Tuesday, May 18, 2004

some doors close, others Open. ever so slightly.

i've got to blog this for myself, so i can revisit the events of the last two days whenever i'm in need of a wide smile.

i've been living on the edge with deadlines et al all along this saga of mine. but this one's hard to top. i came into work yesterday to impending deadlines and hoping to find some time to finalize the set of things i should do to strengthen my case with LBS. Around noon or so, as I was getting ready to walk into a meeting, I check my mail and there's a note from LBS that they have their Open Weekend for admitted students this saturday and sunday. the reason I was notified is that they also welcome waitlisted students for this ! so, I quickly resolved to do what I can to get out there. this journey wouldn't really be complete without an admit weekend, would it now ? it would also give me a chance to meet with the Adcoms, and make a personal case for why I should be an MBA 2006. deciding to go was the easy part, i now realize.

first up, tickets. i'm sitting in the meeting checking the orbitzes of the world to find a decent price. tickets a few days before take-off aren't really cheap, but the best i could do was Virgin Atlantic. booked them. oh, and i took the $20 protection on those tix that'll allow me to make changes if things don't go according to plan.

next, visa. yes, i need a UK Visitor Visa to enter the country. i had a real easy time the last time i went there, so wasn't expecting any hurdles. however, as is the nature of things, i check their website and they now require an appointment to secure a visa. and you can only book an appointment with your passport number. I just got a new passport last year and don't remember the number off the top of my head, and it was sitting at home. found some time at around 4 to go home and fetch it and once i go through the motions was told that the earliest appointment's for May 27 ! and there's nothing on the website for rush service or emergencies or anything of that sort. damn. and it was already past 5 and obviously nobody's going to answer the phone.

so, i do some more digging around and there's a list of 'agents' that don't need an appointment. you can go thru them and it gets done the same day. phew. call the first one and they don't do visitor visas. ditto for the second one. this is getting worse. the third guy i call, a very kind malayalee ( malayalee - a person, usually from the Indian state of Kerala {also called God's Own Country, and beautiful as heaven}, who speaks the language of Malayalam, a palindrome in case you noticed ), says he's gonna do it. the plan - mail him my passport etc by wednesday, he takes it there thursday, and he mails it back to me by friday afternoon, so i can make the 7:30 flight out. did anyone say living on the edge ? oh, that was me. didn't i also say i have deadlines to meet at work? life's not fun. well, actually, it is.

this AM, i start to fill out the online application form for the Visa and come to a section that asks if I have any friends in the UK. i do, so i said yes. and then the next screen asks for their address. their freaking address. won't a name and phone number do ? my problem is that i don't have my friend's address. i try to call her and - is this a surprise anymore - voice mail. i then realize that i know this guy who's kinda dating her and email him if he has her address. and off to another meeting. as a backup, there's a classmate of mine from high school who's in london and i asked another buddy of mine to see if he can get me her address/phone number. the issue was that the website doesn't allow you to go back once you've started the process. so, no going back to the previous page and saying that i don't know anyone in London. frustrating, i tell ya.

it was almost 2 when i got out of this meeting. by then i had managed to procure an address and continue with the form. this was the cool part though - no timeouts on the form even though i had left it idle for over an hour. filled it out, printed it, and printed all the other required docs. the last item - a letter of employment. my admin promised to have it done by 3. but i had another meeting at 3 and finally got out at 4. picked up the letter and realized that it has mistakes. asked her to correct it and was walking back to my office when the most fucking unexpected thing happened. cross my heart, this is true, and i believe, probably destined. a fire alarm.

sitting outside, waiting for the fire marshals to arrive, i could not help but smile. what are the odds ? ah, so sweet.

4:30 we make it back into the building and she has it done. pick it up, make photocopies of all documents, and run to the Kinko's with the FedEx around the corner. some good luck here, the pickup is at 7 pm. i relaxed a little and as i was doing a final check realized that something was wrong with my bank statement. i printed it off Fleet's website and guess what - there is no name anywhere on there, just account #'s. glad i caught it. ran back to my office and the whole freaking website is like that. it's already 5:30. so onto plan B, which was short lived. tried to get one of the mini-statements off the ATM and it was worse. it just showed the last 4 digits of my account # :-)

It's 5:50 at this point and onto Plan C. search for any open branches - found one. take the train to Harvard Square because there's a branch of fleet that's open until 7. and the reason it's open late is because it's one of them fancy-shmancy ones. where they make you wait in a lobby in admittedly comfortable sofas until a financial consultant walks you to an office to finally get you the damn printout with a name and account balances. 6:15 when I step out.

i must admit i had good train karma today. didn't have to wait more than a couple of minutes for the subway either way. get off my stop and it's 6:30. man, was i relieved. a long leisurely walk the next few blocks to the kinko's and i deposited my envelope at around 6:45. pick-up at 7.

today's done but this story's far from being done. this visa thing has to be approved thursday. and the dude's got to send it to me on time friday. my flight gets to London 7 AM and i got to make my way to Fitzrovia to the youth hostel (yup, that's all i can afford at this point), shave, shower, get dressed and get to LBS between 9 and 9:30. not to mention the fact that I will probably be jetlagged. it's a good thing i kinda know the lay of the land there. if it gets too late in customs (as it did last time i was there), i might skip the Tube and take the Heathrow Express which gets to Paddington Station in luxurious comfort in about 20 minutes or so. Tube to Great Portland street. the YMCA where i plan to stay is a couple of blocks away. freshen up, back to the station and Baker Street is only one stop from Great Portland. LBS is about 5-10 minutes walk from the Baker Street stop i think.

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