wriggled under the couch cover...that darn cat is being weird again. And she’s emptied her food onto the floor and scattered litter in delicate piles all over the floor. Ben, aren’t you excited to be taking her back to her rightful home?
Normally, trips to the Policia Federal are not the sort of occasions that have one giggling uncontrollably while leaving the building. Usually they are times for a few choice words, after waiting in long lines for hours only to find out that you need to pay just one more fee, or get a document that you don’t, of course, have on your person...
But today, I was giggling. The kind of mirth that makes passerby and taxi drivers and people hanging out of the windows of buses give you long, quizzical stares. Because they go to the Policia Federal too...and no one leaves happy. It’s like a darker, evil-er Department of Motor Vehicles.
I went to get my identification card, a process that involves a little stack of paperwork and then waiting five months for a card that will at that point, only be good for another six months anyway...typical bureaucratic ridiculousness. I had to sit in line and play musical chairs as the line moved up one person at a time, then have my fingerprints taken and a solemn-looking young guy stare morosely at my pictures that hardly match up anymore, ask questions about my previous visits, and congratulate me on my Portuguese. Then he told me to wait in the front of the line until someone called me by name to give me my passport and my temporary id, which is just a slip of paper with some writing on it, a stamp, and my face glued in the corner. High tech. This has to last me for five or six months, which is, in its own way, something to rant about. But I digress...So I sit down and crack open my book. Pleasantly minding my own business, I suddenly get the feeling that I am being watched. Looking up, the man behind the glass is pointing at me and talking with his buddy. They are obviously, overtly talking about me. And POINTING. This is so incredibly R.U.D.E. In any culture...unless they're just messing around.
But I'm a little concerned, because no one just jokes around in the Policia Federal, much less the agents themselves. So I mouth, because he's behind a sheet of glass, "What? Did I do something wrong?" And he breaks out the laugh he's having with his partner to give me a stern look and motions for me to wait, pulling out a sheet of paper and starting to write something down. When he's done, he holds it up to the glass:
What????? They think I'm a CIA agent? That's priceless. I start laughing so hard I nearly fall out of my chair. The agent, who's a young guy and not all that unattractive, is enjoying the attention and giving me a hard time, all from behind the glass. After a bit, he calls me up, and someone who looks like a superior is behind him, asking me a question that at first I don't understand. And then I get it: "Who did you come here to spy on?" Well, my friends, there aren't many good answers to that sort of question when you're surrounded by Federal Police agents. So I opted for the answer that has now made me at least two friends in the department of foreign affairs and will probably keep me from having any trouble there in the future, provided that I go on Wednesdays around noon:
"Who did you come here to spy on?"
"The men, of course!"