We had a simple task to take care of this morning. We needed to get some papers notarized by an American notary. Back in Texas, we would walk across the street to our neighbor's house to get it done and walk back five minutes later. Easy-peasy!
Greg asked a lawyer at his office where we could find an American notary and was told the only place he knew of was the American Embassy. It was within walking distance and we were able to get an appointment right away. Easy-peasy!
Yeah, well, no so fast! I got to the address five minutes early, jumped in the elevator and couldn't get the darned thing to work. I kept pressing "10" but the light wouldn't stay on and the elevator wouldn't move. Finally, it rose as far as the fifth floor and stayed there. I thought I was stuck.
My phone rang. It was Greg asking me where I was. "I'm stuck in the elevator!" I told him. He said, "You won't believe what they've got going on here. Come back down to the lobby." Hey- thanks for your concern, I thought. Lucky for HIM, the elevator responded when I pressed "L" for lobby.
It turns out we had to check all bags and electronic devices before we could go upstairs. Then we had to wait in line to go through a security screening similar to what we all endure at the airport, followed by a brief interview with a woman who wanted to know why we were there. Finally, we were told to sit and wait until our names were called.
It looked like everyone else in the waiting room was applying for a Visa because we were the only English-speaking Caucasians there. (That's not racist, is it? I don't mean to be.) It seemed odd that we all had to wait together when all we needed was a notary.
An officer called our name and we were told to wait in the hall. When about ten of us were lined up, he told us to follow him to the elevator. He used a special key to get the thing moving. We arrived on 10 and were instructed to line up once again in the hallway. One by one, we went through another security screening: shoes and belts off, paperwork inspected, the whole shebang.
"Go down that hall, make a left and take a seat until your number is called." Yet ANOTHER waiting room containing about thirty people. Our number was called on three separate occasions- once to check our passports ("please return to your seat"), once to pay the cashier FIFTY dollars PER notary stamp, for a total of $200 ("return to your seat") and lastly, to actually sign the documents.
We were pretty pissed. Greg pointed out that we could have driven to Montana (which is about 3 hours away), paid for gas, the notary, had a nice meal and still have change left over from the $200.
Most days living here in Canada feels very much like living in the U.S. But every now and then we're reminded that we're visitors in another country. It's a strange feeling. And frankly, a little scary.