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An ode to our unflagging uniformed uncles in blue

By A. Thomas Pasek | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-26 06:30

A. Thomas Pasek [Photo provided to China Daily]

Every year, we expats need to head to the nearest visa office to renew our paperwork. It is an unenviable task that even the pandemic couldn't relegate to the back burner.

Staring at us from our passports is that immutable date on that inner page that simply demands that we need be present at the facility prior to the designated day or things can go south in a hurry.

Actually, south seemed like a tantalizing prospect that recent workday, as the capital was in the midst of a particularly frigid winter chill. Andy Dufresne said he had Mozart in his head to keep him sane during his month in solitary confinement. While my taxi ride to the visa office wasn't even close to being in "the hole", I did have Snow Miser's solo from the 1970s' holiday classic The Year Without a Santa Claus on my mind to keep me company on that subzero sojourn: "Whatever I touch, turns to snow in my clutch. I'm too much!"

I think the Miser probably suffered from intimacy issues, much like Heat Miser and King Midas for that matter. It was a bit more uplifting than Sound of Silence, and it was a deep and dark January to boot.

Well, the actual toughest part of the journey was standing streetside and trying to order a Didi taxi on my handset — while wearing gloves! It's impossible, so despite the — 10 C temps that morning, I had to push the tiny buttons with fat frozen fingers that resembled plump undercooked kielbasa.

But my day was about to improve markedly the moment I hopped in the cab. To my chagrin, I had accidentally entered the wrong destination, to which the friendly cabbie said: "No problem, just reenter it." Which I did.

Upon learning I was from North America, he asked if winters were colder than here in the capital, to which I replied, "Usually, but not this time around." This cheerful chauffeur was apparently just an appetizer for the fine service I was about to be treated to that day, it turns out.

You see, a while back I had twisted my posterior cruciate ligament something fierce, and ambulate with a bit of a giddyap in my gait. Think an ambling Doc House but certainly no Ironside. So, that moment when an eminent member of the Thin Blue Line at the visa office saw me exit the cab with a cane, he immediately sprang to action and guided me up the broad staircase gracing the building's main entrance.

After passing through a security check, I entered the complex thinking my law enforcement officer friend had returned to his post. But instead I was surprised to see he was not only an officer but a true gentleman, as he continued to accompany me to the front of the line, where my paperwork processing was prioritized and expedited. I mean, he didn't even swipe away my cane to see if I was a poseur looking for red-carpet treatment!

Well, I tried to avert my gaze from the non-caners, who were dutifully waiting in line to renew their visas. I mean, what's a feller to do? My private LEO was treating me like a king (of the jungle) — a true LEO the Lion! It gave me a sense of pride, as he saw me as his "mane" man no doubt. Even the fable of the mouse removing the splinter from the lion's paw gave the little whiskered one a lifetime of bodyguard treatment.

Anyway, I began the somewhat painstaking process of filling in the necessary documents when my cop friend asked, "what's in the envelope", at which point I realized he was pointing to all the paperwork faithfully filled out in advance by my intrepid HR office. In other words, my new best friend saved me a good 20 minutes and the horror of holding a poxy pathogen-ridden public pen for that interminable duration. I was liking my LEO more and more.

Upon learning that I hadn't prepared passport-style photos in advance (actually, I think the only thing I did right that morning was remember to bring my passport), he escorted me to the photographer, rushed downstairs to pay for the service, then had me scan him back from the comfort of my chair. My, the perks of a walking stick!

I will be forever in this kind police officer's debt, having bent over backward as he did to help out a fellow human. And on the way out, I was again immersed in the holiday spirit, as I watched two bespectacled intellectual types in the facility's lobby try and capture their opponent's Queen in a spirited and trash-talk fueled game of xiangqi (Chinese chess). Of course, this brought another holiday tune to my head: Chess Nuts Boasting in an Open Foyer.

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