My friends tell me the lines at the embassy are longer than I would ever remember them … Miles longer than years and years past, when this is what I wrote and experienced.
I arrive there early in the morning, at 6 am, ready for the 2 hour wait and hoping that at least somebody is going to be there. I arrive to a half mile long line, with people having gotten there from as early as 7 pm the day before. They’ve slept the night. Now, they are all lined up outside the embassy walls, as if Egyptian slaves in custody of their pharaoh. As I go to take my place, I remember the scene on Iranian state television just the night before. Four British men with their hands behind their heads being taken away by the Iranian officials.
I wonder if the soldiers’ heads had to endure this much heat, or if they had to boil rotten in the sun like we are. Even though the lines get longer and longer each day, there is no hint of accommodation on the part of the embassy. A little shade would have been so nice.
But of course, why should they care about “nice”?
Because a bit of humanity doesn’t hurt anybody. But as the guys within these walls run around to organize their lunch dates, agendas and multi-million dollar shenanigans, who’s thinking of “humanity”?
I contemplate leaving. They only receive applications from 8 to 10:30 and I am way at the end of the line. But I decide to take my chances anyways. Half of my heart is on the Digital Electronics project I have waiting for me at school. The exam was a total disaster, and so this project has to be handled with the utmost care.
Standing in these lines sometimes makes you sorry that you even bothered. As if we are all just there to showcase and show off our relative’s possession’s in foreign lands; to inform complete and utter strangers of our own fortunes here and abroad. The Iranian “cheshm-beh-ham-cheshmi” seems to follow them everywhere they go: even long, hot, tiring lines.
Strangers suddenly decide to make conversation – not about the weather or the nearest restaurant or even plans for their trips, but rather, talks about who owns what and where and how much they own. There is one man a few steps away glowing that he and his entire clan of a family received their visas last week to visit his older brother who “owns an incredible mansion in the UK”. That he is simply back to obtain a visa for their “nokar” (servant) b/c they want to indulge in tasty Iranian cuisines while they are there. He repeats at least a dozen times: “Man hey behesh migam nokar-e khoshbakht, thou too khabet ham midid kasi barat een kar ro bokoneh?” (I keep telling her: “You lucky servant. Would you have even dreamed of someone doing this for you?”)
Another girl – so pancaked in makeup you wonder if any of her face is left – goes on about her uncle’s estate in London she will be visiting, her father’s job, the car she has recently bought and her aunt’s “gorgeous” home in California she will be heading off to once the uncle is visited. She’d rather go straight to California, but “Tefli amoum. Kheyli esrar mikoneh. Migheh hameyeh een khona ro faghat barayeh een kharidam keh thou biyay toosh.” (my poor uncle kept insisting. He keeps saying I bought this huge house just so that you’d come and visit me.)
And I am just standing there, watching them as they play their part for the audience. This is one show I’d let them steal any day. All the time I am wondering: “Who the hell CARES?!” and feeling the first hints of heat on my head.
Then I begin talking to the lady in front of me. Or rather, she begins talking to me. Her voice is much younger then her appearance and I can trace signs of a once very attractive face under all those wrinkles. She is standing in line for her daughter who has just had an operation and is waiting in the car. She seems to want to talk. On just about everything: Her son’s unwillingness to study, her husband’s time in prison, her daughter’s failed marriage. “Delesh poreh” as some would say. No, none of it is any of my business, but somehow, I don’t mind listening. Or telling her things of my own. Then I realize who she is. Wife of a well known ex-politician, who has had some very harsh things to say about current events … and paid the price.
My brain now feels like it is boiling inside my head and I need to start transferring my weight from one leg to the other having never before stood in a line as long as this - and why? because the politicians representing me wear disoriented beards and ugly suits? Because I’m a potential terrorist and the 19 year old American shooting Iraqis isn’t?
It seems ironic that no matter who we are and what background we come from, no matter how big our uncle’s villa or how great our husband’s political record, we have to stand in these lines like prisoner’s at the Bastille or refuges seeking asylum. While many other nations don’t. When just a few decades ago we didn’t either. So 60 million people can suddenly turn terrorists overnight?
No, but the whole ordeal is much more complicated than that. I’m a potential terrorist. And what can I do about it other than wait here to try and prove them otherwise?
The line is moving steadily and all along I wonder if I will make it in. Visa or no visa, I keep thinking, I just want to get my form in today!
I am getting closer, but so is the time. When I finally get to the front, it’s a half hour after 11, but the doors are still open. Right then, they finally close the doors and loudly announce a “no more applications for today”. I am dumbstruck. This can’t be! Right when it’s my turn! I go to the doorman wearing the tie, and ask him to let me in. He does not seem too sympathetic. I go on talking. He doesn’t budge. Then, without knowing why, I claim: “but I’m only one person!” Yes, he can see that. But most people are there by the dozen, with one or two people in line and the rest sitting nearby. This seems to soften him up; and I am gained admittance. Into the land of Locke, Bentham, Hooke and Sir Winston Churchill … At least into that portion of their land that is situated on Iranian soil … This should be one of the places where that notorious coup was planned just a few decades ago.
And half a century later … they are still the ones to get the last laugh.