Mexican Health Insurance and a Canadian Passport

Yesterday was my annual visit to the offices of IMSS to pay for my Mexican health insurance. When I began the process more than 15 years ago, it took the entire day. An hour or two in one line for one thing, and the process repeated until I was paid up and shakily on my way home, hours later, to recuperate from the barrage of baffling Spanish thrown at me and all around me.

Yesterday, in and out, including travel time, walking to the bank and back, getting copies made, getting copies remade until it was right, and back home, total time: 90 minutes. Gotta love it, AND the fees only went up 800 pesos for the entire year; between 60 and 70, the increase was close to 20% per year. One of two major annual things accomplished.

The other is still in limbo or roughly translated into Spanish en trámite. My passport.

Talk about taking an entire day! Everything has to be done online, including the form-filling and appointment-making. There is a phone number for the Canadian Consulate, but by the time you enter all of the “press 2 for English,” “Press 4 if it’s an emergency,” you will receive the robot voice saying you have timed out and to please try again. So, back online to make an appointment to turn in all my completed forms, photos, and my unexpired passport.

That particular kind of consular service requires a half-hour appointment. I had another week to wait before one of those was available. I received my appointment time verification with an admonishment to be there 15 minutes prior AND if I was late, it could mean redoing the process.

I chugged up the stairs as fast as I could and arrived at the Consulate door at 11:17, two minutes late. The handsome guard cracked the door checked my confirmation number (which I had to print out either mechanically or from a printer – a screenshot would not be valid as cell phones are often not allowed in Consular offices), and said I would be called at the right time. He locked the door and returned to his chair. I looked around – no place to sit, so I stood right outside the Consular door and watched the traffic on the highway until 11:20, when the guard opened the door, motioned me inside while snapping on a brand new pair of surgical gloves. He smiled and told me to place my purse and papers into the bin on his desk. After this, he gleefully motioned me through the metal detector, gloves on nice and snug.

He said, “Now I will search your….purse. Is that okay?” I could not have been more relieved. My bottle of water was detained, as was my cell phone – it went into its own little safe, and the key was buried in my hand. There were chairs to sit on – a blessing and at 11:30, precisely, I was ushered into a tiny room with a single chair, a ledge with one of those pass-throughs common in prisons for meals and a window into an equally small office on the other side of the presumably bullet-proof glass.

A young woman entered, greeted me in French, asked for my papers to be sent through all at once, checked them, gave me instructions on what would happen when my passport was ready to be picked up (appointment instruction details would be sent via email) in approximately three weeks and to have a nice day—total time spent in the teeny box-like office – 5 minutes.

No extra words were expended, not even Muzak, to break the bullet-proof quiet efficiency. The warm, fuzzy, welcoming Canada of my youth is gone.