Roundabouts: the virtues of patience

We arrived in Rio yesterday (Thursday) morning full of excitement, and very happy to be there. A brewing tropical storm had threatened to derail our travel plans. It had delayed our departure from Jamaica, but nothing else. My older daughter was not so lucky. She left home in Virginia, arrived at Reagan National Airport and checked in. After that, it was all downhill. Her flight was delayed so much that it would leave after her connecting flight in Miami was due to leave. So, she rebooked to travel to Rio via New York, JFK. Her plane got to JFK but was turned back to DC. She went back to her mother’s house ready to start again yesterday evening. No joy: flight cancellation. She’s now rebooked to fly via Miami this afternoon. A great merry-go-round. The poor child was truly sick and tired, putting it politely. This was made more annoying, because her half-sister had left from NYC on Tuesday evening, despite the storm brewing, and arrived yesterday afternoon. A friend, travelling from London, arrived last night, as scheduled. Now, we wait for our missing loved one. We hope and pray for no more delays.

When you’ve geared up mentally to get away and stuff like this happens, you’d be forgiven for losing your cool. But, keeping calm is usually better. You can only control what you control. I have to hold onto that notion, dearly.

Before leaving Jamaica, I’d spent much of the day assisting a friend who needs to travel to Puerto Rico to represent Jamaica in a sporting event in completing his US visa application. We bless technology, but when you are not up to the mark with it, you may be lost. The initial process is now all online; my friend has no computer or email address. I offered to help him by doing the application using a computer at my home. We sat beside my laptop on Tuesday afternoon and plodded through the many questions on the electronic form. This was all new ground for my friend. He had a hard time staying in touch with all that was going on apart from answering the many personal questions. I asked if he wanted to try to complete it himself, feeling that he might be a little embarrassed at having to share some simple but personal details. He said he was alright continuing as we were. So, on we went. All the while, I was trying to get my emotional joules fired up watching the USA play Belgium in the World Cup. Well, that thriller was not getting my full attention, as I plodded on, tapping the keys. I was at it during much of the match, and only really got to focus fully on the extra time play. We had to jump around as I tried to take a digital photo to upload with the form. That process is frustrating, at the best of times, as the requirements for photo quality and size are precise and the software not really intuitive. I’d done it for myself several months ago, so was ready to be frustrated. I also knew that one could carry an actual picture to the interview. So, we tried our best, got booted by the system and completed the application without the digital picture. Boom!

Well, a little happier to get the application completed. But, one then has to pay a fee and arrange an interview. One option was to pay the fee at a bank, wait for funds to clear, then call the US Embassy to arrange the interview. My friend told me he couldn’t raise the US$160 for the fee. Time was not on his side, but I was and I said I’d pay by credit card. That way, we’d save some days. He’s due to travel on August 1.

Well, I tried calling the number to pay, and after being cut off mid-voice prompting about six times, I got royally ticked off. “You call the number!” I told my friend, and went to grab a snack. It was late afternoon, and I had realized that I’d not eaten since he’d arrived initially earlier in the day. We’d had a good Jamaican breakfast, mind you, but that was six hours ago. Like in the Snickers ad, I’m not good when I get hungry. I let loose on some English cheese and French saucisson I’d brought back from my trip. I could feel energy flowing back into me. My man was making progress; he was talking to a real person. But, that call dropped, too. One more try. We got through and reached the point of paying. I supplied the card details. Yeah! Success. Fee paid and confirmation number received. Meanwhile, Tim Howard was flinging himself around with heroic abandon.

Now, for an interview date. Another call. The lady was not a native English speaker, and I suspected the administration used a call centre for this purpose. Anyway, we strained to understand her. We explained the need for travel and when it was due, but got a date two weeks after the due travel date, August 13. We had to accept that and then request an expedited date. That has to be done by email. For the technophobe or persons without this now essential part of modern life, this is the stuff of nightmares. I told my friend to leave it to me and head off to work; he does security work at night time. He did so, and I got cracking on composing a plea. I was in better mood, having seen the best part of the frenzied match. (For those who don’t know, the USA lost 2-1, but had chances to tie that were lost in the most agonizing ways. But, that’s football.) Plea completed, I then thought about eating properly. I was drained, and none of this was for me, personally. Well, the gods would have to work their magic.

Two separate sets of events, connected by the same theme, travel. The more frustrating parts involve travelling in and out of the USA. I could use that as a jumping off point for some polemics about US geopolitics, but resist. Calm reigns. You can only control what you control. Listen carefully to the video and to Ian Andreson singing that signature song by Yes. If you can, drift off with the guitar rhythms of Steve Howe. Hold onto the reins of the horse on the merry-go-round and enjoy the ride.

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