So, I was "reminded" today about why I only use public transportation when travelling downtown in DC.
I need to go to the Korean embassy to have certified/notarized copies of my diploma made in order to apply for my E-2 visa. The idea of sending the original off to Korea via FedEx makes me a bit nervous, but you can't just make copies--they need to be witnessed as official. And apparently, notaries at Korean consulates are the only ones that Korean immigration recognizes. So I think, "No problem! I'll just hop on down to embassy row one day in June to get all this stuff done. Easy peasy." Earlier this week I looked online about where the embassy is located and what documents I'd need and all that. My plan was to go today before meeting Janet and Michelle for Janet's birthday lunch.
Well... ok. So I got a bit of a later start than I anticipated. "Ok," I once again brilliantly reason, "I'll just drive downtown so that I can make it out to Anne Arundel county in time for lunch. The embassy website says it has parking for the embassy and google maps says it will only take 30 minutes--much less than the 40 min subway ride plus 15 min walk and 10 min drive to G-belt station!"
Many of you are probably wondering how such a generally competent and intelligent individual as myself could make such a ridiculous mistake. Especially since I have lived in the DC area most of my life. I should know better. I should have known better...
Ah yes. Hindsight.
So, after waging an epic battle with route 50 and New York Avenue through to Dupont Circle and arriving at the embassy part of town (which took well over the advertised 30 minutes, Google liars--more like 45), I start looking around desperately for the South Korean flag while dodging j-walking tourist groups on Mass Ave. I get a bit nervous as I notice NONE of the embassy buildings have parking lots and (this being a weekday in the downtown area) street parking was less than nonexistent (as in, even the illegal spaces were taken by standing vehicles). It wasn't near the cross street I thought it would be. The time is nearing the noon deadline when the consulate services will shut down for lunch. Anxiety is increasing logarithmically... but then I happily discover a lively building with the R.O.K. banner and some Korean film crew outside that has (GASP!) a little parking lot filled with Hyundais! Yay! Maybe I wasn't psychotic after all...
Except the lot is full. No, full implies something other than what I experienced. The cars were parked in three rows thick with only a single lane and nowhere to turn around. In a space roughly the size of my living room, were no fewer than 15 cars, in which my own was now mired. No helping that now. With 10 minutes left to noon, I decided to deal with it when I finished and hope for the best.
I run into the building, which seems to be having some sort of event because everyone is Korean and dressed up in nice business suits. In my jeans and pigtails with my backpack full of official documents, I felt something akin to what a homeless person who enters a hotel to use the restroom must feel. I smile in a way that I hope exudes relaxed confidence and pleasantly stupid sheepishness, as a young Korean man asks if he can help me.
"Oh, no, you want down there." He motions towards nothing in particular. Could he mean the stairs?
"No, no, down the street. Other building. In the circle."
"Oh!" Same smile, slightly less confident and more sheepish. "Ok, thank you!" I duck my head and run out to the enchanted Hyundai forest to decide what to do about the car.
If I ran, I might make it to the consulate building in time to have the gate slammed in my face, but my fear of having my car permanently walled into the Hyundai mass grave by some other person parking me in (yes, I realize I was already parking like 20 people in...) and missing Janet's birthday lunch won out. I figured maybe I could drop the stuff off and come back for it later. Or maybe some kind person would help me anyways. Plus, I still had my doubts that the building even existed, since I had definitely missed it the first time around.
I hopped in my car and promptly got lost down a side street (this happens a lot in DC), and then found myself on the cross street with Mass where the consulate building was supposed to be anyhow with a free parking space right in front of me! Miraculous! Maybe my luck was changing!
Except, crap, the parking meter is broken and I don't know which direction Mass is (I got turned around a few times when I got lost). Certain I'll be doomed with a ticket, I glance at my DC map, get my bearings and head for the consulate. Only to arrive at 12:10pm. The building unlocked made the final up to my up and down, very anti-climactic battle that must be repeated tomorrow. The guy at the window said to come back at 1:30--the time I was supposed to be at Friendly's on Crain. *sigh* At least I didn't get a ticket.
On top of all this, I had forgotten about the universal law of DC driving--you can make it in alive, but you cannot exit the city to the east from NW. Not a chance.
So I just gave up and drove North, retreating to the familiar normalcy of Montgomery County. I'm exhausted (even after a lovely lunch with Janet), and I have to do it all over again tomorrow. The moral of the story is, of course, the one I already knew:
Use the freaking metro!!!