After not making it in time yesterday, I had to make another trip from Hanover, NH to Boston today. It was an adventure to say the least.
Since I had such a hard time finding the Taipei Economic Office yesterday, I made sure to get a print-out of an online map of the relevant part of Boston before heading out this morning. After that, I was off! It was freezing, at least to my wussified-by-life-in-Taiwan point of view, and the roads were snowy, but at least the sun was shining. I got onto the highway at about 10am, and headed out in high spirits. I missed the turnoff from 89 to 93, but with only a slight detour through a “vote Guiliani sign” infested portion of suburbia, I got back on the route and things were going fine… for a while.
As a rule, I speed on the highway. Pretty much everybody my age does. I try to keep it within about 10 miles per hour of the speed limit, though. At least where I grew up, the penalties for going 9 over were minimal, but they got a lot more serious at 10 over and 15 over. With a posted speed limit of 65, that put my target speed at 73 or 74 MPH. The right lane was at a crawl, and the middle lane was only going at about the speed limit, so I got in the left lane.
I was slowly passing traffic to my right, and enjoying the great scenery when I noticed a white SUV riding right up against my back bumper. I looked to my right, and there was no way of getting over. I can’t stand tailgaters, but out of courtesy, I stepped it up to just under 80 MPH. The tailgater stayed right behind me and started getting all passive-aggressive with the high beams. Not liking that one bit, I slowed back down to 5-10 over the limit and tried to shield my eyes from the high beams, which were amazingly annoying considering it was daytime.
Then a hole opened up in traffic next to me, the SUV behind me changed lanes, it pulled up beside me, and I got a terrible surprise. It wasn’t just some random asshole tailgater who had been behind me. It was an asshole tailgating cop who had been behind me. And at that moment he was holding a badge up against his window and screaming something at me. Yikes.
I pulled over to the shoulder of the highway as quickly as I could, and waited tensely. The cop who came lumbering up to me was dark, heavy-set and seriously pissed of. Before he even got up to the car he was screaming. He was carrying a gun on one hip and a taser on the other. I felt a bit unsettled.
After enduring the initial barrage of cursing, I showed him my driver’s license, and he asked where I was going. He didn’t know what the “Taipei Economic Office” was, but it must have sounded respectable, because he immediately calmed down a bit. Then he asked me why I was driving somebody else’s car, and why I had a Colorado driver’s license. I told him I’d been living in Taiwan for 5 years, and showed him my passport as evidence, and then it was pretty much okay. He wanted to know why I was going so slowly (I replied I had thought the limit was 65), and gave me the whole “I don’t know how the hell they drive out in Taiwan, but around here blah, blah, blah…” speech, and it was fine after that. Five minutes of “yes, officer” this and “yes officer” that, and I was free to go. My pulse didn’t go back down to normal for another ten, though.
Applying for the Visa
Having learned from my experiences yesterday, I parked near the T stop and went into the office on foot. I dropped off an entire stack of documents, including bank statements, and a work permit and applied for a resident visa directly. I must have been the first one to do that at their office in a long time. The assistant seemed like she wasn’t quite sure what to do with me. With everything lined up, though, it was pretty straight forward. She sent me out to get some larger photos of myself taken, since mine were too small, but that was the only issue that came up. Interestingly, the consular officer told me he’d read a book by some guy who’d given up his US passport to become Taiwanese and then served in the army there. The look on his face when I told him I knew the guy and played a bit part as a bodyguard in his movie was priceless.
By the time I left Boston, it was starting to rain. After driving 50 miles north, it was snow, not rain that was coming down. The ride home absolutely bit. It got dark earlier than I’ve ever seen before in my life, I was in a borrowed car, the wipers sucked, and I had to fumble around to find the various defrosters. In short, I could barely see where I was going. Worse still, I actually saw a car slide off the road somewhere around the state border. It only took 3 hours to get to Boston, but it took 5 hours to get back. By the time I got to Dartmouth I was exhausted. Fortunately, the people at the economic office offered to mail my passport back to me, thus sparing me the need to make the trip again.