Singapore Adventure

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Jumping the Queue
by venitha

"Jump the queue," the man with the machine gun directs me. No argument here.

Clutching the golden ticket, my US passport, I walk briskly past the snaking sun-drenched lined of visa applicants, relieved not to be one of them on this hot and heartless morning.

Security at Singapore's American embassy is tight, and I briefly regret not carrying my Synthes card. They x-ray everything. And keep it. They return my wallet, and they'll let me bring my knee, but no camera, no phone, and worst of all, for I am under no illusion that the outdoor visa queue is the only long line in this compound, no book.

Up a ramp, round a corner, through an astoundingly heavy door, I arrive at yet another security point, this one manned by a gentleman who may disprove accusations of racial-profiling in the embassy's hiring practices but who decidedly does not make me feel safer.

In the American Citizen Services room, I surrender my passport and take a seat under a blaring basketball game, or rather under blaring basketball game commercials. I tune out the television and turn my attention to a well-read copy of the day's Straits Times. Having already seen the headlines on-line, already rolled my eyes at the gloating over Thailand's government's difficulties, and already shook my head through a depressing India ultrasound-leads-to-abortion piece, I don't fight for the front page but choose Life!, where I learn of the really important news: Halle Berry's intention to adopt and Tom Cruise's plummeting starpower.

Before the unmistakable Mission Impossible theme edges REO Speedwagon's Can't Fight This Feeling (thank you, Cold Storage) out of my head, I've completed my mission and am back outside, thumbing through my passport's crisp new visa pages and awaiting the return of my belongings, aglow with radiation. I look at the unmoving line of visa applicants, stubbornly wilting in the heat, and am embarrassed to recognize a number from my arrival: a group of uniformed schoolgirls, a young couple with two small children, several twenty-somethings with scruffy faces and backpacks. I intend to decorate my new passport pages with visas from Indonesia, Australia, Vietnam, and Cambodia, all countries whose embassies treat visa applicants more kindly, I hope, than my own.