Above is a picture of my travel coffee thermos. I make coffee (or again a very sad example of coffee as it is instant) in the morning to take with me to school. Now, the thermos looks normal, right? Nothing out of the ordinary or extravagant. It is probably a 10oz. or 12oz. thermos, nothing crazy, just...standard. Well, what if I told you that this thermos or any thermos of this size is apparently an American detection device? That carrying this thermos, alerts the public in Malta that an American is in their midst. No, I'm actually not even kidding. Sounds ridiculous, right? Of course it does when you come from the land of the Grande's, Venti's, Super-sized and Big Gulp's (well, maybe not the last two thanks to Mayor Bloomberg thinking it is more important to focus on the size of drink a child is
consuming, instead of focusing on real issues like the failing NYC Public School System or the
homeless situation or the MTA issues NY'ers face everyday, or more recently, focusing on how to help NY'ers after Hurricane Sandy, sorry I digressed, but clearly, there are more important issues to tackle here than placing sanctions on the size of beverage one wishes to consume).
I am sure you are scratching your head and wondering what this has to do with my trip to the Department of Immigration or how this trip turned into a cultural exchange of sorts. Well, here goes:
About a week ago, Melissa and I got up at the crack of dawn to make our way to the DOI in Valletta to process our paperwork for our residency permits. Given our experiences with government offices back home and the several warnings to “get there early", we took no chances. Well, for me that meant rolling out of bed and taking my coffee to go. We get to the office and boy did it feel like home. Ticket dispenser on the ready for you to take your numbered ticket, ticket number counter up on the wall and even a group of Americans to really make it feel like any other day at the DMV (I kid you not, I said to Melissa "I feel like I'm at the DMV" and minutes later an American walks in and says "this is the DMV on steroids"...no seriously, I'm not even kidding and actually neither was he).
We sat and waited, went through our paperwork to make sure all was in order and continued to wait some more, but surprisingly, not much more. They started calling numbers...and FAST! I was number 90 and it started at 71...only 19 ahead of me but I was thinking it would be some time before they got to my number. Boy was I wrong. The DOI gives you about a 2 second window to claim your number before they move on to the next number; that would never happen in the States (mainly because people are always ready with their numbers only to, most of the time, be left in a state of confusion or frustration which in turn takes lots of time, no matter what office you are visiting). It was so fast that when my number got closer, I actually got nervous because I was afraid I would miss my mark, no seriously, it was going that fast. The number 89 came up on the counter and Melissa looked at me and said “get ready, you're next". Sure enough, in the blink of an eye, 90 was called and I jumped up and went into the office.
Now, I want you all to think for a second about anytime you have ever had to go to a government office (DMV, Passport, SS Office, etc.). Think about how you have been greeted (that actually makes me chuckle) and how you have been treated. Okay, I am sorry if I made you angry, annoyed or frustrated in any way for having to think up such an unpleasant thought, but I was ready for that exact sort of moment, mainly because of unpleasant past experiences. Much to my surprise, I was greeted with a smile AND a "Good Morning". Wait, what??? Hold up! Where am I? Now that, I was not expecting. I even looked around to make sure the man was speaking to me. I have to say, the person that helped me process my paperwork was pleasant and helpful to the point that I feel New York could take few lessons...for the most part, at least.
Remember the coffee thermos? Yeah well for all of the pleasantries exchanged between said guy and myself, the minute I whipped out my passport, he thinks it funny (with a bit of a sly smirk on his face) to say " I should have known you were American because of the size of your coffee cup, you Americans and your large coffee cups" (uses hands to show large size cup). Now it was early in the morning, frankly, too early for me to deal with any nonsense, so you know I had something to say. My response was, and I quote, " Given that all you offer here in Malta is instant coffee which, in fact, is not even real coffee, kinda need the bigger cup to help try to give me some sort of caffeine kick" (all said with great sarcasm in my voice, don't worry my Bronx and NYC people, this girl right here knows exactly where she comes from). Said man's reaction...complete deer in headlights, like "oh heck, pushed the wrong buttons there" sort of look. Needless to say, after that he was very pleasant and efficient as I was done processing my paperwork within minutes and he even felt it necessary to comment on how impressed he was with all of my traveling (as he literally went page by page in my passport-awkward much?). He proceeded to tell me that he has only traveled through Europe (hey at least he has actually stepped off the island, you'd be surprised to know that there are many that haven't) never to the States (UH CLEARLY!) but that he really wants to visit the States, especially New York ( of course, who doesn't). I smiled, gave him the "may I have my passport back now , please" sort of look, paid my fee and was on my way.
There are 3 lessons to be learned here friends: 1. is the old adage "Don't judge a book by it's cover" (I did by the look of the office and was pleasantly surprised to find that it ran much more efficiently than I had anticipated), 2. "Know your audience" (said man thought it cute to call me out on being American simply because of the size of my coffee cup, and in turn, got a true lesson on knowing when you are in the midst of an American as I gladly gave him a piece of my mind to let him know I did not appreciate him trying to criticize us with the coffee cup comment) and 3. "Don't throw stones at glass houses" (because you never know when someone may have a rock ready to be thrown instead). There is plenty I could have said, but I chose to be the bigger person by saying my part and nothing more and in the end he understood where I was coming from and what I was there for, which was for him to do his job and process my application. Mission Accomplished!