Yesterday, I had the need to travel to London.
Always a fun trip, but nonetheless stressful; taxis, trains, the London Underground! (Wow, that’s a trip, in and of itself, huh? A chaotic system of underground tunnels, in which 1.35 billion people travel each year and approximately half a million mice call home!)
Anyway, I had to travel to London to visit the US Embassy, to have a document notarised by a “US Notary.”
… let me digress for a minute to say that the branch of Wells Fargo, that manage the American Express Retirement Plan, don’t know their “ass from their elbow!” They are the most backward, non-global, rigid company I have ever dealt with.
I have been trying to access funds, from my Retirement Plan, since August 2018 and so far, have been sent the wrong forms, been given the wrong information, waited 28 days for paperwork to arrive from the US, been given conflicting information by people who work in the same department and the most recent cockup… I was literally told last night “the check is in the mail. …but, Oh! wait… Why isn’t there a postal code on here? I don’t see your Postal Code on here…. hold on a minute”
My reaction? “What the fuck… are you fucking kidding me?”
Yes, a check (for a considerable amount of money) was sent from the USA to the UK (because they refuse to wire the money to my American bank account, so they have sent me a US Dollar check, that I will have to figure out how to get converted into British Pound Sterling!) but Wells Fargo neglected to put my Postal Code (equivalent of a Zip Code) on the envelope! And mind you, I have been working “one on one,” with a “Manager” since November, to ensure no further cockups happened!
You would have thought the threat of losing a 35 year old Amex Retirement Account, would have had them on their toes, but nope, they continued to make one mistake after another; so yes, the account is now being “rolled -over,” into an IRA, not managed by them!
Anyway… the reason for my trip to London, was because Wells Fargo requires a second level verification of my identify (yes, even though they have been working with me for 5 months, talking to me on the phone weekly and sending/receiving documents from me) in order to roll-over my funds into a US IRA; and this requirers that the documentation be notarised, but not just by any old Notary, it requires a United States of America Notary seal and signature.
“Seriously… where am I supposed to find a US Notary in England?” “Ahhhh…” apparently at the US Embassy in London!
Now I only live about 55 minutes, by train, from London (Victoria Station), so it’s not a ridiculous inconvenience for me; but I asked what if I lived in northern England, like up in Newcastle or in the Lake District? It could take 3 hours, one way, to get to London! Not their problem apparently.
So, I made an appointment (online) to visit the US Embassy Notary Services team on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at 9:30 am. I had all my ducks in a row and I had gone over everything with my nice, but albeit limited Wells Fargo “Manager” friend.
I was up at 5:30, out of the house by 7:00, on the 7:32 train to London Victoria; arriving at 8:30. I made my way through an unfamiliar underground line, to Vauxhall Station and somehow found my way through the maze of buildings, to the Embassy of the United States.
Wow… I was standing on “home,” soil.
After being directed to walk almost the entire circumference of the building, I limped my way to the Visitor’s Desk which was on the outside of the building, in a weird vortex of freezing cold wind. I confidently tried to hand the lady my US Passport, while announcing that I had a 9:30 appointment with Notary Services.
After going over my name (which is not that difficult) “Melissa W_h_i_t_e, yes like the colour,” several times… the woman announced, I did not have an appointment and would not be let in the building.
“What? Wait. … of course I have an appointment! Melissa White… W_H_I_T_E, like the colour. Tuesday the 29th of January at 9:30!
She sternly announced (with some hostility) that my name was NOT on the list and she asked me to “step aside.”
No, No, No this cant be happening, I’m cold, I’m limping, I’m American… you have to let me in!
At that point, I did the only thing I could do… I started to cry.
After she saw I wasn’t budging and was holding up her line… she offered me a telephone number, for the switchboard of the Embassy. Yes, of the Embassy, that I was standing in front of!
She suggested I call and ask to speak to Notary Services. I called; and the switchboard operator offered me the email address for Notary Services.
“No, no, no… Did I mention that I am standing OUTSIDE of the Embassy! If you look out your window, you will see me! I’m the one limping around in circles, trying to keep warm… and crying!”
After several minutes of me crying at her, she reluctantly transferred me to consulate’s office. Here a nice young British man, listened to my sad story (and to me hysterically crying and trying to sniff freezing cold snot, off my face and back into my sinuses) and offered to call Notary Services for me.
I was on hold for what seemed like 10 minutes, while cool, trendy, non-limping, smug, Americans strode past me with their attitude and their “confirmation emails!”
Me? Oh… no, I did not have a confirmation email, but I did have an email from the Embassy, titled “What to Expect on Your Upcoming Visit to the US Embassy.” So yeah… why would I have that, if I wasn’t supposed to be here, ya smug bastards!
While standing outside in the cold, on “hold, I noticed the lady at the desk, had gone inside to talk to a Security Guard. He was about 90, unarmed, and I could have “taken him” easily… They were talking back and forth and looked out at me, every few seconds… but I showed them, I continued to cry and pace, and just ignored them!
It was when I turned my back on them that I noticed the three armed, uniformed, helmeted police officers standing about 10 feet behind me, up against a tall perimeter wall.
“Where did they come from?”
I had been on the property for about 15-20 minutes and hadn’t seen any police presence whatsoever, let alone an ARMED police presence!
And why were they standing behind me? Was that just a coincidence?
My nice young British man, from the consulate’s office, came back on the line to sadly announce that the Notary Services groups could not see me, as they were completely booked. I’d have to go on line and make another appointment.
The tears continued.
Feeling totally beaten and downtrodden I began to limp away…
I turned to see the three police officers had not moved an inch and were just standing there; quite poised, with their semi automatics in their arms looking in my general direction.
“Perhaps it is time to leave.”
I reluctantly limped slowly off American soil and back onto British soil with my tail between my legs, my ego bruised, but my life intact.
My husband would later hypothesise that perhaps they thought I was some kind of distraction… a ploy, sent in to disrupt things before a more serious (or even deadly) band of scallywags swooped in to cause real trouble. And I’d obviously be the first one gunned down, had anyone in line made any abrupt moves…. or sneezed, even!
It retrospect it was a bit harrowing… but as I limped away, with my tears and runny nose, I tried to put the whole ordeal behind me.
A few hours later, after a nice coffee and several chapters of “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama, under my belt; I met my friend Sheffield Jane and we had a nice lunch and several glasses of wine; we laughed about many things… the three armed guards being just one of them!