in which I get a Brazilian*

A friend of mine from college, Spyro, works in internet security. He's the guy that companies hire to keep information safe, and he's also the guy they turn to when there's been a breach. It can be pretty high drama, too: middle of the night calls from massive corporations (e.g. IBM), needing him to jump on a plane to come fix multimillion dollar fuck ups. He tells a great story - the high tech details of which go right over my head - about being in the same system, at the same time, as hackers from Anonymous, more or less doing code battle with them, live. Crazy stuff.

Granted my friend - who I love to death - is known to have exaggerated once or twice in his life, so I'm not entirely sure how big the fish really is. But he's undeniably talented at this stuff, as evidenced by, among other things, the amount of spontaneous international travel he has to do.

A few days ago, there was some kind of security leak at an energy company in Brazil. Spyro is asked to get there as soon as possible, and told he'll need a work visa, for the amount of time he's going to be there. In order to expedite his visa application, he needs to file the paperwork and pay the fee in person, at the Brazilian Consulate, located here in LA. The problem is, he's at work on another project in New York, and can't make it in time.

Enter Ellie, proxy extraordinaire, who lives a mere twenty minutes from the consulate office in Beverly Hills.

Now, from the get go, Spyro makes it clear that it's exceptionally important he get this visa. And I'm like, Sure, no problem, I got this covered. And he makes an appointment for me at the consulate for Thursday morning.

Then he starts getting all nervous, double-checking with me that I know where to go and what to do, and when I tell him to chill out, he starts letting on about how, Ok, well, it might not be that easy, that's the thing. They're being tight with visas, and you'll need to convince them I really need to be there. 

And I'm all, Ok, well, a major security breach at an international oil company sounds pretty emergency-riffic, right? Shouldn't be an issue? And he's all, Well the problem is, it hasn't made the news there yet. They're trying to keep it quiet. But yeah, it's big.

And I'm like, LOLwhut? This is starting to feel like a spy mission. How am I supposed to convince them to give you the visa with no evidence of why you need to go?

And he's all, Well, I'm hoping your meeting is with a guy.

And after I recover my eyeballs from where they had rolled to on the far side of my apartment, I'm like, You've got to be kidding me. I'm supposed to flirt my way through this? What am I, a Bond girl?

And he's all, It's just really important, ok? Wear a cute outfit, a low cut shirt or something. 

And I inwardly groan but tell him I'll do my best.

So this morning as I'm getting ready to go the appointment, he starts texting, triple-checking that I have everything, that I'm running on time, etc. And then he tells me that there's some link in an email he's sent me, to a news story or something that contains information about why he needs to go to Brazil (I'm not really sure - I never actually looked at the link). And I'm like, WTF? I'm supposed to bust out my phone in the middle of this meeting, bring up my email and then my browser, and show this person something on the tiny phone screen? 

And he calls me and explains that it shouldn't be necessary, that it's just an emergency measure in case they're going to deny the visa. And he reminds me again how nervous he is, how important this is, etc. And I say I'm not crazy about the pressure, because it feels like the international oil community is relying on my coquetry skills in order to avert some kind of global crisis. He lols and says that's not an entirely far off estimation of the situation.  Then we get off the phone, and I finish getting ready, starting to get nervous myself.

I take a cab to Beverly Hills and enter an attractive, circular-faced building where a security officer escorts me through a polished lobby to the third floor. The consulate is split across the elevator banks, and I approach a wide glass reception window, behind which two consulate employees sit doing paperwork. The wall behind them has what looks like a plastic or maybe resin multicolored map of the world, about an inch thick and several feet across. Everything is immaculate, including the impeccably dressed and busy-looking receptionists.

I suddenly feel very provincial, and clear my throat self-consciously.

One of the receptionists looks at me expectantly and says something I don't catch. "I'm sorry?" I say.

"Can I help you?" he repeats, briskly.

"Oh, yes," I stammer. "I have an appointment. For the consulate. With the consulate. At ten ten."

He looks at me blankly. "For what?"

I frown. Not what I was expecting, which, in retrospect, is rather hilarious: an appointment book with my name in it.

I start fumbling with my papers. "I'm here representing a friend, Spyro--"

"Yes, for what? What is the purpose of your appointment?" the man interrupts me. He isn't rude at all. He's just efficient. He's just cutting through my cluelessness with a practiced hand.

"Oh, for...a visa. A work visa," I mumble sheepishly.

The man points over my shoulder to a hallway bearing a sign and an arrow. Brazil thataway. I say thanks and walk down a short hallway to a foyer containing three electronic ticket machines, of the sort you find at airline reservation counters. After entering in my information, I'm dispensed a numbered ticket, and another receptionist hands me a form.

I round the corner and enter a large waiting room that looks like the DMV, only much cleaner and more modern. There are several windows at which American and Brazilian citizens are conducting business, and maybe a dozen or so people wait their turn in plastic chairs. I take a seat and look over the form I've been given.

The form is the document equivalent of a really strict college professor - one who doesn't bend the rules or give extensions on papers, ever. It's got a rather threateningly worded list of everything applicants must have and must do before approaching the window. Much of it is in caps or boldface or both. Apparently, things need to be filled out just so, or else. I get the distinct impression that if I fuck up, things won't go well.

The warning tone of the form, combined with the pressure of knowing how important this is, along with the fact numbers are being called much quicker than I would have anticipated, all make me feel a little bit manic and panicked, but kind of giddy at the same time. The whole thing is just such an random, unexpected way for me to be spending my morning.

And from that point on, it was actually sort of funny. There were some things that hadn't been done correctly, so I had to call Spyro and have him email the consulate worker with some revised paperwork. But when I called him, he was in a cab on the way to catch a flight out of JFK, so it was all high drama for a few minutes while I waited in the children's play area for him to get to the airport, get online, and bring up the document that needed to be resent. I walked him through the exact wording changes that needed to be made, and waited for the consulate employee to get his email before filing the rest of the paperwork.

I was going to just write out the exchange, but then I realized the lols read much better from the actual screenshots. It starts when I'm getting dressed back at my apartment:

And as if I hadn't documented this silliness enough already:

I believe that's a statue of Agent Boondockle, patron saint of spies 

take a number

If only!

the glue stick that saved the world

my temporary safe room (pretty sure the little girl that briefly infiltrated it was a double agent)


* visa, for a friend