Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Waiting room

If you have read any of my previous posts, you may have pieced together that I do not like waiting. From the doctors waiting room to airports to holding onto a paper ticket at the supermarket deli waiting to get some salami.  Nothing annoys me more. (Except when people splash me before I've submerged myself when going swimming in very cold water. There is just no need for that. I'll get in when I'm ready!)

Today, I am having a horrible, horrible day. When traveling in Europe as a tourist, thanks to something called the Shengen Agreement, you are permitted to stay for a period of 90 days within a six month period. This means, that even if you leave Europe for two months and return again, your 90 days does not start again, it keeps adding on. Consequently, after some calculations, my permitted time here is due to expire on the 9th of August and I need to apply for an extension. 

I gathered all my paperwork and headed into the 'Kreisverwaltungreferat'  this morning, 15 minutes before they opened as I've been told there can be long waits. There was already a mass of people at the front of the building so I knew I was in trouble.  Fortunately, service is alphabetized by surname and I have already visited once before, so I found my appropriate counter easily and was happily 4th in the queue. I explained my situation an was given some paperwork to complete. I thought it was brilliant; no long wait. No meetings. Just fill in the form. 

After about 10 min I had completed the form and handed it in. The lady behind the counter handed me a piece of paper and said, 'Here is your number. You must wait until you are called.' My number was 29 and in the 15min I had been standing there, they were up to number 2. I sat down for the long haul and that is where I am now, with nothing better to do than write a future blog post. 

I am unprepared. I brought no reading material and everything around me is in German so I can't read it anyway. My iPhone battery is nearing the final 30% of it's life so I can't even risk Angry Birding my way through the wait...

Wow, something brilliant and something I have never seen before just happened. A lady with a food cart just came around to sell refreshments. She has coffee, soft drinks, snacks, sandwiches and even Red Bull so you don't fall asleep and miss your number. Waiting room food cart- what a great idea. Imagine sitting in the department of transport and someone wheels in a food cart. Heck, they don't even have a vending machine.  It's caffeine time...

Sadly, having readily accessible coffee in a waiting room does come with it's own dilemmas. After two cups of coffee and a bottle of water, nature is calling me. She isn't just calling, she is screaming at me. I have no idea where the toilet is and it is getting dangerously close to my number. I have been waiting for 1 and 1/2 hours and they are up to 25. By my calculations, I should have plenty of time to go. Instead, I am squirming in my chair and looking around with as much subtlety and secrecy as checking your shoes for dog poo in public: No matter how you try to hide it, people know what you are doing (and that something near you smells funky).  But if I get up, I could miss my number and even worse, someone will steal my seat. I don't want to have to stand for an hour when I get back. I have to make a run for it...

I followed the signs to the toilet as quickly as I could and have returned a few minutes later to find that... nothing has changed. My seat is still free and They are still on number 25... 
26... 
27... 
28... 

Hooray! Only 2hrs and 15minutes of waiting...

I'm waiting again. This time it's because they need to check details with the manager. Maybe I'll be deported? Maybe I've been here illegally this whole time and I never knew it? Maybe I won a prize for being the 1 millionth customer? I sure hope it's a prize...

Well, it's kind of a prize. I have won the permission to extend my stay by 7 weeks. That was relatively easy. All that's left to do is pay and get that little bit of paper stuck in my passport. If I can only find the cashier. (I am really typing this as I walk)...

I'm waiting again! This time while they stick a new visa in my passport. I have ticket number 185 and they are currently up to 163. Could this day get any longer? They are toying with my emotions...

Finally, the ordeal is over. Mission accomplished. And it only took 3 and 1/2 hours. 

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