Friday, July 31, 2009

You say billete, I say boleto

I can't explain why, but last night I had this overwhelming urge to look for flights. And I struck gold: a $631 round trip flight to Madrid. I thought about it, especially the part about being told not to book flights until I had my Visa. But then I realized that the likelihood of finding a flight that cheap (again) was very low. I mulled it over and went searching for my credit card. I couldn’t find it. “This is a sign!” I thought. But then I found it and completely based on impulse and good faith, I booked my flight and picked my seats; all window seats.

I was taking a huge risk.

So imagine my surprise when after leafing through my application and documents, the cute soft-spoken guy at the Consulate looked up from behind the glass panel and asked, "Where's your flight information?" My stress levels began to rise to orange-red levels.

I told him that although I booked it the night before, I didn't have anything with me. I showed him the document that clearly stated, in bold, DO NOT BOOK YOUR FLIGHT UNTIL YOU HAVE A VISA. He looked at it, acknowledged it was from Spain, but that didn't matter.

He handed me back my application with some instructions: Make extra copies of this and that and bring back your flight information.

I looked at the long line behind me. "How much time do I have?" I asked.

"You have until 11," he said quietly, stoically.

He must have seen my eyes get all Bambi-like because he then told me that when I got back, I wouldn't have to wait in line again.

The ride down the elevator was a blur and suddenly, I was really breaking in my new boots pounding the pavement. It was 8 a.m. and the two copying places I came across were of course, closed. I finally found a place three blocks down with a computer lounge (YES!) and in less than five minutes, I was out the door and crossing my fingers.

When I walked in, my face was flushed and HOO BOY WAS I SWEATING. The line was even longer and I stood near the window, hoping the guy would make good on his promise. He saw me and half-smiled.

The Consulate occupies a small office on the 8th floor of a building on Wilshire Blvd. I drove past it a million times when I interned at Los Angeles magazine.

Catching my breath and fanning myself with a manila envelope, I began to notice all the things I missed before my Tasmanian Devil exit. The Spanish flag, the chocolate brown leather chairs and the flat screen TV playing the Spanish version of "Good Morning America." Nearby, a portrait of King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sophia hung on a wall.

Finally, it was my turn and after handing over several documents, copies and two pictures of myself, I triumphantly handed him my flight confirmation. I felt like Anne Hathaway's character from "The Devil Wears Prada" when she manages to get the unpublished Harry Potter manuscript. HA! TAKE THAT CUTE SPANISH BOY!

"Este es mi boleto electronico," I explained. "This is my electronic ticket."

"Un que?" he asked, leaning closer. "A what?"

I repeated myself. And that's when he smiled and apologized.

"Disculpa, solo escuche 'boleto,' nosotros lo llamamos 'billete,'" he said. "Pardon, all I heard was 'boleto.' We call it 'billete.'"

I laughed and didn't bother explaining that I speak MEXICAN.

He stamped my application and handed it back to me, with a smirk.

I think I'm starting to see why everyone teases me about returning home married or engaged. Those smirky Spanish boys.

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