Tuesday, March 12, 2013

an incident at Lennox mall

We came to America so that I could get my visa de longue sejour from the French Consolate in Atlanta Georgia. Today was the day of my big rendez-vous. How would I describe my meeting there? Well, have you seen those newsclips of the fall of Saigon? Where the soldiers with bayonets are slashing at the crowds who are clinging to the sides of the departing helicopters? I’d say that about covers it.
We go to Lennox Square, which now boasts the motto, legendary shopping. Poor mall. Malls are where shopping went to die. As we all know now, we don’t really want to be entombed in these huge mausoleums while cheesy music is piped out into the dead air and we can observe the guy selling remote controlled mini helicopters make his demonstration. We used to want that. But what we want has its season. Still, there it is, attached to a office tower on one end and a food court on the other. First we went to the food court, then I went, alone, to the consulate office. I went alone because we had read the message on the site informing us that, for security reasons, persons of interest alone could go to meetings in which they requested various services from the consulate. 
This was the first of many things that upset the man at the consulate, who demanded to know where my wife was. And though I assured him I could get her and my son within fifteen minutes, he seemed not to want to understand this – or any of my phrases. His own were pronounced in a harsh, official and rude stream that came straight out of the Stasi Guide to Good Manners, except in French, not German. What we had rehearsed was mainly about explaining what I do – the writing and the editing. He never asked. He did, however, ask and harangue about my overstaying my time in France. I explained that Antonia was pregnant, and I didn’t want to leave my pregnant wife for some uncertain time to get the visa. I was then told that everybody has a reason. I had committed an irregularity, yes or no? Well, I found within myself a veritable well of servility and cowtowing, and I apologized up and down. I apologized in writing (in the course of which I wrote the phrase, renounce a faire notre voyage aux Etats Unis. The renoncer threw him. So much for giving a Stendhalian twist to my confessions). Finally I convinced him to let me find A. I went through the mall at record speed, led by my angel, and found her and Adam in a store that she told me she was thinking of visiting within ten minutes. Lennox Mall is huge, and those who know it will be able to measure this miracle. And because A. is not a kowtower – she does not have a spine of rubber, unlike me, but sometimes flares up with the fires of 1789 – I pep talked her into being craven. She wasn’t quite craven, pointed out irregularities in the way our papers had been processed by the consulate, but she surrendered enough to please the guardian to the gates of La Belle France. So I am crossing my fingers that the French bureaucracy, in the spirit of Les Miserables, will temper the letter of the law with mercy, which is the spirit of the law. Also, our consulate official saw Adam, and melted a bit at the sight. 
We shall see.


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