I need to file a police report concerning my passport that I lost recently in Quito, Ecuador, so Monday, I go to the police station, or rather, to where I think the police station is. I try out my best Spanish on the first person I see: “Hola, yo perdí mi pasaporte.” The man reacts as if I’d just told him I lost an eyeball instead of a passport– confusion, followed by offers of not-really-helpful help.
I am directed Upstairs to the police station, which directs me back Downstairs. Downstairs tells me to go back Upstairs. Finally, I explain to Upstairs that I am a lost puppy in search of a home, and they let me wait in their office until the Chief of the Lost Passports Division gets back from solving his later caper, or, more likely, lunch.
The Chief, a man of sixty-five whose picture is in the dictionary next to the word “grizzled,” invites me into his office, where he fires up his trusty typewriter. He feeds the paper in, asks me for some ID, and upon seeing my name, he frowns hard.
“Or-rin Oat-fail…” he says, pronouncing my name the way it probably sounds when someone says it underwater.
“Aaron,” I offer.
“Si, si. Orrin.”
“Si, es correcto.” Is this really necessary?
He punches my name into the typewriter– clack… clack… clack– with slow, methodical keystrokes. Each clack of the keyboard is followed by his triumphant pronouncement of the preceding letter. The song goes something like this:
CLACK! “R.” And so on, with the rest of the letters, The Chief pronouncing each one carefully like he was in the finals of a spelling bee. Soon enough, I have my much-coveted police report.
[Tomorrow, part 3.]