The Third Time’s the Charm

I’ve tried three times to get my Chinese visa. First on Wednesday, I went but I wanted to drop it off quickly since I was with my mother and three young nephews and a young niece who were eager to get to the Museum of Science and Industry. I thought I could quickly get the photo I needed at the nearby Walgreens, but they didn’t have the small size I wanted. I had the image, but their machine wouldn’t print it out.

When I returned Friday and discovered that visas aren’t done at the main location, but 3 or 4 blocks west of the consulate at 1 E. Erie. While getting a visa for China in 2001 was a quick trip, now you’ve got to set aside a couple hours or get up at dawn. I got there at 10:30am and they were serving #242 and my number was #282. I hoped they’d get to me before lunch and luckily had a good book by Dervla Murphy to read. They were getting nearer to my number, but it was also approaching the lunch hour. I wasn’t sure what they’d do.

I noticed the clerks leaving their work stations one by one. Then I saw the clock. It was a minute after noon. Yet no one announced they were closed for lunch or that we could go and come back. I asked a woman who was explaining the situation to her children. “Don’t they make an announcement of some sort about their break?” “What’s going on?” It seems although there’s a machine that announces each number and although all the clerks speak English, there’s no mention when the clerks leave for an hour lunch break. Well, then I was digging through my bag and realized I didn’t have my passport so the whole trip was a waste. I have to go back (earlier) on Monday. I salvaged the day with a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago.

I have also read my forms from China and wonder about one place where they’ve marked the days I can stay in China as 000. So zero? Is that a code or a new problem? I shudder to think.