Ah, the communist manifesto.
So, for a quiet building in Japantown, you wouldn’t expect a steel security gate. But as my experienced China-traveller friend noted, “these are all over China too.” The line was long at 8:35AM. I was surprised when the woman next to me spoke English and confirmed that I could get my photo taken inside. You go in, and there’s 50 chairs bolted to the floor, facing a large LCD readout display. Chinese and English characters scroll up (the Chinese written horizontally, which I’m suspecting is a simplified technique). There’s a security guard (Caucasian) and at first he makes you take a ticket out of a little kiosk that looks like a parking lot ticket stand. It issues out a paper thin ticket in English and Chinese. I barely had time to fill out the Visa form when my number was called: “er… ling.. ba” (208). I went to the window- there were about 7 tellers- and she told me with staccato English that I needed a photo. No duh! I told her, no one was at the photo kiosk. “She’ll be there. Come back after.”
So I go back and get my photo taken. I spotted the photo lady right away. Like all bureaucratic institutions, libraries, post offices, there’s some indefineable “thing” about the employees there. She was nicely made up and wore makeup, maybe that was the giveaway. Everyone else had tumbled out of bed, pulled on fleece or a quilted jacket (it was very foggy in Japantown that morning).
My activity looked odd, because all of the 50 chairs were taken with the people sitting diligently watching the LCD monitor. Strange thing is, the line moves super fast. I was up there at the teller’s twice in 10 minutes. So why were these people sitting here? I had been halfway through the line outside, so my number should have been smack dab inbetween everyone else’s. Odd. I wonder if it’s the beginning of an experience of communist nations, where you get in line first, ask questions later. No idea.
Best thing about Chinese Consulate? right next to Peets in Fillmore. Ah, the beloved upper classes and their taste for fine coffee and good scones (blackberry, raspberry). Lots of 40ish guys with little baseball caps, and jauntily clad women in stylish sports clothes, requisite baseball hat and sunglasses, sporty tennis shoes, stroller, or latte in hand, cell phone in the other. Sitting at little tables, looking expectantly at me, who was conducting a work call, parallel parking, and getting order.
Had an interesting driving moment on the way home. Pull down Jackson in Pacific Heights, there is a UPS bus parked, an SUV behind it, in front of me. In the other direction is a moving van. A small MG is trying to nose its way through the two trucks, and the SUV is not budging. Another SUV is a few car widths behind it (still in front of me). Finally a couple of us decide to just high tail it out of there. Kind of funny- the cutesy streets do get clogged, and we have to back out of them.
Note on the steep hills: I once got a panic attack going up Union street to the top of Russian Hill. My friends were in the car, we were going to Victoria Bakery (nummers!). It was just too steep. I was worried about my car losing out on first gear, which had happened once on California street going up to Nob Hill (I was 16, my girlfriends were in the car screaming, it was a bad scene.)
So now I occasionally drive up Union street, but usually just take the Broadway Tunnel and left on Powell. I took my MOm up and over the other direction, up Taylor to Union, then over to Van Ness. It’s a bit steep on Taylor but not awful. The grades do matter when you’re going uphill, not so much when you’re going down, which is my caveat. I do hate going down Pacific Heights to the Marina, almost all directions, and will try to do Franklin as best I can. So Mom gets panicky going down Union Street to Van Ness. I’m like, really? There’s something about it being a busy street with tons of buses that builds confidence in me. I think if she saw it as a “saddle” between Nob Hill and Russian Hill she would get over her panic, but not sure.