Mission Impossible

Last time we checked with Gianfranco, he had still not received faxed responses from either Manila or San Francisco. As our time ticks away, we decided it was time to call out the international troops.

Amusingly, enough, Tony got up at 1 a.m. Thursday to call Manila. After several dozen tries, he succeeded in getting past the busy signal to an unhelpful secretary, who put him on hold and then hung up on him. He called back immediately, and when the same secretary realized it was he again, he transferred him without speaking to him.

However, the person to whom he was transferred was Italian and didn’t really speak English. He just kept saying, “hello? hello?” to interrupt Tony whenever he tried to talk. (At that hour of the night, Tony was unable to recall any helpful Italian words.) Finally, Tony did get it across that he was calling regarding a fax, but the Consular employee hung up on him shortly thereafter. Tony realized later that he had mixed up the times, and called Manila at 7:00 in the morning. He was lucky they answered at all.

Yesterday morning, Tony woke up to an email from Claire, our dear Filipina friend whom we asked to visit the consulate for us. When she went, it was closed, so she faxed the document to them again the following morning. Who knows? Maybe the man he called will put together the strange American calling about the fax and the forwarded fax he received from Chiusa Pesio by way of Manila. She tried to go into the consulate later that day, but the security guard wouldn’t even let her in the door without an appointment. Bleh.

On the San Francisco front, the first time Tony called the consulate, he was told that his fax would be answered in the order of arrival. When he called again last week, they informed him that the person in charge of citizenship was on vacation until next week. So yesterday, Tony asked his mom to go to the San Francisco Consulate and ask, beg, cry, do whatever it took to get them to respond to a fax that is now nearly three months old. Here, from foreign correspondent Josie, is the story, in her own words:

“As I arrived at the Consulate there was a parking place right in front of the building.

I went in and the room was fairly small with about 3 or 4 booths, like at the movie theatre for people to stand in line in front of. There were a couple of people in the waiting room, but no one was in line. I saw a sign to turn off your cell phones when it was your turn, so as I was doing that a man behind the window motioned me to come forward. I took the paper to be faxed out of my day planner and handed him one of the copies that I had made.

He asked, “how can I help you?”

I smiled and said to him, “This is a going to be a very long story, but I’ll just begin. My son and his family are living Italy and they are getting ready to come back, but they need this paper faxed back before they can leave. They have been e-mailing this office and calling for 3 months now but haven’t received any response. They’ve already bought their tickets and are meeting with the mayor of their city this week, but they can’t leave Italy to come back home until this paper is faxed back to them. This San Francisco consulate is the only one who hasn’t responded yet and they need it to be able to come home. I live in Bakersfield and my son just emailed me and asked if I could just come here as quickly as I could to see if I could get this taken care of so they could leave. I’m not sure who I need to talk to, or just who it is can help me. Can you help me find who I need to talk to about this?”

He took the paper that I handed to him, looked at it and said, “Just a minute and I’ll be right back.”

By then a little lady came over to the window next to me on my side and asked me if she should ding the bell to get someone to help her. I told her that the person helping would be right back, but in the meantime a lady came out form the back to help her. About that same time he came back to the window and another lady came with him. She had grey hair and looked like she was probably in her 50’s or so. She had the paper in her hand and began talking very fast. She said, “First of all, your son can leave Italy. There is no problem with his being able to leave the country. He doesn’t need anything to in order to leave. She was saying some more things similar to that, but the microphone on the other side wasn’t working so I could just see her mouth moving. When she stopped for a minute I said, “I’m sorry, but the microphone isn’t working and I couldn’t really hear all of the things that you just told me. Would you mind repeating that and talking a little closer to the microphone?”

She repeated the things that she had just said, but the microphone still kept going out because of the angle of which she was talking. She was telling me that she had never seen this paper before, and that she had just returned from vacation and many, many papers on her desk to take care of and that she had looked through the papers and never saw this paper come in.

I said, “I bet she really did have a lot to do if she just got back, and I’m so sorry, but could you speak just a little bit louder?”

As she was still explaining to me how no one could hold me son there because he was a US citizen, I interjected, “Well, what if his time had expired there?”

She said, “Even if his time had expired there that would be even more reason to send him out of the country.”

I was just watching her still looking perplexed and then I said, “Well, maybe I’m misunderstood what they needed this fax for, but all I knew is that it was very important that it be sent this week as my son is meeting with the mayor of the city and San Francisco is the only place that they haven’t received it back from”.

The she looked at the paper in her hand again and said, “This paper is from this city in Italy and must be sent directly back to them.”

I said happily, “I know, that’s where they live, and that’s where the mayor is that he’s meeting with.” Then she continued, “and besides, this paper says that it as 2 pages and I have only one here.” I know, I have the other page right here. That first page is the e-mail that my son sent to me asking that I come here to San Francisco and see you.” “Oh, well this is a very complicated process that takes a long time to take care of.

I said crestfallenly, “Oh, it takes a really long time to get it done? But what about his meeting with the Mayor? He’s meeting with him this week.”

“Well, I think I could get it done faster maybe. I know that I never received this. It says here that it was sent in June.”

“I know it was sent a long time ago. They’ve been working on this for a very long time. Do you think you could really do it for him? I would appreciate that so much. That would be so wonderful of you to do that. So, then could I wait here while today until it gets faxed? “

“No, you cannot wait here until it gets faxed. I have many things to do on it. I need to send it out to make sure each of these people have never given up their citizenship and then it has to be sent…….” (I wasn’t following her very well at that point again)

I said, “Well, maybe what they need is just a formality then?”

“No it is not just a formality. I do these all the time and it is not just a formality. I must go through each name and they must all be in order.” “I’m sure that I just don’t understand all the things that are required that you do.”

“I will have this done and faxed this week.”

“So you’re saying that you can have it finished and faxed to them this week? Oh, thank you so much. That makes me feel so relieved. This week, right?”

“Yes, this week.” At that point she had the paper in her hand, and she turned and began walking away. I turned to the first guy who was helping me and said, “So, do I need to do anything else?” He didn’t answer and so I just stood there for a second. I hadn’t said any of the things that I had thought of this morning, but I had a peaceful, happy feeling as I turned and walked out. All of this had taken place in less than 10 minutes (it was probably more like 3 minutes). Also when I came out of the building I noticed that there weren’t any parking places to be found at all. I felt really happy that I was in such a great one!