The Glory of King Tut
"Arbitrary waiting has become my drug. I feed my addiction by going to grocery stores and lining up without anything to purchase. Sometimes when I'm really hurting I go and camp out for the next Harry Potter movie."
Text Message Correspondence
Yana: U wanna come to toronto wit me tomorrw?
Me: What time will we be back?
Yana: Not too late is kurt in t.o by ne chance?
Me: Don't think he is. He has exams at some point. Call him.
Yana: ok king tut tomorrow
(The Art Gallery of Ontario had the King Tut exhibit that we all wanted to go see and it was leaving in a week.)
Yana: Leavin around 11
Me: K. Where do I go?
Yana: Lol I can pick u up
Me: Alright. Sounds like a plan. What's the point of this trip?
Yana: Chinese visa and king tut lol
The next message I sent to Yana was on 2010-04-12 2:04pm.
Me: Lol just standing in line at the Chinese Embassy. No i don't need any administrative services they provide. I'm just here for fun.
These are the events that transpired in between.
I woke up early to get ready for my trip to the big city. It was standard tradition to wake up to the phone call saying "I'm outside," but today was going to be different. Knowing that the day's events would include an audience with royalty—albeit royalty that has been dead for the past 100 years—I picked out my cleanest, least wrinkled dirty clothes. The car ride was a nostalgic journey down memory lane mainly due to ‘Reggae Hits '94" being played on loop for the duration of the trip. Fond memories rushed back from childhood sitting in the old VW Jetta, with windows that wouldn't roll down in the summer heat while being tortured by hot island rhythms.
Arriving in Toronto at around noon we decided to have lunch because we had some time to kill. Research into the Chinese Embassy's hours of operation told us they were open between 9am-11:30am and 1:30pm-3pm. I know at my job after I've worked for 2 and a half hours I need a 2-hour lunch break. That rest gives me the energy and mental stamina to work the remaining 90 minutes of my shift. Legend had it that the line leading up to the processing area was at times lengthy, but how bad could it really be? I found out later that every single person visiting China needs a visa to enter the country. Applications must be submitted in person. I guess a few people wanted to go to China on a Monday afternoon.
We arrived at the embassy at 1pm, 30 minutes early just to be on the safe side. A line consisting of at least 300 people greeted us. By the time the line had started to move at 1:30, 50-75 more people joined behind us. We were herded into the single opening in the fence surrounding the compound, gaining entry with photographic identification. Inside of the yard everyone was put into one of three lines. Not having experienced communism first hand before, I was unprepared for the expedited service this no-doubt efficient bureaucracy had in store. Out of the three lines we were assigned the shortest. I figured this was a good sign, but we were the last line to gain entrance to the building. While waiting outside, a large gate opened and a brand new SUV with diplomat plates drove in. All racial stereotypes aside, the entire truck was covered in scrapes and dents. I was the only person who found this sight uncontrollably hysterical.
We were led up a small flight of stairs through a set of doors and into a room with the identical dimensions of a sardine can, filled beyond any comprehensible capacity by the 400 people from outside. The room was completely white and plain except for a giant clock and pieces of paper taped to the walls with instructions written with one English word in the middle of a sea of Mandarin (did you know at Mandarin Buffets they speak Cantonese?). The bars over the single window in the room were even painted white. Standing in a new set of three lines in that room was a true test of will and endurance. Some of these women, despite being almost a century old and under five feet tall, could put any NFL linebacker to shame with their ability to bulldoze anything in their path.
It was 1:45pm according to the giant clock on the wall. The sweet and heavy anticipation of sodomy choked the air. The line, unmoved, wrapped back on itself several times, representing the labyrinth of bullshit we had entered. The line inched forward while I kept an eye on the clock. The thought of being next in line to the window right at 3pm and watching the "CLOSED" sign go up haunted me with every half-step. The only thing worse than waiting in line for something you need to do is waiting in line for something someone else has to do. Maybe reading about it is worse. At 2:04pm I decide to lighten the mood by sending a text message to the person standing 10 microns away from me (see above).
At 2:40pm I was completely sure I had died on the car ride there and this was my Hell—for the rest of eternity, forced to stand in this line. I calculated that rescue crews were pulling my charred and unrecognizable remains from the wreckage.
2:55pm and 10 people were in line in front of us. Out of the 12 available booths only 5 were open. Our line was lucky to have two booths at our service. I made reference to how my previous prophesy might be realized. 3pm on the dot, or nose, or exactly and we were next. The person in front of us left so we walked up to the window to find no one on the other side of the glass. It must be quitting time at a government office, the ergonomic chair pushed neatly under desk, dust settling. Laughing out loud at my newly discovered gift of clairvoyance I began to concentrate on predicting the next winning lottery numbers.
Yana listened to my council when I instructed her just to walk over to the next booth beside us. She wanted to go and line up again. My retort could be described only as mumbled threats of public suicide. A heated half-Engrish/half-Mandarin conversation ensued. We won the battle of the booth but we ultimately lost the war because of a failure to bring expired passports that would act as proof of previous visits to China. Defeated and in disbelief we returned to the car in shock.
The day was not lost. Sometimes you have to make the best of a situation and look through the storm to see the light ahead. We decided that King Tut would provide a healthy distraction to our mutual desire for homicide.
Driving the downtown core can be frustrating at most times, but try to find parking. The fruit of our 40-minute labor still involved a 10-minute walk to the gallery. Signs illustrating the might and awesomeness of the Egyptian Empire's boy king guided us on our path toward excitement. Feelings of hate subsided as we approached the main doors. Soon we would be in the tomb of a dead guy. Empowered by the thought of sharing the same space as a zombie, my eye caught a glimpse of something that froze me in my tracks. Yana forged on, unaware of my sudden paralysis. She reached for the door when I yelled "Stop!"
Hours of Operation