Monday, 25 April 2011

Everyone has somewhere to go...

I enjoy my people watching (As you'll have seen in earlier posts) and last week on route to the capital was no exception. 

It always amazes me how everyone is going somewhere with purpose. Everyone is going from A to B and taking so many different routes to get there. In my train carriage alone I sat next to a gentlemen off to London to sell wholesale lighting, a lady behind who managed the ATMs of a number of major banks, a young lady across the aisle with something to do with politics, a girl off with her family to attend a weekend at what I'd call 'vet-camp' and finally a group of four gents returning home after a weekend in the lake district. As you can see a wide variety of people from all different backgrounds. I'm sure that throughout the other cabins on board the 7.38 Virgin Pendelino train to London Euston, it was no different.

Arriving in one of the world's biggest transport cities means travel is busy, slow and frustrating. Arriving just after rush hour I assumed that it would be a bit quieter to get about the city. How wrong I was. Due to the American Embassy policy of no mobile phones I had to check my bag into left luggage before finding the tube station. Even checking in my bag took thirty minutes - London is certainly not a place for those in a rush! Finally, on to the Victoria line, a quick stop on route and via the Central line I arrive at Bond Street. The area around Bond Street was, to say the least, quite affluent; certainly during the hours of the day. The likes of Mercedes, BMW and Audi would be seriously frowned upon as Bentley, Ferrari and Rolls Royce were the norm around the local streets. Each sat very patiently outside the coffee shops as their owners sunned themselves in the baking, 27 degrees sun. What a life for those who are lucky to inherit it or equally those who work hard enough to earn it.

Finally, I arrived at the Embassy. Sat proud at the top of Grosvenor Square the US Embassy cannot be missed. The famous eagle sits honourably and proud on top of the fifty year old building. Queuing to get inside the was in itself a long and drawn out process mainly focused on safety. Imagine security at an airport and you're about right. After queuing for almost 45 minutes I was allowed to enter.

Entering the building I was directed in to the room that would become my home for the next four hours. I was given a ticket number which must be adhered to. It's quite simple and effective really. It's something they have clearly nicked from Argos. I took a seat and awaited the calling of my number. 10 minutes passed and 436 was announced. Great - I'll be out of here within the hour! Or so I thought...I quickly learnt that the first call was to hand over all my documents to be processed. As I was applying for a student visa this included a number documents which were mainly to prove that I wasn't planning to work during my stay in the Sunshine State. Having handed over said documents I returned to my seat and awaited my recall, this time to be interviewed by an American.

While I waited I again continued my hobby of people watching. There were people from all different backgrounds, social classes and nationalities. It really was a mix of the human race; all with one aim - a ticket into the United States. 

An hour passed. Boredom began to set in. Another hour passed. With no phone, no internet access and only a 'Why to visit the USA' promotional brochure (really - you think people sat in that room needed persuasion?!) to keep me occupied it really was becoming ever more frustrating. What made it worse was seeing the hundreds of people sat out in the gardens facing the building enjoying the best weather we've seen so far this year. Anyway, we finally got to hour three and shortly afterwards I was recalled for the interview. Three questions later and I was done. "Your visa is approved." The four words I've been waiting weeks to hear. I was bouncing off the walls at this point. So many stories I'd heard of people failing over little things. I would have hated to have made the journey again, threatened my course start date and my scheme with Flybe. It was all or nothing - thankfully I had done enough to satisfy the US authorities.

It wasn't until after I'd returned to the train station, retrieved my bag and mobile, got something to eat, realised I'd missed my train and gone on a little tour of the terminal that I'd sat in a room for three hours, three bloody hours to be asked three questions! Three questions! My interview took a matter of two minutes for which I had to wait a whole 180! 

Having engagements in the evening and having missed my training back north I then had to look at my timings. Luckily I was able to catch the train leaving only an hour later and arrive just in time at my meeting. For anyone applying for a US visa and an interview is a requirement I seriously recommend booking the earliest appointment available and give yourself at least half a day, if not longer if possible to attain your desired result. It is a very drawn out process and without giving enough time it could be very costly afterwards in terms of transport etc. 

On the journey home between napping, I again could hear around me people making business and leisure plans. I saw the drinks cart brought through the carriage. The ticket conductor and the cleaner and a brief appearance by what I assumed to be one of the train drivers. It was at that moment I realised that all those people were involved in getting me, and my fellow passengers, from A to that all important B. Whether it be train, plane, bus or boat; there are so many people, cogs in a machine if you like, involved in getting passengers to that special 'somewhere.' 

Within eighteen months I hope to be one of those cogs in that well oiled machine.

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