1. Traffic getting there
My appointment was at 3:30 at the French consulate, which in the heart of downtown Chicago. I was planning on leaving work at 2 since I only work 30 miles away from the city, but my director convinced me that I needed to leave earlier to make sure I had enough time to get there and find the place and park and such. I was glad he did! The interstate I took down to the city wasn’t too bad but there were a few spots where I was crawling. And this was at 1:30 in the afternoon! Rush hour is about a million times worse. Once it took me two hours just to get through the city. Not fun.
2. Driving downtown
As I got into downtown the traffic just got worse. Adding to the tons of cars were pedestrians and crazy fearless bikers that ride in the street without helmets (why is the bike lane between two car lanes??) and one-way streets and construction and street closings for Lollapalooza. I learned that it’s basically impossible to turn because of the pedestrians crossing the street, so that was fun. I was also driving when someone drifted into my lane and scraped the side of my car. Don’t worry, it wasn’t bad; my car didn’t even swerve or anything, I basically just heard it and honked. The guy then sped off. Classy, Chicago. Enjoy the paint the Silver Rocket surely left on your shiny black Altima.
First I drove by the consulate so I knew where it was, then started looking for somewhere to park. Ideally I wanted to find a “Pay to Park” section of a street where you park, then put money in a meter and put the receipt it spits out on your dashboard. However, those are basically nonexistent and the few I found nearby were full up. There are plenty of parking garages, but they’re expensive and I have this thing about parking garages… they’re dark and confusing and have low ceilings and I always turn the wrong way when I’m trying to exit…but eventually I sucked it up and found a parking garage that wasn’t too expensive and wasn’t too far away. I also took extraordinary measures to ensure I didn’t lose my car (it’s happened before…) but I won’t go into those here.
4. Walking around
“Not too far away” = almost a mile away from the consulate. Walking to the consulate through DT Chicago was not pleasant. It was crowded and hot and stuffy and confusing and I was scared someone was going to pickpocket me and there were tons of homeless people around breaking my heart and cars didn’t care about pedestrians and it was loud from the el and cars and buses and honking. But eventually I made it to the consulate with about 6 minutes to spare and only minimal sweatiness.
5. Crabby people
Now, this might just be because I was at the French consulate, but in general I have found that people from the city (see #2) or even the suburbs are less friendly than those of us from the country. Haven’t you heard? Iowa is nice! When I got off the elevator at the consulate I accidentally went to the actual consulate desk instead of the visa office. I had to check in downstairs ahead of time so I just walked up to the desk and gave the guy working my name and he just goes, “And…?” WOW. I said I had a visa appointment and then he pointed me down the hall. When I got there there was a sign on the glass that said “No need to check in, just wait to be called.” Then during my actual appointment the guy barely said two words to me and didn’t explain anything. Okay then. Hopefully it all went well because I have no idea! I guess I’ll see when (if) I get my passport back in the mail.