I have a newly, forged, official document from customs.
It pays to understand the system. I also have my fake driver’s license.
Yup…I’m good to go. No doubt my deportation proceedings will commence within 14 days…exactly.